WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV -- One person is dead and another critically injured after an Amtrak train hit a truck outside Charlottesville, Virginia this morning. The train was carrying Republican members of Congress to their annual retreat in West Virginia, including Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.
The Amtrak crash delayed the lawmakers' arrival and the retreat schedule here at the Greenbrier resort.
But when it does get started, Republicans will have an opportunity to unify ahead of midterm elections.
“Every decision that’s going to be made by any politician in Washington in an election year is going to be made through that lens," said Tommy Binion.
Binion, director of Congressional and executive branch relations of the conservative Heritage Foundation, says Republicans scored big by cutting taxes late last year. But now, he says they must push through other big-ticket items while they still have control of both chambers of Congress and the White House.
Binion expects the GOP will tackle welfare reform, infrastructure projects and defense spending.
“These are things that take some debate, take some decision-making and those are the types of things they’ll be talking about on the retreat,” said Binion.
Republicans have a long to-do list and a slim majority in the Senate to work with.
They lost time failing to repeal and replace Obamacare last year. Now, they’re under a time crunch to strike a deal on immigration issues.
A deal could include ramping up border security in exchange for offering legal status to illegal immigrants who came to the country as minors.
The so-called “dreamers” are set to lose Obama-era protections in March.
“Democrats are going to do particularly well this year," said Ryan Collins, Center for American Progress / Director, Government Affairs.
Ryan Collins at the liberal Center for American Progress, says GOP lawmakers did not lead effectively in 2017 and now face tough elections. He says recent races show Democrats *can win in traditionally Republican areas, even Alabama.
“The House is incredibly fractured. I mean you have 30 or 40 members in the House Freedom Caucus that want to go really hard to the right. You have moderates who are going to be in pretty vulnerable districts," said Collins.
The President is scheduled to address lawmakers Thursday. We expect House and Senate leadership to provide an update with additional details on their goals for 2018.
A spokeswoman for the conference says one member of Congress and one staffer received treatment for injuries, with minor medical aid offered to others.