Pence tells House GOP to ‘buckle up’ for breakneck pace

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WASHINGTON — Vice President-elect Mike Pence told his former colleagues in the House Thursday to “buckle up” for an ambitious open to the new administration, marked by efforts to roll back Obamacare and regulations and tackle tax reform.

“I’m very confident that as we move towards inauguration, bring together a great team, work in concert with leaders in the House and Senate, and we’re going to move an agenda that’s going to rebuild our military, revive our economy, and — in a word — make America great again,” Pence said Thursday after he left his meeting with the House Republican Conference — a group he used to chair when he was in Congress four years ago.

Pence, embracing his role as a chief liaison to Congress for the new administration of Donald Trump, was clearly happy as he headed to the Hill. He has multiple meetings with Congressional leaders throughout the day Thursday, including with House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

House Republican leaders — emboldened by strong election results last week — already have ambitious plans of their own, starting with a maneuver that could undo some of President Barack Obama’s executive actions.

Republican leaders told rank and file members at this morning’s conference meeting that they intend to use a somewhat obscure statute — the Congressional Review Act — to nullify some of the most recent Obama Administration regulations, according to multiple GOP sources — including a rule expanding who qualifies for overtime pay.

Republicans could alter their short-term funding bill, dubbed the “CR” inside the Capitol, to wipe out Obama executive orders made this year. The maneuver would allow them to reach back in the year a limited amount of time — 60 days on the legislative calendar, which is different than a regular calendar — to wipe out the regulations.

But to do that, they’ll have to pass the measure as soon as possible — well before the end of this calendar year.

Ryan and other top House GOP leaders told members at Thursday’s Republican conference meeting that they plan to hold a vote on a CR that would fund the government just through March 31, 2017.

That means Trump would be in office for only about two months when a fresh funding bill will need to be enacted — to avoid a government shutdown — allowing him to implement spending priorities and reforms he advocated while a candidate.

Current government funding runs out on December 9. By moving this short term bill, Republican bypass the chance to approve all the government spending bills, which are tailored for the needs of each agency, something minority Democrats have pressed to do.

It’s not clear how this strategy will play out in the Senate where Democrats have the votes to filibuster a bill they oppose. The addition of the Congressional Review Act might be considered a poison pill to many Democrats.

As Republicans packed into their regular meeting with Pence, the mood was jubilant — with lawmakers taking selfies with their former colleague, and celebrating big (and unexpected) wins.

The House Republicans’ tweeted a photo of Pence and the members, with one word, “UNIFIED.”

With control of the House and Senate, as well as the White House, the biggest question Republicans are facing now is how fast to move and what to do first.

One option discussed was speeding up the rollback of Obamacare through an option called the “reconciliation shell bill” — which would allow them to dodge a filibuster by Senate Democrats.

Pence told the members “buckle up, it’s going to move fast in the first 100-200 days,” Rep. Bill Flores, a Texas Republican.

The measure that Republicans are eying now, which would clear the decks for the new Trump administration is passing a government-funding bill that would last until March 31 — postponing what has become a perpetual fight in the Capitol for at least three months.

Congressional Republicans are moving on a plan that would allow Trump to put his stamp on federal government spending very early in his new administration.

Pence, who has also been tasked with recruiting new members to the Trump White House, did not comment on the efforts of the transition team. But three House members — Reps. Tom Price, Jeb Hensarling and Mike Pompeo — either have met or were meeting with Trump this week.

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