The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $70 million dollars during the 2014 election cycle to protect the Republican majority in the House, and build a majority in the Senate. Their push worked—as far as getting Republican senators elected was concerned—but the group still hasn’t seen a payoff when it comes to getting their agenda through Congress.
The problem? Conservative incumbents in the House who have been successful in blocking the Chamber’s favorite policy initiatives.
According to sources on the Hill and in the lobbying community, the Chamber is gearing up for a tactical switch that will focus on challenging House GOP incumbents that have shown resistance to backing the Chamber’s agenda.
Common sense tells us that this could go one of three ways: it could work flawlessly, it could backfire, or it could backfire spectacularly by working at the expense of what little support the Chamber still manages to gain from the conservative base.
If I were placing bets, I’d put my money on this backfiring spectacularly. Still, the Chamber is putting on a confident face and appears ready to start naming names.
Chamber spokeswoman Blair Holmes said the group supports “pro-business candidates in every election, regardless of whether they are a Republican, Democrat, incumbent or challenger.”
“Last year, we were very aggressive in primaries and the general, and we intend to be again,” Holmes said. “It’s not a change in policy as much as it is a recommitment to last cycle’s successful approach.” She added that the candidate it backed won in 14 of the 15 races the Chamber got involved in last year.
International Franchise Association President and CEO Steve Caldeira, who is a member of the Chamber’s public affairs committee, said the group is going to stay “maniacally focused” on what made it very successful in the 2014 election cycle.
“The fact that there are still members of the Republican House that are obstructionist, isolationists that would be willing to shut down the government only reinforces that the Chamber and the business community, for that matter, will double down on this winning formula,” Caldeira said. “I believe they are going to continue to be involved early in candidate recruitment to find candidates that have the willingness to run, the courage to govern once they get to D.C., and hopefully work in a bipartisan manner to get things done.”
Even for a group as influential as the Chamber, finding viable candidates to challenge incumbent firebrands won’t be easy. “Obstructionist” members in the House have made a name for themselves specifically by not backing down in the face of what they see as a heavy-handed establishment machine; they’ve earned the loyalty of their voter base by sticking to their guns, and that base isn’t likely to go quietly into the night when faced with a shiny, new “pro-business” candidate.
Of course, the Chamber’s potential involvement in the primary process isn’t any more or less scandalous than involvement by national tea party or single-issue advocacy groups. They have just as much of a right to challenge the power of incumbency as anyone else—but it would be a mistake for them to go into it believing that they’re in for an easy fight.DONATE
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