U.S. Chamber Gearing Up To Defeat GOP Extremists?
The Tea Party Caucus seems to have disappeared with Michele Bachmann and has been largely replaced by the more serious and policy-centric House Freedom Caucus. But the House Freedom Caucus has been very careful to not publish its membership list. What's left of the Tea Party Caucus is chaired by Kansas crackpot Tim Huelskamp. Huelskamp is also a self-admitted member of the Freedom Caucus (of which Jim Jordan of Ohio is chairman). There are 27 known members of the Freedom Caucus:
• Jim Jordan (R-OH)The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is threatening to back primary opponents against Freedom Caucus members, the way they did-- unsuccessfully-- against Justin Amash last cycle. The Chamber claims to be frustrated that extreme right Republicans have undercut their pro-business agenda. They refuse to say who, exactly, their targets will be. Boehner, of course, claims he isn't collaborating with them. But he's lying.
• Matt Salmon (R-AZ)
• Justin Amash (R-MI)
• John Fleming (R-LA)
• Scott Garrett (R-NJ)
• Raúl Labrador (R-ID)
• Mick Mulvaney (R-SC)
• Mark Meadows (R-NC)
• Ron DeSantis (R-FL)
• Curt Clawson (R-FL)
• Tom McClintock (R-CA)
• Gary Palmer (R-AL)
• Jim Bridenstine (R-OK)
• Dave Brat (R-VA)
• Jeff Duncan (R-SC)
• Mo Brooks (R-AL)
• Jody Hice (R-GA)
• Barry Loudermilk (R-GA)
• Tim Huelskamp (R-KS
• Steve Pearce (R-NM)
• Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
• Trent Franks (R-AZ)
• Ken Buck (R-CO)
• David Schweikert (R-AZ)
• Paul Gosar (R-AZ)
• Scott Desjarlais (R-TN)
• Morgan Griffith (R-VA)
The group’s apparent new willingness to engage in hand-to-hand political combat to take out sitting Republicans would represent a major shift for the business community, which has largely shied away from targeting sitting lawmakers.Who? Amash would certainly be high on their list again. But last time, despite millions of dollars spent against him (over $700,000 of it by the Chamber), Amash beat the Chamber/Boehner candidate, Brian Ellis, 39,639 (57.4%) to 29,386 (42.6%). Ellis spent $1,820,123-- $1,057,006 from his own bank account. Perhaps an easier target would be Scott Desjarlais, the date-rape doctor, or Dave Brat, the anti-immigrant extremist who defeated Eric Cantor. There are already rumors that the Chamber is encouraging a redrawing of Brat's district that could harm him in a general election!
...The theory is simple: The Chamber spent some $70 million in 2014, mostly to help Senate Republicans build their majority. But many of their legislative priorities-- immigration reform, the renewal of the Export-Import Bank and a long-term highway bill-- have been held up by a clutch of conservative lawmakers in the House.
Of course, taking out sitting Republican lawmakers is easier said than done. The Chamber would have to find willing candidates, spend piles of money to take out an incumbent and have the fortitude to stand up to a backlash from conservative activists that is sure to follow. Not an impossible task, but very challenging.
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.”
The Chamber has a proven track record in primaries this cycle, but attempting to take out a sitting member would be a new political strategy.
...Some lawmakers who favor the Chamber trying to defeat sitting lawmakers warn that the group’s imprimatur could also hurt. Too much inside-the-Beltway support could backfire by becoming a rallying cry for the opponent, these sources say.
The National Republican Congressional Committee-- the official party election arm-- does not get involved in primary election battles. But there’s no question that some members of GOP leadership would like to rid the conference of some of its troublemakers.