Chamber of Commerce Will Go After Incumbent Republicans

One of the things a lot of people have been watching is what the business community – which has typically been pretty conservative – does in response to the Republican dissent into extremism. A lot of the shenanigans pushed by the tea partiers (i.e., debt ceiling crisis) are terribly destabilizing and that is not good for business. We also watched as the business community weighed in on cultural issues when they brought a halt to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana recently.

According to Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman, the Chamber of Commerce has about had enough with the nonsense. It’s interesting to note what finally pushed them to that point. It wasn’t the total obstruction employed by Republicans from the beginning of Obama’s presidency – or even the constant hostage crises they created. It’s something that has come more recently.

The early discussions by top-level Chamber operatives like Rob Engstrom and Scott Reed reflect a broad consensus among companies with business before Congress that the political dynamic needs to change on Capitol Hill.

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.

Apparently these business people thought that by giving control of Congress to Republicans – gridlock would end and some things would actually get done. They put the blame for that not happening on the kind of Republicans who joined the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and have made Speaker Boehner’s life miserable. And so the Chamber is in the midst of developing a political strategy to challenge them in their re-election.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to challenge some House Republicans in primary elections, frustrated after much of its agenda has been stymied by a small pocket of conservative GOP lawmakers.

The influential and well-heeled business group is already eyeing several races, but the plans are still in their infancy and the targets have not yet been decided upon, according to more than a half dozen Republican sources on K Street and Capitol Hill.

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.

This will be an interesting story to keep an eye on over the next few months. It speaks to the growing divide in the Republican Party in its march towards extremism. What various entities with traditional ties to the Party do in response will likely tell us whether the GOP can survive and morph into something new or goes the way of the Whigs.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .