In the 2012 election cycle, the Club and its various entities spent more than $9 million trying to ensure favored candidates won GOP primaries, more than twice as much as they spent trying to defeat Democrats, according to OpenSecrets.org. Traditionally, they have also been the only group willing to target incumbents they deem RINOs, “Republicans in Name Only.”
Over the years, the Club has elected 15 to 20 die-hard loyalists in the House. On some issues, it can sway 45 votes or more, according to a Washington Post analysis. Boehner can afford to lose only 16 Republicans to pass a bill without Democratic votes.
As a result, the Club often swings a bigger stick even than Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist. In December, Norquist endorsed Boehner’s “Plan B” strategy to avoid a broad New Year’s Day tax hike by offering Democrats a compromise that would have raised taxes on income only over $1 million a year. The Club came out against the proposal. Hours later, in perhaps the biggest humiliation of Boehner’s tenure, it was dead.
The same thing happened this past week. Norquist tacitly endorsed Boehner’s plan to keep the government open in exchange for a vote in the Senate that would require vulnerable Democrats to take a stand on Obamacare. The Club complained that the “smoke and mirrors” measure would not block implementation of the law and urged Republicans to vote no.
In an interview, Norquist dismissed the Club and its allies as dilettantes uninterested in the success of their legislative strategies. He said rejecting Plan B was a tactical blunder that weakened GOP negotiators and probably cost the nation $100 billion in higher taxes. And defunding the Affordable Care Act has no hope of winning Obama’s signature, he said.
“If you’re trying to maintain a movement, you’ve got to have legislative victories,” Norquist said. “There’s no point in building a powerful movement on the back of legislative failures.” He is urging Republicans to try to persuade Obama to delay key provisions of the health law, including the individual mandate.
Norquist noted that the Club and its allies also opposed the 2011 debt-limit deal, which led to more than $2 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, including the sharp cuts known as the sequester. Instead, they demanded a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.