Organizations such as Heritage Action for America and Club for
Growth have repeatedly urged House leadership to pursue their policy
goals of smaller government and lower taxes, but have not taken a
public stance on whom they would like to see in Republican House
Influencing a leadership election, typically done in private
conversations between members in the halls of the Capitol, presents
a rare challenge for outside groups whose strategies for influence
in the past have been brazen and public.
The groups, which are influential with House conservatives, urged
Republicans to resist compromise in last year's budget standoff that
led to a government shutdown. The actions of Heritage Action, Club
for Growth and FreedomWorks prompted House Speaker John Boehner to
publicly excoriate the groups for "pushing our members in places
where they don't want to be" and prolonging the shutdown.
In contrast to their activism then, Heritage Action and Club for
Growth are keeping a low profile.
The one group that has entered the fray, FreedomWorks, has endorsed
Raul Labrador for majority leader and is urging Tea Party activists
to follow by putting pressure on members ahead of the vote on
Labrador will face Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, seen as the more
moderate, establishment contender to fill the seat left vacant by
Eric Cantorís stunning primary loss last week.
No group has endorsed a candidate for whip, a position that is
likely to open as McCarthy is predicted to win. Conservatives Steve
Scalise and Marlin Stutzman have entered the whip race as has more
moderate Peter Roskam.
The majority leader job is the second-ranking position in the House,
after the speaker's role. The whip is the No. 3 job.
Cantor's defeat last week at the hands of Tea Party upstart David
Brad has emboldened conservatives.
[to top of second column]
Policy analyst Steve Bell of the Bipartisan Policy Center said
conservative groups will want to seize on that momentum by pressing
for the election of more hardline candidates. But Bell says these
organizations can use private meetings and phone calls to press
their views more quietly.
"So many people are ex-staffers or even ex-members that populate
these groups," Bell said. "The question is whether it will be
counterproductive or not."
Fearing backlash from House members for interfering, Heritage Action
and Club for Growth have restricted their opinions to private
Both Mike Needham of Heritage Action and Andy Roth of Club for
Growth attended a dinner of conservative and Tea Party group leaders
coincidentally held on the night of Cantor's loss. "We were talking
about the future of Republican leadership and what is needed," said
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
"Republican-leaning voters do not see the Republican House pushing
back and aggressively fighting this administration."
(Reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by Caren Bohan and Prudence
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