The Most Powerless Republicans: They're Not Who You Think!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 24 2013 2:01 PM

The Most Powerless Republicans: They're Not Who You Think!

Monday morning, former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg—a Republican who was briefly and abortively Barack Obama's choice to run the Commerce Department—published a column that excoriated his party. It was massively popular, as columns excoriating one's own tribe tend to be, especially when the topic is debt limit Mexican standoffs. "The rigid stance will also cause massive collateral damage to all Republicans," wrote Gregg. "Even those who may not support it will be harmed by the label of incompetence that will stick to the whole party as a consequence. The idea is being put forward by people who do not really care what the impact is of a default or a near-default. These are folks who have never governed and are not inclined to do so."

Online, where the column was shared 1,000 times on Facebook, Gregg was not identified as anything but a former senator. He's moved on, though—he runs the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. Gregg's panic looks even starker when put next to the letter written by former Michigan Gov. John Engler, a Republican who now runs the Business Roundtable. "Failure to fund the basic business of government and adjust the debt limit in a fiscally responsible manner would risk both the immediate and long-term health of the U.S. economy and could permanently increase borrowing costs," he wrote. "Even a brief government shutdown would have serious economic consequences and default, however temporary, would be calamitous."

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Who's listening to them? Most Senate Republicans partly agree with these guys—oh, and with Tim Pawlenty, whose Financial Services Roundtable also wants to keep the government running without any of the demands Presidential Candidate Pawlenty used to make. Within a week, they will help move a continuing resolution that doesn't defund Obamacare. But some of the Republicans ready to punt on this fight are expecting to make and win demands in the debt limit fight.

Pity the Republican who quits politics to become a business lobbyist. He can ask his former colleagues to do what's in the business association's interest, but he's got less oomph than any random staffer at Heritage Action or a blogger at Red State. Tory Newmyer suggests that CEOs might need to run ads against the Republicans who betray them. But so far, if you're a Republican elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2012, you've figured out that you can win the support of a business interest that generally distrusts Democrats and go about ignoring their high-profile cries for regulation or a sequestration fix.

Correction, September 25, 2013: This post originally misspelled Tory Newmyer's last name.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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