Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Carlson: Tea party versus business backers in the bayou

First Published Jul 29 2014 10:01 am • Last Updated Jul 29 2014 10:02 am

WASHINGTON • Fresh from helping save Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi from a tea party upstart, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is on the verge of endorsing an embattled Senate Democrat. According to the New York Times’s Joe Nocera, national political director Rob Engstrom told the heads of the chamber’s regional groups that the mother ship planned to support Louisiana’s Mary L. Landrieu in a close race against three Republicans.

The chamber has always liked Landrieu, giving her its Spirit of Enterprise award nine times since 2002. And the chamber has lately been rethinking its blind support of Republicans when it means filling Congress with tea partyers. Any ninny could have seen that tea party Republicans would hate the chamber almost as much as the government they want to shrink to the size of a pea. The tea party sprung to life being against much of what the chamber is for: Wall Street bailouts, President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, saving Chrysler and General Motors, raising the debt-ceiling, and keeping the government open. Right now, the Republican House the chamber helped create is blocking immigration reform and a long-term highway bill, while trying to kill the business-friendly Export-Import Bank as an example of corporate welfare.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Things didn’t work out so well for the Chamber in 2012. According to the Washington Post, chamber-backed candidates lost in 13 of the 15 Senate races, and four of the 22 House races, it spent money on. This cycle, the chamber has poured money into Republican primaries to smother the tea party. Siding with the more pro-establishment Republican in each case, the chamber has won 10 intraparty fights, including the Mississippi race in which Karl Rove’s American Crossroads gave up on Cochran. Even Republican incumbents are no longer safe from the chamber, which is endorsing the Republican challenger to Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, a major thorn in the side of House Speaker John Boehner.

Landrieu, with her pro-business record, is a Democrat the chamber can love. She scores high on the group’s measure of fidelity to its causes, voting "correctly" 68 percent of the time in her career. Although she supported the Affordable Care Act, she wants to amend it, and harps on Louisiana’s failure to get $16 billion in federal health care funds because of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid. As chairman of the powerful Energy and Natural Resources Committee, she will be in an excellent position to deliver on a pet project of the chamber’s: the Keystone Pipeline.

This is a tough one for the chamber, given that one route to Republicans’ taking back the Senate goes through Louisiana. Landrieu is inevitably called vulnerable in a state that has a Republican governor and has voted for George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney in the last four presidential elections, yet she always wins. As the lone Democrat against three Republicans in an open primary system, her chances of getting 50 percent and avoiding a December runoff are good. Her top challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, just announced that his unmarried teenage daughter will be having a baby later this summer. Despite the solidarity she might feel with Cassidy on that point, Sarah Palin is supporting the arch-conservative in the race, retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness.

As of noon Monday, chamber spokeswoman Blair Holmes wouldn’t confirm that the group was supporting Landrieu. Cassidy, should he win, will have no seniority, and is likely to support the chamber’s agenda whether it backs him or not. Landrieu, if she wins without chamber support, could become a high-seniority enemy. It’s not so tough a decision after all.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.