By: Cathy Burke
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is ready to take on the tea party in 2014 Senate primaries and elections with a deep-pocketed boost of establishment and business Republican candidates.
"Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates," Chamber strategist Scott Reed told The Wall Street Journal. "That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket."
The financial support, which The Hill reported would pour at least $50 million into the campaigns of centrist GOP candidates, is part of an aggressive approach toward tea party Republicans since the 16-day October government shutdown.
The Chamber has expressed its displeasure with tea party favorites Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who resisted passing a budget without a provision to defund Obamacare, triggering a stalemate.
Just a month later, the Chamber jumped into the intra-party GOP voting, backing establishment GOP candidate Bradley Byrne over tea party prospect Dean Young in an Alabama special House election.
Byrne beat Young, and went on to an easy victory in the Dec. 17 special election, defeating Democrat Burton LeFlore.
The Chamber — which hasn't usually gotten involved in GOP primaries — is airing ads for Rep. Mike Simpson in Idaho, where he faces a tea party-backed challenger in his race for a ninth House term.
Hard-right candidates' blunders are perceived to have cost the GOP five Senate seats in recent years, The Hill reported.
Republicans, for example, lost Senate elections in Indiana and Missouri after conservative candidates made controversial comments about abortion and rape that hurt their support, particularly among women.
The Chamber could also toss its influence into upcoming Senate races in Georgia,
Iowa, and North Carolina, where tea party candidates are challenging, The Hill reported.
Meanwhile, the head of Heritage Action is vowing to challenge GOP leaders on a number of fiscal issues — and to keep active with grassroots activists.
"Lawmakers do not have a monopoly on information, and we will continue to communicate directly with their constituents on important legislation as it moves through Congress," Michael Needham, chief executive of Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation think tank, told the Journal.
He said most lawmakers "will find it difficult to go back home and defend votes that increase spending, increase deficits and undermine the rule of law."