Getting What They Expected
Last week, as special interest billionaires continued to pour secret donations of millions of dollars each into front groups supporting Republicans, we asked the obvious question: "What do they expect in return?"
Today we found out they're already drawing up the plans. Washington lobbyists are lining up cash to help Republicans in Congress repeal Wall Street reform, repeal health care reform and go back to the same policies that led to this mess. The New York Times describes the blitz of meetings between Republicans in Congress and Washington lobbyists:
But there is nothing mysterious for the lobbyists and corporate executives writing most of these checks. Mr. Camp is slated to take over the powerful, tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee if Republicans win the majority next week, transforming this low-key conservative Republican almost overnight into one of the most powerful men in town.
Across Washington, lobbyists have been working behind the scenes now for months to prepare for this possible power shift. Former aides to Mr. Camp, who now work as lobbyists, are checking in with their onetime boss, chatting with him and his aides about staff appointments he might make when he takes over the Ways and Means Committee, and what tax or health care issues will be at the top of his agenda. Other lobbyists have gone to his staff to try to get to the head of the line in presenting proposed tax changes that will benefit their clients.
“You don’t wait until Nov. 3 and say, ‘What is the plan,’ ” said Jennifer Bell, a former aide to Mr. Camp who is now a health care lobbyist. She flew to Michigan last month in part to catch up with Mr. Camp while he was in his district. “Obviously, it is the majority that sets the agenda.”
This should come as no surprise given the track record of Congressional Republicans over the past two years. Rather than listen to the American people, Congressional Republicans have repeatedly shown their loyalty to these special interests by retreating behind closed doors to strategize with their lobbyists on the most critical issues for the American people.
On Wall Street reform, Congressional Republicans didn’t listen to the millions of Americans who lost their homes and savings as a result of the financial crisis. Instead, House Republicans teamed up with Wall Street lobbyists to try to defeat the bill, and Senate Republicans leaders traveled to New York City to meet with Wall Street executives and hedge fund managers to discuss their opposition to the legislation and solicit campaign contributions. In fact, right after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got back from that trip, he announced that Senate Republicans would not support the bill providing the toughest consumer financial protections in history.
On health insurance reform, Congressional Republicans didn’t listen to the stories of Americans who cannot afford insurance or have been denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. Instead, House Republicans introduced an “alternative” bill that borrowed proposals from health insurance companies, and before any of the Senate committees had even begun working on health reform legislation, Senate Republican leaders met with health care lobbyists in an effort to “recruit stakeholders to oppose” important Democratic proposals.
And when Senate Democrats brought an important jobs bill to the floor earlier this year, their colleagues across the aisle didn’t listen to unemployed Americans looking for work. Instead, they held a strategy session with lobbyists.
In fact, Congressional Republicans have made clear that lobbyists have a seat at the table even when they are formulating their party’s broader strategy and governing vision. When House Republicans put together their “Pledge to America,” they invited a group of high-powered lobbyists and corporate insiders to help them craft their agenda at a secret, closed-door meeting – opening it up to the public only after the invitation was leaked to the press. Then, on the day House Republicans released their agenda, we learned that they had quietly put a former lobbyist for Big Oil and other special interests in charge of putting the “Pledge” together.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director