Chamber and GOP bury the hatchet

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is burying the hatchet with the GOP as it prepares to spend millions of dollars on midterm election ads.

The vast majority of GOP lawmakers who defied the Chamber last year by voting against raising the debt ceiling and reopening the government remain in the business group’s good graces, an analysis by The Hill found.

Of the 144 House Republicans who voted against the debt-ceiling hike, 138 have maintained a cumulative score of 70 percent or higher on the business group’s legislative scorecard for 2013. That’s enough to win an endorsement from the Chamber, according to the group’s representatives.

In addition, 111 of those lawmakers are eligible to receive the Chamber’s Spirit of Enterprise Award, which many accepted earlier this month at an event where they glad-handed for photographers with Tom Donohue, the Chamber’s president and CEO.

It’s a far cry from late 2013, when the Chamber and other business groups were openly rebuking some Republicans and threatening to go to war with the Tea Party in primaries.

“We’re not a single-issue organization. We take into account votes on a number of issues important to the business community,” said Blair Latoff Holmes, a Chamber spokeswoman.

For 2013, the Chamber graded House members on 13 different votes, including the debt-limit vote. Other votes the business group monitored last year included measures dealing with cybersecurity, natural-gas pipelines and tort reform.

Lawmakers who vote with the Chamber at least 70 percent of the time during the preceding year qualify for its annual Spirit of Enterprise Award. Those who keep a 70 percent or higher score over their legislative career can receive a coveted Chamber endorsement.

“The Spirit of Enterprise is awarded annually based on a member’s voting record on key business issues during the preceding legislative session. An endorsement, on the other hand, is awarded only during an election cycle and is based on an incumbent’s cumulative score over the full tenure of their career in Congress,” Latoff Holmes said.

Several of the House’s most rowdy GOP insurgents scored high marks with the Chamber.

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashHouse votes to crack down on undocumented immigrants with gang ties GOP lawmaker taunts House conservatives: Trump’s base is not ‘small faction of obstructionists’ Overnight Finance: GOP plans to unveil tax framework in late September | Critical stretch for Trump tax team | Equifax CEO called to testify | Sanders unveils single-payer bill MORE (Mich.) earned a 71 percent lifetime rating with the Chamber in 2013; Rep. Louie GohmertLouie GohmertHow Republicans split on the Harvey aid, fiscal deal House passes Trump deal on majority Democratic vote Lawmakers press DOJ to help victims of Ponzi scheme MORE (Texas) had an 80 percent score; Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.) posted a 78 percent rating; and Rep. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertFreedom Caucus backs three debt ceiling options Bipartisan lawmakers give blood in honor of Scalise GOP senators pleased with Ivanka Trump meeting on family leave, child tax credits MORE (Ariz.) tallied an 84 percent score.

Some House Republicans who voted against lifting the debt limit have touted their Chamber support. When the business group released its scorecard earlier this month, several lawmakers sent out press releases highlighting the Chamber’s recognition.

Rep. Chris StewartChris StewartGOP rep would ‘recommend’ not paying much attention to Trump tweets California Democrat seeks to win fight on war powers Surprise war vote points to shift in GOP MORE (R-Utah) noted his “pro-business record” in a statement from his office, which included a picture of him shaking hands with Donohue, the Chamber’s head. Rep. Tom Reed’s (R-N.Y.) office also included a picture with Donohue in its release, noting Reed’s “pro-growth, pro-jobs voting record.”

Stewart has an 85 percent cumulative score with the Chamber, while Reed has a 96 percent score. Both members voted against opening up the government and raising the borrowing limit.

Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and a prominent Republican fundraiser, said industry groups are focused on the bigger picture.

“The single most important thing for the business community is that the House stays in Republican hands. That is your firewall against Obama and Democratic-authored policy initiatives,” Van Dongen said. “What you do is note your displeasure and you move on.”

In January, Donohue told reporters that he has no problem with the Tea Party. The business group leader noted that the Chamber often agrees with their positions, though he said their aggressive tactics are often counterproductive.

“I think they’re well-intentioned people, except when they get to Washington, they’re not going to do what we believe we need to do, so why should we help them get here? And why don’t we protect the people that are here? But don’t line me up as attacking the Tea Party, because I’m not,” Donohue said at the time.

The Chamber is a force to be reckoned with in campaign politics. It spent more than $32 million on independent expenditures for the 2012 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

The business group has spent almost $2.7 million so far this election cycle.

The bulk of those funds went into recent special elections in Alabama and Florida, as well as efforts to protect GOP incumbents facing tough primary challengers, including Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate passes 0B defense bill Overnight Health Care: New GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea MORE (R-Ky.), according to the CRP.

The Chamber has left Tea Party stalwarts in the House alone so far this election cycle. Instead, it has sought to protect allies on Capitol Hill from conservative attacks.

“The business community has chosen to focus on challenges by people out of the mainstream to incumbent Republicans. That’s where the action is,” Van Dongen said.

Van Dongen said “widespread negative public reaction” to the shutdown seems to have chastened House Republicans and strengthened the hand of leadership.

“Obviously, there was significant disappointment — angst is probably a better word — in the business community over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling last year,” Van Dongen said.

That resulted in more political engagement by groups.

“What has really changed this cycle is the business community has engaged in primaries more than I have ever seen,” he said.