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Boehner Debt Limit Plan Splits Conservative Groups

Boehner

First Posted: 07/26/11 07:11 PM ET Updated: 09/25/11 06:12 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- In the home stretch of the debt limit debate, two of the biggest conservative groups have opened a fissure on the Republican side of the aisle.

The anti-tax Club for Growth announced on Tuesday afternoon that they oppose the debt limit plan proposed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced their strong support for the Boehner plan. Both groups stated that they will score the vote for their evaluations of lawmakers leaving little hope for a political path to pass the plan.

"From the start of this debt ceiling debate, the Club has advocated strongly for a plan that makes large, immediate spending cuts to the budget, a hard spending cap on all federal spending, and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that limits spending and requires a supermajority to approve tax increases," a blog post on the Club's website stated, "The Boehner Plan does not achieve these tenets. It cuts almost nothing immediately, it caps only discretionary spending, and it does not require passage of a balanced budget amendment."

Meanwhile, Bruce Josten, Chamber of Commerce executive vice president for government affairs, announced the business group's strong support for the Boehner plan: "This legislation is critical. Default on debt obligations is not an acceptable option. The time for Congress to act is now."

The groups are two of the biggest spenders on elections among independent conservative groups.

The Club for Growth is a big spender on the Republican side, having directed $2.9 million in campaign contributions to candidates in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and spent $4.9 million on outside advertisements and direct mail, according the Sunlight Foundation's Follow the Money.

The Chamber of Commerce is the biggest outside spender on elections in the country. In 2010 the business group dropped $32 million in advertisements across the country, mostly to oppose Democrats seeking reelection.

One difference between the way these groups spend their money -- which will be pivotal in how the Republican caucus votes on the Boehner plan -- is that the Club for Growth, unlike the Chamber, is known for its history of funding primary challenges to Republican lawmakers that it deems to be not conservative enough.

The group has already questioned the seriousness of Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on the debt. Television ads were aired in both Indiana and Utah excoriating both senators for their past support for increasing the national debt and asking them to support the "Cut, Cap and Balance" formula proposed by House Republicans.

"A close examination of the 35-year records of Sens. Lugar and Hatch raises serious concerns about whether they will ultimately insist on this," said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. "Sen. Lugar and Sen. Hatch must hear the loud voices of constituents fed up with never-ending spending and debt."

Last year, Club endorsements pushed former Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter to switch parties and defeated supposed frontrunners in the Florida and Nevada Senate races. The Club also campaigned against former Sen. Robert Bennett in the Utah primary, helping Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) defeat the incumbent.

A Club endorsement brings both campaign contributions from the Club's active membership and on-air support from the group's Super PAC.

The group has endorsed four candidates already this year. One of those candidates, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who is seeking the open Senate seat in his state, has already raised nearly $450,000 from Club members. Both Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Ted Cruz, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the open seat in Texas, have raised nearly $100,000 from Club members.

Thirteen House GOP freshmen received endorsements from the Club for Growth in 2010. A number of these candidates received endorsements and campaign support during their primary for the GOP nomination.

Without Democratic support, the Boehner plan can only afford 23 Republicans voting against it for it to survive.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) stated on Tuesday that the Boehner plan did not have the sufficient support within the caucus to pass.

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