POLITICS
12/26/2013 02:25 pm ET | Updated Dec 27, 2013

House GOP Leaders, Business Groups Fight Back Against Tea Party: Report

House Republican leaders and allied groups have hatched a strategy to weaken the influence of the GOP's most conservative members ahead of 2014 elections, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) memorably lambasted outside conservative groups for opposing the recent budget deal and urging Republicans to vote against it. But according to the Journal, GOP leadership has also begun taking steps internally to keep members in line -- particularly those whose support has wavered during major fiscal battles.

Ahead of the House vote on the budget deal earlier this month, for example, committee chairmen who were leaning against supporting the bill were warned that their opposition could jeopardize their posts, according to insiders who spoke with the Journal. The goal was to reverse a growing trend in which committee chairmen voted against priority legislation.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel directed The Huffington Post to his statement in the Journal: "The speaker, and the entire leadership team, urged all House Republicans to support the [budget] agreement, which lowered the deficit without raising taxes."

House GOP leaders are eager to shift the focus toward a legislative agenda for 2014, rather than the intra-party fighting that dominated headlines throughout 2013. The Republican Party took a record beating at the polls in October when conservatives dragged leadership into an ill-fated strategy to shut down the government over Obamacare.

Outside groups that favor establishment Republicans are also looking for an end to the so-called GOP civil war and plan to put their resources behind more moderate candidates in the 2014 midterm elections. One such group is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which previously spent heavily on electing tea party candidates to Congress, only to have the same lawmakers stand in the way of the Chamber's legislative priorities.

The Chamber's top political strategist, Scott Reed, told the Journal that the group's focus is on winning back the Senate, and achieving that goal means "No fools on our ticket."

Although support for the tea party hit a record low this month at just 22 percent, conservative activists are prepared to fight back. Tea party candidates have continued to mount challenges against establishment incumbents for 2014, hoping to move seats in red states to the right, with backing from groups such as Heritage Action, Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Texas) and Pat Roberts (Kansas) have attracted primary challenges this month, despite being two of the most conservative members of the Senate.

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