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Koch urgency: Conservative network fears closing window

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The urgency was easy to find inside the private receptions and closed-door briefings at the Koch brothers' donor retreat in Colorado Springs, where the billionaire conservatives and their chief lieutenants warned this weekend of a rapidly shrinking window to push their agenda through Congress.

No agenda items mattered more to the conservative Koch network than the GOP's promise to overhaul the nation's tax code and repeal and replace President Barack Obama's health care law. At the moment, however, both are bogged down by GOP infighting that jeopardizes their fate.

"There is urgency," said Tim Phillips, who leads the network's political arm, Americans for Prosperity. "We believe we have a window of about 12 months to get as much of it accomplished as possible before the 2018 elections grind policy to a halt."

The window for action may be even smaller, some Koch allies warned at a weekend donor retreat that drew roughly 400 participants to the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The price for admission for most was a pledge to give at least $100,000 this year to the Kochs' broad policy and political network. There were also at least 18 elected officials on hand. Some hosted private policy discussions with donors while others simply mingled.

In between meetings, Rep. Dave Brat, R-Virginia, predicted dire consequences in next year's midterm elections should his party fail to deliver on its repeated promises.

"If we don't get health care, none of us are coming back," he said in a brief interview. "We said for seven years you're gonna repeal Obamacare. It's nowhere near repealed."

It's the same for tax reform, Brat said: "We don't get taxes through, we're all going home. Pack the bags."

There was a sense of deep frustration from conservative officials and donors alike in some cases, who decried the pace of progress in Washington with Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House for the first time in a decade.

Texas-based donor Doug Deason has already informed a handful of congressional Republicans that the "Dallas piggy bank" is closed until he sees more action. He said he was recently approached by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, about hosting a fundraiser.

"I said, 'No I'm not going to because we're closing the checkbook until you get some things done,'" Deason said, noting he's encouraged nearly two dozen major Texas donors to follow his lead.

"Get Obamacare repealed and replaced, get tax reform passed," Deason continued. "Get it done and we'll open it back up."

While some donors threatened to withhold campaign cash, Koch's team outlined a broader strategy to help shape the debate.

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