FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
The Power of a Primary Challenge
Conservatives are aghast at the actions of 15 GOP senators who are hell-bent on passing immigration deform despite the thousands of calls that are flooding into their offices. It is truly bewildering how they are putting the desires of illegal immigrants and foreign lobbies over the vast majority of Americans, especially Republican and Independent voters. Ultimately, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. These scoundrels simply don’t fear us because we fail to challenge them every six years when they stand for reelection.
Primary challenges work wonders. The latest example is House T & I Committee Chairman Bill Shuster. He has never voted against a farm bill before. But a challenge from Art Halvorson impelled a cathartic change in this big government Republican. Here’s a notable report from Molly Hooper:
Several key GOP incumbents already have primary contests, including Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.).
Both lawmakers were among those who bucked their GOP leadership team to oppose the farm bill last week. Shuster initially voted “yes,” then changed his mind on the House floor.
GOP incumbents representing safe districts are keenly aware they are under the microscope of influential conservative advocacy groups that “score” votes on key bills and amendments.
In addition to the final vote, Shuster made sure to vote for all the conservative amendments. He voted to eliminate the Market Access Program, which grants corporate welfare for large producers to market their products overseas (Indian reality TV, wine tasting in Japan, etc.). The timing is quite peculiar because he voted against an identical amendment in 2011. [Roll Call #457, 2011]
Yes, primary challenges represent the 800-pound gorilla in Congress. Unfortunately, they only work as long as the threat is pending. Once these members win reelection they go back to their old ways. That’s why we need to push Art Halvorson across the finish line. We won’t have to worry about him switching his vote or looking at the scoreboard to see if there are enough votes without him. We won’t have to worry about him looking for hall passes from leadership.
This is how we force transformational change in Congress.