Speaker John Boehner’s abrupt resignation left many in the business community scratching their heads, wondering what’s next.
His speakership was marked by disagreements with the party's right flank over its relationship with the business community.
“That strain is real,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, chief economic adviser in John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and now president of the American Action Forum think tank. “There is certainly a frustration among those like the Chamber of Commerce, that some things they view as very simple and fundamental don’t get done.”
Things like a new highway bill and reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. Holtz-Eakin said the GOP business relationship started to deteriorate after a wave of Tea Party members was elected to Congress in 2010. They wanted to focus more on social issues. Other Washington watchers said it’s more complicated than that.
“It is very much nuanced,” says Bruce Bartlett, a senior policy analyst in the Reagan administration.
Bartlett says a split developed in the business community starting in the 1970s between big business and small entrepreneurial businesses. He says lots of small business owners like the Tea Party.
“Since the rise of the Tea Party, that distribution of influence and power has shifted more back towards the smaller business sector,” he says.
How can big business claw back some influence in the GOP? With money, of course, according to Gregory Wawro, a professor of political science at Columbia University. His advice: Pour money into the primaries to help establishment candidates.
“Coming to their aid if they face a Tea Party challenge in the primary would help reassure establishment Republicans,” he says.
And they might actually get around to passing a highway bill.