Aug. 22, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Conservatives Focus on Broad Ideas

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Chairman Jim Jordan and other members of the Republican Study Committee are expected to attend the Heritage Foundation’s Congressional retreat, which begins today.

House conservatives head to Philadelphia today for the annual Heritage Foundation Conservative Members Retreat as their movement faces a critical test of its ability to shape the Republican Party agenda.

It also comes at a delicate time for House Republicans, who pledged that their Conference members were unified coming out of their own retreat last weekend but still bear the scars of last year’s intraparty battles over the debt ceiling and government spending.

“I am much more confident this year that you’re not going to be in a reactive mode the way you were last year,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said at the House GOP retreat in Baltimore.

The Virginia Republican also predicted there would be no government shutdown fights this year, a nod to the fact that a large part of 2011 was consumed with such battles, distracting from other parts of the new majority’s agenda.

“We’re not going to have one this year. We’re not going to have a government shutdown,” he said at the retreat. “Thirty days out [from the election] ... people don’t want to see a shutdown.”

This week’s Heritage retreat also comes as conservatives in Congress and across the country are at something of a crossroads. After riding the tea party wave into power in 2010, conservatives in the House have seen the once powerful movement ebb a bit and its influence wane in electoral and legislative affairs.

Despite their strong showing in 2010, conservatives have increasingly found themselves at odds with House leaders. Heritage’s political wing, Heritage Action for America, became embroiled in an ugly dust-up between Speaker John Boehner’s (Ohio) leadership team and the Republican Study Committee during this summer’s debt ceiling debate, and the group’s decision to urge opposition to a number of bills supported by leadership has further strained relations.

Although the retreat is not officially associated with the conservative Republican Study Committee, Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio) and other RSC members are expected to participate.

The conservative charge in 2010 did help fundamentally reshape the appropriations process in 2011 — turning it from a discussion of how to spend money to how best to cut federal spending.

But their natural enemies, appropriators, came out of the previous year more powerful than they entered it because legislative gridlock meant spending measures were some of the few legislative items to pass.

More broadly, little of the conservative legislative agenda beyond the issue of spending has seen much action. The House has passed a host of regulatory reform bills and repeated repeals of President Barack Obama’s health care law, but they have all died in the Senate.

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