The remarks come with Democrats leading Republican senators in the polls in several key states — and with the pro-business, traditionally conservative Chamber facing a precarious moment.
The group has clashed with President Donald Trump on issues including trade and immigration and is now facing an internal revolt over its decision to endorse a slate of vulnerable freshmen House Democrats for reelection. The move represented a major shift for the Chamber, which has long endorsed and funded Republican candidates and backed few Democrats in recent years. In 2014, the Chamber’s political director declared that making McConnell the majority leader was the group’s “number one priority.”
The organization has aired commercials backing several Senate GOP candidates in this election. But the outfit has pared back its electoral spending this year, investing just a fraction of what it devoted to the GOP’s push for the majority six years ago.
“It’s always an all hands on deck strategy to work with members of Congress to advance the priorities of our members,” a Chamber spokesperson said in a statement. “Our first priority is keeping a pro-growth Senate majority and we have exclusively put our money toward those races.”
After Democrats took control of the House in the 2018 midterms, the Chamber signaled plans to take a more bipartisan approach. But senior GOP officials have lashed out at the lobbying group following its Democratic endorsements, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy declaring that he no longer wanted the Chamber’s support.
Trump last week reached out to Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue to complain about the endorsements, a conversation that was first reported by Axios.
Howard — who previously worked for an array of top congressional Republicans, including ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott — cautioned that the Chamber shouldn’t assume that the “progress we made this year with House Democrats carry over this year to the Senate.”
But he said the Chamber’s network of local partners gave it “an important strategic advantage … that a lot of groups don’t have,” adding that
“we should approach many of these offices, particularly on the Senate side, through our local Chamber partners to see if we can transfer any of that goodwill to a working relationship in Washington.”