The Heritage Action for America organization held its first ever Conservative Policy Summit on Monday, February 10, 2014. The daylong conference brought together nine conservative politicians from all over the country to discuss a new reform agenda that will hopefully be pursued in the coming years.
Heritage Action is a newly formed policy advocacy organization that works with activists across the country in order to support conservative legislation in Congress. Protecting privacy, transforming the welfare state, and higher education were all included at the Summit, as well as the overarching theme that “America will not prosper under managed decline and other European-style policies.” Senators Ted Cruz, Tim Scott, and Matt Salmon all spoke.
Despite the Summit’s noteworthy Republican speakers, the Heritage Action’s influence in Congress has been rapidly diminishing. In fact, the Conservative Policy Summit was partly enacted in response to House Speaker John Boehner’s comment that the organization had “lost all credibility.” It’s hard line mission to defund President Obama’s health care reform law at all costs resulted in the disastrous government shutdown last year, and in response, many conservative congressmen have been walking away from the organization’s wishes.
Heritage Action created their power in Washington by developing “scorecards” that rate lawmakers on how they vote on key legislation. However, as of late, lawmakers say the threat of a low rating is no longer an effective scare tactic.
‘“I don’t look at them,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who received a 39 percent rating from Heritage Action. “More and more members need to understand, they represent their constituents, not outside groups.”’
“Their influence has waned since they became such a political arm. When they were a think tank, when it was Heritage Foundation, I think a lot of us read their material, listened to it, went to it for advice,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “Since they became so political, a lot of people said: ‘I don’t need that anymore.’”
This movement away from the Heritage Foundation’s political branch represents a newfound commitment to working across party lines in order to pass legislation. Though Republicans have the majority in the House of Representatives, there is still a democratic Senate with whom to negotiate. ‘“The problem is that [the Heritage Action] isn’t ‘educating’ the grass roots, they’re misleading them,” a GOP leadership aide said. “For example, by telling them we can defund Obamacare with control of only one House in Congress. And when it turned out they didn’t actually have a plan to win in the Senate, let alone get President [Barack] Obama to sign anything into law, the only effect was to damage the party and disillusion committed conservatives across the country.”’
Heritage Action contradicts itself by tying Republican legislators’ hands and encouraging government inaction all in the name of preserving conservative values. However, conservative congressman have finally realized the only way for Republican ideas to make it through both houses of government will be a bipartisan compromise.