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Conservative groups are poised to lose power in Washington with the arrival of President-elect Donald Trump.

The powerful advocacy organizations have leveraged their influence over rank-and-file Republicans in Congress to block President Obama’s agenda and stymie GOP leaders’ attempt at compromise.

They’re preparing to lose more battles under Trump, a populist who de-emphasized the importance of conservative ideology during his presidential campaign.

The Republican pulled off an impressive victory over Hillary Clinton — one that was fueled by the votes of millions of Americans represented by Congressional Republicans.

That is likely to make GOP members receptive to Trump’s protectionist trade policies and plans for massive infrastructure spending, and less willing to heed calls to oppose such policies from conservative groups.

“The dynamics are certainly different. There will be, and there always is, a sense of partisan loyalty to a president,” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action for America.

Heritage Action, an affiliate of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, was a primary driver behind the October, 2013 government shutdown. Congressional Republicans attempted to leverage support for a federal spending bill as a means to force Obama to de-fund his health care law.

The Club for Growth, another major outside group that holds sway among Congressional Republicans, was another player in that effort.

Both organizations have regularly been successful in pushing GOP lawmakers to block legislation favored by Republican leaders in the House and Senate that they deride as big government, crony capitalist or too expensive.

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There’s a laundry list of things President-elect Donald Trump could do on his own to modify the Affordable Care Act, even if Congress gets hung up on exactly how to repeal and replace it.

While the Affordable Care Act is a lengthy piece of legislation, the Obama administration issued many more pages of regulations and guidance explaining exactly how it should be implemented. The new administration, under the direction of Trump, could amend or get rid of those directives as soon as it’s in place next year, and thus significantly alter the law without having to wait for Congress.

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The Club for Growth, Heritage Action, and similar groups were able to influence Republicans in part because they share the conservatism that has defined the GOP at least since President Reagan.

Both the groups and lawmakers also have operated under the assumption that voters would penalize them for abandoning support for smaller government and free markets.

But Trump distanced himself from the Reagan agenda, and perhaps won because of that.

True, the president-elect supports tax reform and deregulation broadly. But the centerpiece of his populist offering is stiffer trade regulations and more government involvement in the economy through subsidies and tax breaks.

Movement conservatives concede that Trump’s policy agenda is likely to trickle down to Republicans in Congress and reshape the party, at least in the near term, when the new president’s political capital is at a maximum.

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“It’s going to be a less of a Reagan conservative party than we would like at the club,” said Club for Growth president David McIntosh, a Republican former member of Congress who served under a presidents of both parties.

Conservative groups have exerted their influence over members of Congress through “key votes” that count against them on annual legislative score cards, and harnessing (and sometimes manufacturing) opposition to bills among the grassroots and talk radio hosts.

It’s a strategy that worked well during the Obama years. The president’s support for a bill was often the easiest way to engender opposition to it and convince Republicans to vote against it.

Because of sharp grassroots anger at the so-called Republican establishment, conservative groups also have had an easy time convincing enough GOP members to kill legislation pushed by their party leaders in Congress — especially if the intent was to compromise with Democrats and Obama.

With Trump in the White House, the groups are going to have a tougher time motivating Republicans to hold the line on spending, debt and other conservative third rails.

Conservative organizations also could face pressure to fall in line behind Trump, so as not to undermine his presidency and sew the kind of disunity and disapproval of the GOP that might aid Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections.

Outside groups say there are no plans to back down or alter their approach to lobbying Republicans in Congress.

In an interview with “Examining Politics,” a weekly podcast from the Washington Examiner, an official that works for the Koch brothers network of political and policy organizations said it would approach the new GOP administration the same way it has the current Democratic White House.

The Koch brothers, through their group Americans for Prosperity and other organizations, were active and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect Republicans this year. And, they plan to be politically active again in 2017 and 2018, confirmed James Davis, who runs communications for the Koch group, Freedom Partners.

That activity will include opposing Congressional Republicans when they go astray, Davis told “Examining Politics,” and picking a fight with Trump if they take issue with his agenda. For instance: a bloated infrastructure bill.

Davis said that “it certainly gives me pause” that Trump isn’t coming to Washington as a Republican moored in conservative principles, but is taking a wait and see approach to what he does once he is inaugurated.

“We’re not an appendage of the Republican Party, we’re a principled-based organization,” Davis said. “We’re going to hold Republicans accountable. If they put forward big spending plans, we’re going to oppose those…we’re going to mobilize citizens against those plans.”

“Any massive, unfunded, massive liabilities, our countries can’t afford it,” Davis said.

Five ways Trump could change Obamacare right away

Top Story

There’s a laundry list of things President-elect Donald Trump could do on his own to modify the Affordable Care Act, even if Congress gets hung up on exactly how to repeal and replace it.

While the Affordable Care Act is a lengthy piece of legislation, the Obama administration issued many more pages of regulations and guidance explaining exactly how it should be implemented. The new administration, under the direction of Trump, could amend or get rid of those directives as soon as it’s in place next year, and thus significantly alter the law without having to wait for Congress.

Additionally, the Department of Justice is involved in several ongoing disputes involving the healthcare law and some of the payments it lays out for

11/11/16 12:01 AM



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