Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s recent embrace of tea party values does not erase the Republican’s 40 years of history in Washington, Club for Growth President Chris Chocola tells Newsmax.TV.
Club for Growth, which helped end the political careers of Sens. Robert Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, is keeping a close watch on other longtime GOP senators up for re-election, says Chocola, a former Indiana congressman.
The Club for Growth is a national network that promotes fiscally conservative public policies that encourage a high-growth economy. Among the group's key principles are reducing income tax rates, repealing the estate tax, limiting government through limited spending, tort reform and expanding trade freedom.
The organization is monitoring the re-election bids of not only Hatch but also Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, says Chocola, who expects primary challenges for all three regardless of what his group decides. When looking at candidates, the Club for Growth examines the records as “a whole,” not “what they’re saying when it gets close to re-election time,” he says.
“Senator Hatch has moved way to the right,” Chocola says. “He’s trying to embrace the tea party. But the question isn’t what’s he doing now. The question is what has he done for almost 40 years in the Senate previous to that? What would he do, most importantly, in the next six years?”
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Hatch and Bennett voted for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program that bailed out Wall Street in 2008. The Club for Growth hammered Bennett for the vote, which was a key factor in his ouster. Hatch, hoping to forestall such an attack, appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February to apologize for his vote and acknowledge that it was a rare mistake in his career. He was rewarded for the effort with boos.
The Club for Growth will look for viable alternatives to Hatch to find those who are champions of economic freedom, favor a pro-growth agenda and can be counted on to “take those beliefs with them to Washington and hold on to those beliefs in the face of adversity and pressure,” Chocola said.
With 23 Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2012, Chocola said there is a good chance that the GOP will capture the Senate. “The math is on the Republican side, the environment as we sit here today is on their side. Anybody that thinks the tea party movement has reached its peak I think doesn’t understand the tea party movement.”
Obamacare could be repealed with just four more votes in the Senate and one in the White House, Chocola said.
Chocola approved of the cuts the House Republican majority proposed but argued that the only long-term solution for the nation’s massive deficit problems is a balanced budget amendment.
“The problem is spending is like a Slinky — you can restrict it but the next step you take, it’s going to expand again,” he said. “So you need to change the rules. So what we think at the Club for Growth is that you have to change the rules and the best way to do that and the most effective way to do that is not raise the debt ceiling limit until a balanced budget is passed out of both the House and Senate and gone to the states because if you don’t fundamentally change the rules we’ll be right back to where we are now in a very short period of time.”
On other issues, Chocola:
- Said voters would call the $61 billion in budget cuts the House approved a “drop in the bucket.”
- Questioned “why we don’t demand more of our elected officials, why do we think they can just spend money and not be accountable for it.”
- Said his “pet peeve is when politicians say elect me and I’ll create jobs. The government doesn’t create any sustainable jobs . . . The government stifles the private sector.’
- Contended that, to fix Social Security and Medicare, you “need a president to take the lead because the president is going to have to force Congress to do things because Congress is a public opinion follower not a leader. But a president is in a position that they can give Congress cover and they can force Congress to do hard things, so we need a president who is willing to do that. So far we certainly haven’t seen that out of the Obama administration.”
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