After months of closed-door talks, Republicans are reportedly going to unveil some of the details of their tax-reform package today, and in the wake of the health care fight, GOP leaders are feeling understandably anxious. If this initiative comes up short, too, Republicans are going to have a tough time justifying the scope of their failure.
With that in mind, the Huffington Post reported last night that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) not only hosted a meeting with his Republican conference yesterday; he also invited a special guest: Corry Bliss, executive director of the American Action Network, a dark-money group allied with the House GOP leadership.
As the story goes, Republican lawmakers were shown a series of commercials AAN has put together on tax reform, which may air in members' districts to pressure them to toe the party line. As one member told the Huffington Post, "Like a teacher showing the kids a paddle on the first day of class, the blatant implication was that those who misbehaved would be spanked."
Another described the presentation as "kind of creepy," which, I suspect, was part of the point.
But I was also glad to see some GOP members question what the American Action Network was doing at their conference meeting in the first place. From the article:
"Since when do you let some outside PAC come in and talk?" the member asked.
"This is nuts. Like, really?" the Republican continued. "That's what it's come to? You've let the head of an outside PAC come in and talk to the Republican conference? I don't know. I think it's goofy."
In this case, the American Action Network is technically a 501(c)4 organization, not a political action committee, but the broader point is nevertheless valid.
I can think of plenty of instances in which Democratic and Republican leaders have invited guest speakers to address conference meetings, but opening the door to an outside group that's poised to launch a pressure campaign against lawmakers really is odd.
It does, however, speak to just how much emphasis the Speaker and his team are putting on this issue. If members felt like they were under siege on health care, the pressure is about to get a whole lot more intense.