GOP Faces Angry Donors With No Legislative Wins Despite MajorityBy
RNC meets donors in Washington to talk midterm strategy Monday
Ten Democratic Senate seats are up in 2018 in states Trump won
The Republican National Committee will face a crowd of its major donors in Washington on Monday amid growing discontent that the party hasn’t won any significant legislative victories this year despite having majorities in the House and Senate.
Some donors -- citing the failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act -- say the Senate Republicans are blowing a once-in-a-century chance to expand their majority.
"This is the best map Republicans have had going into an election in 100 years," said Dan K. Eberhart, chief executive officer of oilfield services firm Canary and Republican fundraiser. "I hate the idea of squandering this opportunity through a lack of legislative accomplishment."
There are 10 Senate Democrats defending seats in states that President Donald Trump won in November. Republicans, who now control 52 of the 100 Senate seats, can gain a filibuster-proof majority if they win eight more. But to do so, they’ll need some accomplishments to run on, said Larry Kawa, a Florida orthodontist and major fundraiser.
"Unless they do something on tax reform, I think they will be replaced by Democrats," Kawa said. Should they fail, Kawa says, Senate Republicans could be hard pressed to raise money. "All of the big donors are going to throw their hands in the air and say, ’Why am I going to support you?’"
Trump and Republican leaders announced a long-awaited tax plan Wednesday that would represent a major win this year if they’re able to turn it into law. The administration presented the plan one day after Senate leaders decided not to move forward with a vote on repealing Obamacare, one of the most central promises of Trump’s presidential campaign. But Trump has said that tax legislation has been his main focus.
Some donors attending the RNC gala -- a two-day event starting Monday -- will visit the White House, according to a person who plans to attend the event. They’ll also receive briefings on the party’s mid-term strategy, including assessments of tight races and how their contributions will be used to help the party, the person said. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to be the keynote speaker, according to an invitation to the event.
“We’re looking forward to another great event and expect a strong turnout,” Cassie Smedile, a spokeswoman for the RNC, said in an email.
Eberhart is skipping the RNC event, but he did travel to Washington last week to tell National Republican Senatorial Committee officials of the anger he’s seeing. "It’s pretty much pinpointed with frustration in the donor base over the lack of progress with healthcare," he said.
Kawa agrees. "I’m not blaming Donald Trump on this one," he said. "Blame Congress."
Thus far, the RNC has raised far more money than the Democratic party. The RNC ended August with $48.5 million cash on hand, while the DNC had $6.8 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. But the NRSC has raised $3.2 million less than its Democratic counterpart.
The NRSC raised an average of $4.5 million a month in contributions through the end of June, around the time that Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin all indicated they would vote against the health-care bill authored by Mitch McConnell, dooming it. The committee has averaged just $2 million a month since.
For seven years, Republicans campaigned on repealing Obamacare, raising hundreds of millions of dollars on their way to taking control of both chambers of Congress and the presidency. House Republicans passed a bill in May and celebrated at the White House Rose Garden with Trump, but their measure wasn’t acceptable to the Senate, which then was unable to agree on a plan of its own.
Foster Friess, who has given millions of dollars to support Republicans over the years, said he shares the frustration of other donors -- and voters -- with the Senate’s inability to move legislation, but doesn’t think that it will harm the party.
"I am hoping it will inspire Republicans to work harder to increase the number of Republicans in the Senate," Friess said, adding that people upset with GOP senators "must be convinced that more Republican senators are the answer and not ‘staying home’ in 2018 as some are now suggesting."
Eberhart thinks the Senate will have to show some results for that to happen. "I feel good about the Senate map and who we’ve recruited and who we’re running against," he said. "But it’s going to be a disaster if they go into the mid-terms with no demonstrable accomplishments."