GOP, K Street Renew ‘Coalitions’ Effort

Posted January 20, 2004 at 6:05pm

With Members of Congress and K Street operatives back in town, House Republican leaders will meet today with a handful of top business lobbyists to laud their shared accomplishments of 2003 and preview the legislative year to come.

The gathering, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in room HC-5, will bring together top players in the House GOP “coalitions” effort, a joint venture of the Whip operation and the Republican Conference that aims to build outside support for important initiatives. Leadership credits the coalitions program with helping to ensure many of last year’s legislative victories.

“I think [the leaders] want to try to replicate it in 2004 and take it to a higher level,” said Dan Mattoon, a lobbyist with Podesta Mattoon who plays a key role in the effort. “I think it’s critical for them and that’s why they’re starting off right at the beginning of the session.”

According to a draft agenda for the meeting, Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) will begin the session by recapping the “pro-business” legislative victories of 2003, including Medicare reform, tax cuts, medical liability, free-trade agreements with Chile and Singapore, bankruptcy reform, and repeal of the estate tax.

GOP Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) will then sketch out a rough legislative calendar for the year, highlighting issues that will likely require coalition support.

In February, the agenda will include the highway bill and governance of foreign sales corporations. March through mid-April will be occupied by the 2004 budget resolution and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, while the rest of the year will be taken up by appropriations bills and tax reconciliation, among other issues.

Lobbyist Gary Andres of the Dutko Group said that holding the meeting in January is helpful in that it will give participating groups enough lead time to build support before the bills they care about hit the floor.

“Outside groups need some time to communicate with their members and lay the groundwork,” Andres said.

Next up after Pryce will be Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the Deputy Majority Whip for coalitions, who will tout the leadership’s perfect record last year on passing bills for which coalitions were mustered. He will also highlight the importance of enlisting outside groups in the effort to solicit Democratic votes.

Rogers said the fact that Republicans were able to attract some Democratic support for key measures was indicative of the success of the coalition effort.

“That [success] is reflected in the fact that we were able to overperform in terms of getting more Democrats on board,” Rogers said.

Chief Deputy Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will close the session, according to the draft agenda, by telling the assembled lobbyists that their support has helped House Republicans “like a home crowd makes an impact on a football game.”

Some of last year’s coalition meetings attracted more than 100 attendees, and Rogers said he learned that some of those lobbyists were eager to roll up their sleeves and help, while others just wanted to attend the meetings.

“The only thing we’re going to do [this year] is make sure the folks who are willing to work are the ones sitting in the meetings,” Rogers said.