The Koch brothers, having bought themselves a Congress, are not particularly happy that they are not able to dictate the agenda for who they see as their employees.
Leaders of the conservative Koch political network are mad about President Trump’s tariffs, the failure to protect “dreamers” and runaway government spending. They’re frustrated congressional leaders do not feel a greater sense of urgency to pass more ambitious legislation during what could be the final six months of unified Republican control for a long time. And they’re worried that squabbling might derail their efforts to roll back financial regulations, expand access to experimental medicines and overhaul the criminal justice system.
That doesn’t mean they’re going to sit the next election out, because Democrats taking over Congress would be worse for them and they clearly need more pet Republicans.
For now, the network led by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch still plans to spend between $300 million to $400 million on politics and policy during the 2018 cycle. But they’re growing impatient, rethinking their approach and signaling a willingness to work more closely with Democrats on areas of common ground.
“We’re not going to sit back and wait, as we have in the past,” said James Davis, a senior official at the network who oversees communications. “We’ve also pulled punches in a lot of places where we didn’t want to upset folks that we were going to be working with on other issues. … So we’re going to have to come out and hold Republicans and Democrats accountable. … If they think they’re going to wait out the clock for the rest of this congressional cycle, voters would be right to ask: ‘Why should I send these people back to represent me?'” [emphasis in original]
Good luck working with Democrats, guys, after all the years and all the hundreds of millions of dollars you’ve poured into defeating them and their policy agenda. But the Koch frustration could be part of the mini-rebellion we’re seeing among Republicans over Trump’s tariffs. They can stand up to him if the Kochs continue to have their backs.
But the general disgruntlement over the Republicans’ refusal to hew to the Koch agenda remains. “We’ve played too much to the cadence of Washington and the congressional calendar and whichever leader or whichever party held the majority and their agenda,” Davis told the Post. “Then we played marginally around … either pushing them to success or fighting them to defeat. … We haven’t done enough to set the agenda.”
Good luck with that. There’s less than six months of actual congressional work that can be done this year. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell has already said he’s going to be focusing almost exclusively on Trump’s nominations. And on the House side, all those nihilists the Kochs helped to get elected are going to gum up the works on getting anything done there. They have no incentive not to—they’ve been promised all those hundreds of millions of Koch backing to keep their jobs.