The first sign that Republican leaders could not control their new majority came on a vote to help Americans who lose their jobs to foreign workers. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) considered the measure routine and in February 2011 put it on a list of bills expected to pass without objection.
Enter the Club for Growth. Flush with power after helping to elect 13 House members and defeat two veterans in the Senate, the conservative campaign-finance machine blasted out an e-mail declaring its opposition to extending the 40-year-old retraining program, which it called “inappropriate for a country devoted to free markets and a limited government.”
Within hours, like-minded lawmakers protested. Cantor abruptly canceled the vote in a display of party chaos that was astonishing at the time.
It’s not so astonishing anymore. Since then, the Club for Growth has repeatedly embarrassed House leaders, helping to torpedo Speaker John A. Boehner’s“fiscal cliff” strategy, the recent farm bill — even bland Cantor initiatives aimed at helping the uninsured and sick kids with cancer. After spending millions to empower the anti-government right, the Club has become the proud sponsor of congressional gridlock.