Concerned, the Chamber of Commerce is preparing to participate in political primaries, protecting friendly lawmakers from conservative challengers. "Clearly we're getting to a point where we need a Congress that's going to be productive, proactive and create a stable environment for economic growth and job creation," said Scott Reed, a Republican political consultant who is advising the chamber on its strategy.
A changing environment has given conservatives plenty of tools to challenge establishment Republicans by using new technology and social media to organize and mobilize highly motivated voters. Campaign finance laws have also given donors a greater playing field that is not limited to the political parties.
What's more, the bank bailouts of 2008 and 2009 soured the public, which resulted in a new wave of populist Republicans in 2010 driven by a decentralized tea party movement that was not beholden to the GOP establishment.
As a result, said Kevin Madden, a former senior House Republican leadership aide and an adviser to Mitt Romney' presidential campaign, the political parties, congressional committee chairmen and big donors no longer wield the clout they once did.
"Now it's more of a bottom-up model, where you see these grass-roots organizations and grass-roots voters are now empowered and they feel they have a stronger voice," he said. "There is less of an emphasis on the parties. They used to have much more outsize control over who the candidates were and what party discipline was. Now a lot of that is gone."
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., emphasized that point. "I'm from a district that pretty much ignores Washington," he said. "If you say government is going to shut down, they say, 'OK, which part can we shut down?'"
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.