Getting Back On Grover’s Good Side? Small-Business Lobby Joins Anti-HCR Suit

Is a key business lobby group back on the right-wing reservation?

Earlier this year, Grover Norquist, the long-time majordomo of Washington’s conservative alliance, called out the National Federation of Independent Businesses for not doing enough to fight President Obama’s agenda. “The biggest hole in the center-right bloc is that the NFIB is not being the tribune of the masses on this,” Norquist told National Journal in February. “Why is that? That is a fascinating question.”“I don’t know what they are doing,” Norquist added. “But it isn’t moving the ball politically.”

The feud dated back to 2007, when the NFIB — which traditionally has worked closely with Republicans — committed the sin of teaming up with AARP and SEIU to push bipartisan approaches on health-care and social security.

But it looks like Norquist’s voicing of his displeasure may have paid off. NFIB announced Friday that it’s joining the lawsuit filed in Mach by several state attorneys general, challenging the constitutionally of health-care reform. A more concrete example of fighting the Obama agenda would be hard to come up with. And the decision puts NFIB — the leading voice of American small businesses — in a position to offer vital funding for the lawsuit, though its press office did not respond to a request for comment on whether it would do so.

In a statement announcing that it will join the suit, NFIB nodded to its past record of less-than-lockstep opposition to reform of any kind:

We want to make it very clear: NFIB has a long history of working on and supporting healthcare reform. We are not part of the ‘Just say no’ crowd. Small businesses DO need reforms that help to reduce costs and increase choices. We have encouraged reforms that cover pre-existing conditions, help to create effective and affordable national exchanges, provide the ability to buy across state lines, and include liability reform. But this new law resulted in more bad than good for our nation’s job creators. And this law is a bridge too far in terms of the future of our constitutional freedoms and liberties.

Norquist did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Late Update: Norquist responds, telling TPMmuckaker that NFIB’s decision to join the lawsuit is “a very good start, but it’s a little late.”

Norquist made clear that his dissatisfaction with NFIB has barely abated. When the Obama administration came in, he said, “NFIB went running to them, and said we want to be helpful in whatever direction you go in.” Only days before health-care reform passed did the group send a letter to the White House opposing the bill — a move Norquist called “completely worthless.”

“Last year they went to sleep, slash joined the other team,” he said. Ultimately, he said, they got nothing out of it, and were left with little choice but to return to the fold. “I think they realized their strategy had not worked, that they’d been taken for a ride.”

Norquist said NFIB had always “under-performed” as part of the conservative moment. He said that during meetings of conservative activists in 1995, everyone else had understood that the price of admission was support for Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America. NFIB, however, had “quibbled” about aspects of the contract, and had never fully gotten on board.

“Maybe [joining the lawsuit] is a signal that they want to come back,” he said. “But we’ll see if it’s possible.”

Late Late Update: An NFIB spokeswoman responds:

NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center is funding NFIB’s participation in this lawsuit. The outpouring of opposition to the law was overwhelming and our members urged us to do everything in our power to stop this unconstitutional law.