Conservatives such as Gray said they understood the business community's neutrality, particularly in light of its obligation to stockholders. But Gray maintained in an interview that shareholders' long-term interests lay in ending the filibuster delays and building a judiciary that was friendlier to business. He called Democrats' threats to tie up the Senate a bluff.
A former Frist aide, Manuel Miranda, was less sympathetic, arguing that Congress has already rewarded business for its support by passing the class action and bankruptcy measures.
"You already got your payback," he said, framing the argument he and others will make to business leaders. Besides, he said, business ultimately "won't be affected much at all" by Democratic threats to shut down Senate actions.
For now, it appears the GOP leadership is moving closer to the evangelical side of the debate.
Vice President Dick Cheney -- offering the White House's firmest words of support yet for the effort to stop filibusters on judicial nominees -- pledged Friday that, as the Constitution provides, he would vote to break a tie in favor of the rule change if needed.
And the Republican National Committee, headed by Bush's handpicked chairman, Kenneth Mehlman, is holding weekly strategy sessions among the key conservative interest groups pushing for the end to judicial filibusters.
Those include the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Federalist Society and the American Center for Law and Justice, which was founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson.
Another group, the Judicial Confirmation Network, is headed by a former Bush campaign grass-roots organizer and lists as its counsel a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Jay Sekulow, counsel for Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice, called the judicial battle "the most organized effort on our side in our history."