In the end, Boehner, Cantor and their leadership team decided that while punishing wayward Members wasn’t a viable option, some action was needed to avoid the sort of defections that resulted during the CR fight. And it would need to be more than an empty gesture.
After several discussions, leadership last week agreed that the best solution was to use incentives for loyal soldiers as a way to maintain discipline and coax the wayward back into the fold.
For instance, according to aides, if two freshmen have jobs bills on the same topic, the Member who has shown loyalty would see action on his measure while the other would not.
Likewise, lawmakers could be brought into press conferences and other events with leadership, or could be tapped to take the lead on messaging efforts.
Outside of the Dome, members of leadership and chairmen could also be enlisted to headline official events in the districts of Members who have toed the party line, a boon for lawmakers who often struggle to break through with the local media.
Those sorts of outside efforts could also lead to a major ancillary benefit to lawmakers — fundraising.
Federal law prohibits leaders from offering donations or help in raising cash in return for votes, and aides stress that at no time during their discussions did leaders contemplate such an arrangement.
Still, there is no denying that Boehner, Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) — as well as many of the chamber’s chairmen — are much sought-after fundraisers, particularly for lawmakers facing difficult re-elections or for freshmen who do not have a substantial bullpen of top-dollar donors.
Boehner has long been one of the GOP’s best fundraisers, and he remains a popular figure within Republican circles.
In the last cycle, Cantor and McCarthy also demonstrated their heavyweight status in the fundraising game through their “Young Guns” project. With both leaders already ramping up their campaigning and fundraising efforts, special attention from them will likely be a sought-after commodity, particularly for those freshmen they helped bring to Washington in the first place.
Ironically, a number of those freshmen have repeatedly claimed in public they are not concerned about losing re-election — and continually make use of the anti-Washington trope in their public statements.
But veteran lawmakers who have mentored some of these younger firebrands insist they are focused on their re-elections and, like their more senior colleagues, will go to great lengths to remain in Congress.
“It works for them. We get that,” one veteran aide said of freshmen’s insistence that they remain anti-Washington.