GOP leaders’ focus is on controlling Congress amid presidential doubts

GOP leaders’ focus is on controlling Congress amid presidential doubts

The top Republicans in the House and Senate are closely coordinating their efforts aimed at controlling Congress next year by trading lists of 2012 races they have prioritized. 

Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump aide: Boehner is the disaster Boehner: Tax reform is 'just a bunch of happy talk' Lobbying World MORE (R-Ohio) has given $105,000 to senators and GOP candidates running for the upper chamber, while Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellFive goals for Republicans this summer GOP leader tempers ObamaCare expectations Week ahead: Senate faces difficult path to consensus on healthcare MORE (Ky.) has donated the same amount to House members and candidates.

McConnell told The Hill, “[BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump aide: Boehner is the disaster Boehner: Tax reform is 'just a bunch of happy talk' Lobbying World MORE] and I both have contributed to the priorities on each other’s sides.” 

The bicameral strategy comes as some high-profile conservatives, including former Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and columnist George Will, have suggested that Congress, not the White House, should be the GOP’s focus this fall. That argument has emerged in the wake of President Obama’s improved polling numbers and growing angst on the right with the GOP presidential field.

Republicans need a net of four seats to capture the Senate (three if Obama loses). Boehner, meanwhile, is defending his new majority, which would become a minority if House Democrats pick up a net of 26 seats in November. 

McConnell has said that his top political goal in the 2012 cycle is to make Obama a one-term president. That statement triggered strong criticism from Democrats, who have repeatedly cited it over the last year, accusing McConnell of obstructionism. 

Regardless, some on Capitol Hill contend that McConnell is far more intent on becoming majority leader, a post he has never held. 

Boehner’s list of priority members in difficult election contests includes Reps. Brian Bilbray (Calif.), Dan Lungren (Calif.), Tom Latham (Iowa), Charlie Bass (N.H.) and Francisco “Quico” Canseco (Texas). 

McConnell’s list includes Sens. Dick Lugar (Ind.) and Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOrrin Hatch, it’s time to defend the Orphan Drug Act Five tax reform issues dividing Republicans GOP leaders launch internal review into leak MORE (Utah), who are both facing challenging primaries. Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.) and Dean HellerDean HellerGOP leader tempers ObamaCare expectations Dems plot recess offensive on ObamaCare Trump got harsher GOP reception than Bush on budget MORE (Nev.) and former Sen. George Allen (Va.) have also been deemed priorities by the Kentucky Republican.

Boehner and McConnell have a close working relationship despite tension that emerged between the two amid the payroll tax debate in December.

McConnell indicated that he and Boehner have exchanged lists of priority races “frequently.”

He added, “I’ll give him a list of my priorities, he’ll give me a list of his priorities. I contribute. He contributes.” 

It is clear, however, that the Republican leaders are stepping up their political donations to their House and Senate counterparts.

At this point in the 2010 cycle, McConnell and Boehner had only given a combined $35,000 to members and candidates on the other side of the Capitol, according to Federal Election Commission data. 

The political stakes are higher this year. Republicans feel they have a good chance to control both the House and Senate next year, a dynamic that Armey has likened to a “legislative fence” around the White House. 

Boehner’s leadership PAC spokesman Cory Fritz told The Hill that the Speaker is committed to winning back the Senate, as well as holding on to the House. 

“Strengthening our conservative House majority is the Speaker’s top priority, but he also recognizes what Republican control of the Senate would mean advancing measures to cut spending, repeal ObamaCare and help remove barriers to private-sector job creation. We’re happy to do what we can to help Leader McConnell and his team at the [National Republican Senatorial Committee],” Fritz said.

Democratic leaders are also upping the ante, giving more than they did last cycle, though not matching the Boehner/McConnell donations. 

According to the most recent filings, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidGOP frustrated by slow pace of Trump staffing This week: Congress awaits Comey testimony Will Republicans grow a spine and restore democracy? MORE’s (D-Nev.) leadership PAC, the Searchlight Fund, has donated $42,500 to eight House candidates, including Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), who is in a tough primary against Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) leadership PAC, PAC to the Future, has doled out to Senate hopefuls, including Democratic Reps. Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellySanders, Democrats introduce minimum wage bill Updated fuel regulations would modernize options at gas pumps Mnuchin mum as Dems press for answers on tax reform, Dodd-Frank MORE (Ind.) and Mazie HironoMazie HironoDem senator to undergo treatment for kidney cancer Dem lawmaker to Sessions: 'You are a racist and a liar' March for Science rallies draw huge crowds around US MORE (Hawaii).

A number of House GOP members in tough races did not receive contributions from McConnell, including Reps. Allen West (Fla.), Judy Biggert (Ill.), Joe Heck (Nev.) and Ann Marie Buerkle (N.Y.), among others. It was unclear if they were on the list that Boehner gave to his Senate counterpart. 

Likewise, Boehner did not contribute to GOP candidates in competitive races in Missouri, New Mexico or Wisconsin. There are multiple Republican candidates vying in each of the primaries in those states.

McConnell’s list to Boehner did not include GOP candidates in competitive races in Missouri, New Mexico or Wisconsin. There are multiple Republican candidates vying in each of the primaries in those states. 

Republicans note there is a lot of time to donate to other candidates, pointing out that there are 245 days until the election.

Boehner donations to Senate GOP members/candidates

Ex-Sen. George Allen (Va.)

Rep. Rick Berg (N.D.)

Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.)

Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah)

Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.)

Ex-Rep. Pete Hoekstra (Mich.)

Ex-Gov. Linda Lingle (Hawaii)

Sen. Dick Lugar (Ind.) 

Josh Mandel (Ohio)

Rep. Denny Rehberg (Mont.)

Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) (will not seek reelection)

McConnell donations to House GOP members/candidates

Andy BarrAndy BarrThe Hill's Whip List: 36 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan A guide to the committees: House How we can boost the economy through foreign direct investment MORE (Ky.)

Rep. Charlie Bass (N.H.)

Rep. Dan BenishekDan BenishekRepublican groups launch final ad blitz in key House battlegrounds Tea Party class reassesses record Michigan Republican to retire MORE (Mich.)

Rep. Brian Bilbray (Calif.)

Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco (Texas)

Rep. Mike Coffman (Colo.) 

Rep. Paul GosarPaul GosarHouse GOP not sold on Ryan’s tax reform plan Bipartisan push grows for new war authorization The Hill's Whip List: 19 GOP no votes on new ObamaCare replacement bill MORE (Ariz.) 

Rep. Leonard Lance (N.J.)

Rep. Tom Latham (Iowa)

Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.)

Rep. Bobby Schilling (Ill.)