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 Andrew BoehnerScaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' Israel should resist Trump's efforts to politicize support Lobbyists race to cash in on cannabis boom MORE (R-Ohio) has given $105,000 to senators and GOP candidates running for the upper chamber, while Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTwo years after Harvey's devastation, the wake-up call has not been heeded McGrath releases ad blasting McConnell with coal miners in Kentucky: 'Which side are you on?' Prediction: 2020 election is set to be hacked, if we don't act fast MORE (Ky.) has donated the same amount to House members and candidates.

McConnell told The Hill, “[BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerScaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' Israel should resist Trump's efforts to politicize support Lobbyists race to cash in on cannabis boom MORE] and I both have contributed to the priorities on each other’s sides.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

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 Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (Utah), who are both facing challenging primaries. Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary 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 Mason ReidStrange bedfellows oppose the filibuster No, it is not racist to question birthright citizenship McConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster 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 DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyLobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (Ind.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoLawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Democratic senator on possibility of Trump standing up to the NRA: 'That's just such BS' Schumer to Trump: Demand McConnell hold vote on background check bill 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 Hale BarrMcConnell campaign criticized for tombstone with challenger's name McConnnell launches statewide attack ad against Democratic Senate challenger Kentucky Democrat announces challenge to GOP Rep. Andy Barr MORE (Ky.)

Rep. Charlie Bass (N.H.)

Rep. Dan BenishekDaniel (Dan) Joseph 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 Anthony GosarConservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran Conservatives ask Barr to lay out Trump's rationale for census question MORE (Ariz.) 

Rep. Leonard Lance (N.J.)

Rep. Tom Latham (Iowa)

Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.)

Rep. Bobby Schilling (Ill.)