FEATURED:

Republicans mull new punishments for dissident lawmakers

House Republicans are chewing over a proposal to hold members accountable for not voting along party lines or for  signing discharge petitions — two acts of rebellion that GOP leadership has had to grapple with this year.

Rep. Austin ScottJames (Austin) Austin ScottOvernight Defense: Officials rush to deny writing anonymous op-ed | Lawmakers offer measure on naming NATO headquarters after McCain | US, India sign deal on sharing intel Lawmakers introduce resolution to back naming NATO headquarters after McCain Republicans mull new punishments for dissident lawmakers MORE (R-Ga.) pitched the idea on Tuesday to the Republican Steering Committee, where it received a warm reception, but the panel decided to hold off on voting on the resolution until after the midterm elections, according to two GOP lawmakers who were present and a Republican source.

ADVERTISEMENT

The resolution would require the Steering Committee to review whether changes should be made to a lawmaker’s committee assignments if they vote against a rule, which sets the stage for floor debate on legislation and is almost always passed along party lines, or if they support a discharge petition, which is a tool to force floor votes with 218 signatures and circumvent leadership.

And committee chairs could see their gavels on the line if they vote against anything considered a key “leadership issue” under the proposal, according to a GOP source.

The thinking is that chairmen and members who belong to the most coveted committees should be the biggest team players, especially when it comes to tough votes.

“There’d be an ability to say: We believe that if you’re on an ‘A’ committee … we expect a little more out of folks,” Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusHow the Trump tax law passed: The final stretch Republicans mull new punishments for dissident lawmakers New EPA chief draws sharp contrast to Pruitt MORE (R-Ill.), a member of the Steering panel, told The Hill on Wednesday. “That would then start the process of saying you can vote however you want, but maybe you should reconsider the committee that you’re on.”

Shimkus said he appreciated that the resolution would provide an opportunity for the Steering Committee, which assigns fellow lawmakers to congressional panels, to hear directly from members about why they voted a certain way.

Rep. Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonOvernight Health Care: Medicaid's popularity on the ballot in four red states | GOP in a bind on pre-existing conditions | Pelosi urges Dems to push health message day before midterms Election Countdown: Four days out | Early voting exceeds 2014 numbers in many states | Vulnerable Dems throw their party under the bus | Toss-ups to determine Senate control | 10 House GOP seats most likely to flip | Obama campaigns to preserve his legacy GOP super PAC launches six-figure ad buy in Upton's Michigan district MORE (R-Mich.), another Steering panel member, said members asked a lot of questions about the concept, but he predicted the issue will heat up in November.

“My guess is it will pop up when we do our organizational meeting after the election,” Upton told The Hill.

Scott confirmed on Wednesday that he offered the proposal, but declined to provide any further details.

Earlier this year, Scott stood up during a GOP conference meeting and called on leadership to punish lawmakers who sign discharge petitions or vote against rules, two Republican sources told The Hill at the time.

Scott’s push came in response to an insurgent effort from centrist Republicans, who were trying to force a series of contentious immigration votes on the House floor using a discharge petition.

The moderate lawmakers had also threatened to torpedo a rule that would bring a conservative immigration bill from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteThe truth about illegal voting Dems race to protect Mueller probe House Dems hold emergency conference call on Sessions ouster MORE (R-Va.) to the floor, unless they also got a guaranteed vote on moderate immigration legislation.

There have been other examples of Republicans defying their leadership.

Members of the Freedom Caucus joined a handful of moderate Republicans in May to sink the GOP farm bill, which contained an overhaul of the federal food stamps program that was a top priority for retiring Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanEarmarks look to be making a comeback Former staffers push Congress for action on sexual harassment measure House Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader MORE (R-Wis.). The House ended up passing the measure in a redo vote later in the year.

And Rep. Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenFemale vets could lead the change in 2020 Dem Mikie Sherrill wins open-seat NJ House race GOP House candidate receives letter threatening his children MORE (R-N.J.), chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, was among the cadre of Republicans who opposed the party’s initial ObamaCare repeal bill, as well as the GOP tax-cut law.

Republican leaders had weighed stripping Frelinghuysen’s gavel over the tax vote, Politico reported last December, but never pulled the trigger. The chairman announced his retirement in January.

While some rank-and-file members have expressed frustration with fellow Republicans for not always falling in line, Ryan is not known to use the same strong-arm tactics as his predecessor, John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Under BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerHouse Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader Republicans jockey for top GOP spot on House Foreign Affairs Committee McMorris Rodgers won't run for GOP leadership MORE, it was not uncommon for members to be punished if they rebelled against leadership.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress returns to leadership races, lame-duck drama House Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders MORE (R-N.C.) had his Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee gavel stripped, and then reinstated, after voting against leadership and failing to pay party dues.

And Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and former Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.) were both kicked off the House Rules Committee, also known as the Speaker’s committee, for voting against Boehner for Speaker in 2015.