Ahead of the midterm elections later this year, it’s clear that both major U.S. political parties are grappling with identity crises. Insurgent progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Andrew Gillum are making waves in the Democratic party, and on the right, President Donald Trump and his never-ending blind fury continues to define the GOP.
According to a new report, though, rather than opening up their party to more dissident views and thereby getting away from the Trumpian definition of the Republican Party, top members of GOP leadership are considering instituting formal punishments for members of Congress who fail to get behind party priorities.
The punishments could include getting committee assignments stripped.
Representative John Shimkus (R-Ill.) explained:
‘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. 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.’
Georgia’s U.S. Representative Austin Scott originally introduced the proposal to the party Steering Committee, and they agreed to hold off on further formal consideration of the measure until after the midterm elections, which are in about two months. Michigan’s U.S. Representative Fred Upton backed that take up on the record, quipping:
‘My guess is it will pop up when we do our organizational meeting after the election.’
There have been “punishments” doled out to GOP members of Congress for toeing the party line in the past. Under the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner, members saw their committee assignments stripped for “violations” like voting against Boehner in the race to actually be Speaker in the first place.
This past year, the “violations” of the party platform have been perhaps more pointed. For instance, New Jersey’s Rodney Frelinghuysen was among the Republicans in the House (and Senate) who opposed the GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Those efforts eventually failed and the party gave up, although they’ve been able to pick away at some of the individual provisions of the overall legislation even still.
In addition, members of the House Freedom Caucus — which was also at one point prominently opposed to GOP health plan efforts — opposed the party’s “farm bill,” although that eventually passed.
The proposal to formalize punishments for party members who go out of line is ironic considering it’s not as though the present Republican Party platform is earning them lots of support. President Trump’s approval rating is sinking again, and concurrently, the GOP is expected to lose control of the House come November, if not the Senate as well. Democrats are between eight and nine percent ahead in generic Congressional ballot polling and FiveThirtyEight gives them a 7 in 9 chance of becoming the majority party in the House with some 35 seat pickups in November.
That doesn’t sound like a party platform worth relentlessly preserving — and yet, here we are. Republican leaders seem prone to taking after President Trump himself in declaring everything to be just fine while it’s (metaphorically) on fire.
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