When a handful of House conservatives split from the Republican whip team earlier this year, few on Capitol Hill were very surprised. What was more surprising was that anyone from the party's rightmost flank would want to be on the team in the first place.
Sure, there is a certain allure to being involved in the behind-the-scenes decision-making process and staying in the leadership's good graces. But as the gulf between GOP leaders and their most hard-line members widens, being part of the team has lost much of its luster—especially as leaders demand party unity on votes.
On a basic level for conservatives, the perks of being inside leadership may not outweigh the freedom of being outside it.
"In some ways, there's a certain level of communal acceptance around the whip team, but with it—whether it be real or perception—you lose a bit of your optionality," said Rep. David Schweikert, who served on the whip team from 2010 until disagreements caused him to part ways with leaders in 2011. "I think it's becoming more understood "¦ if you participate here, is that in some ways a dampening of your ability to express frustration?"
Reps. Jeff Duncan and Ron DeSantis became the latest GOP members to leave the whip team earlier this year, as Politico first reported, after Duncan voted against Speaker John Boehner in his bid to be reelected speaker and the leadership team decided to crack down on rebels. But their exits have members and staffers wondering who will communicate with their hardest-to-reach members if those voices are not included in the leadership orbit—and indeed whether there is a place for those voices in the leadership orbit at all.