Without a candidate of their own in the race for majority leader, House Republican moderates and defense hawks are looking to influence the contest as a counterbalance to conservatives, with some even advocating extreme punishment for rebellious members.
Sensing strength in numbers, members are pushing leadership candidates for assurances on military spending, procedure, and internal conference politics in exchange for their support.
Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a member of the moderate Tuesday Group, announced Monday evening she will not run for majority leader. That deprived many among the roughly 50-strong centrist group of their first choice for the post. Neither Majority Whip Steve Scalise nor Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price fit the bill, they said.
“I’m totally open on that one,” said Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who was an aide to McMorris Rodgers before joining Congress herself. “I was trying to ask myself that question yesterday. This is a decent group of folks. … Where are we going to go? I think people are going to hold their votes for a bit.”
Members of the Tuesday Group interviewed for this story said that it is possible the group could vote as a bloc but that has not been decided. Candidates for the leadership posts are expected to meet privately with the group during the campaign. Already it is becoming clear that many of the moderates, who have long been known to help leadership pass tough bills conservatives refuse to support, are now hoping to dish some toughness back.