The 25 conservative members of Congress who voted against Speaker Boehner will almost certainly face retaliation. Early media reports already rumor that two of Boehner’s opponents have lost their seats on the quiet but significant Rules Committee. If most or all of the 25 members who voted against Boehner are stripped of their committee assignments and other perks then they will have little influence through the regular process, but also nothing to lose from continuing their opposition to Boehner’s misguided leadership. The 25 who stood need to keep on standing and turn their handicap in this Congress into a new source of strength.
The first thing these 25 conservatives can do is always have one of their number on the floor to prevent any surprise voice votes of unpopular measures. Unexpected voice votes happened a couple of times in the previous Congress. An unpopular amendment or sometimes even an entire bill looks like it will fail in a scheduled floor vote so leadership runs in and does a voice vote when the House chamber is empty during some odd hour of the day. These 25 conservatives should be alert to any possible procedural tactic like this and take shifts throughout the day, every day, so they can object on the floor and stop these maneuvers cold.
Being a Member of Congress grants instant access to a broad microphone. These 25 members can use that microphone to address the American people directly and attempt to generate media interest by coordinating their activities. Floor speeches, such as Special Orders, can be rotated between these 25 members to ensure that one of them is always addressing an issue of conservative concern. When a particularly important issue comes up, such as the consideration of the Homeland Security funding bill in a few weeks, these 25 members should attempt to stack special orders and keep the House open into the night to hopefully draw broader media attention to issues like Obama’s illegal immigration policy and other Homeland Security mismanagement issues.
Any of these conservatives who are stripped of their committee membership can still likely participate in committees. Most committees will allow any member of the House to participate in a hearing by unanimous consent. Of course, individual chairmen or leadership may begin ordering committees to refuse this privileged if abused, so the 25 should be careful about which hearings they try to participate in. Prime targets would be hearings on important issues that are likely to garner media attention, which would serve as a good platform for them to advance the conservative message. Also note, the loss of committee seats isn’t as important as some might think; committees tend to be the organs of leadership and to a lesser extent the chairman. Rank and file committee members typically have very little input into the final legislative product the committee passes. Committees are most useful to conservatives as ways to garner attention for our message.
Being one of the 25 who stood up to leadership will likely have some media access potential above and beyond being a normal member of Congress because the media loves conflict between Republicans and always yearns for an opportunity to make conservatives look crazy or unreasonable. Use this against the media by getting access and then advancing the message that we want advanced. The 25 should pick the most eloquent of their number to shoulder the bulk of this burden and coordinate their message so their individual political operations can push each other in different media spheres.
The 25 should meet regularly, perhaps even formally organize with a fundraising apparatus to replace the GOP fundraising operation they’ll likely be denied access to from now on. They should begin to build an infrastructure that can sustain them and anyone who cares to join them. These are members we’ll want to see move on to governorships or senate seats and when they run those larger races they’ll need a political base independent of the GOP and with greater reach than their individual districts. The extent to which they must employ these measures will depend on how badly leadership persecutes them, of course, but it’s never too early to start thinking long term. We can’t afford for these members, some of whom are young in their political career, to get sidelined, frustrated, or forced out.