This is a sign that there is a very real rebellion going on in the House of Representatives that is much bigger than booting John Boehner from the Speakership.
House Republicans already struggling to protect their historic majority this fall are confronting a multimillion-dollar shortfall in their campaign budget — driven partly by Freedom Caucus members and other hard-line conservatives who are boycotting the GOP’s campaign arm.
A bloc of conservatives is refusing to transfer cash to the National Republican Congressional Committee, convinced the committee is favoring moderate candidates over hard-line conservatives. Dozens of other Republican lawmakers also haven’t paid their expected party “dues,” including several in tough primaries or general election races who figure they need the money for themselves.
“There’s a group of us who associate the NRCC with the establishment wing of the party,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who added that he has a “principled objection to paying dues to the NRCC.” The Freedom Caucus member noted that a former top NRCC staffer helped outside groups unseat his friend, Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, in a Republican primary last month, and said the committee is partly to blame. (The NRCC doesn’t spend money in Republican primaries and says it has no control over outside groups.)
Mulvaney also says he’s still upset by ads aired against him in early 2015 by American Action Network, a 501(c)(4) allied with then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The spots implored Mulvaney and other conservatives to end their blockade of a spending bill backed by leadership.
After that, several other Freedom Caucus members stopped paying dues.
“There’s a group that’s still smarting from the fact some of our own went after us, and we’ll be damned if we’re going to put money back in their hands,” Mulvaney said.
The HFC members say they are contributing to candidates directly and not using the NRCC as a pass through. The recognize, and rightly so, that the staff of the NRCC moves fairly freely into political committees who are trying to defeat conservatives in primary elections. What they are objecting to is not the funding of GOP candidates but paying the salaries of guys who are trying to defeat them.
The retaliation, as you can imagine, has been swift and petty:
Multiple lawmakers and staffers also told Politico the NRCC is cracking down on members who haven’t paid, even barring some from accessing committee resources or attending events until they do pay. One mid-August NRCC email to Republican chiefs of staff invited them to a reception on a rooftop terrace in downtown Washington, but only for “chiefs of members who have completed their assessments.”
The same goes with lawmakers: Country band Big & Rich headlined NRCC’s second annual “house party” last week at The Hamilton restaurant in D.C. But emails inviting lawmakers in early September noted that “only members who are paid in full” on their dues can attend. Dues are based on ability to pay, factoring in a member’s committee assignments and seniority.
The House leadership has no reasonable expectation that conservative members will contribute to an organization that is obviously allied with groups and PACs that are devoted to defeating conservative members in primary elections. The easy flow of staff back and forth between the NRCC and these groups indicates that the activities of these groups is approved by the House leadership. The political will shown by the Freedom Caucus gives some hope for a Congress that is both responsive and adheres to the US Constitution.