Rumor du jour: House GOP working on "punishment" for votes against Boehner as Speaker

This story from National Journal is being sourced from Senior Republicans who are familiar with the proposal or close to the situation. (I understand how folks on the hill don’t want to go on record for things like this, but this close to an election any story which plays up internal divisions in the party without attribution should be judged with a healthy dose of skepticism.) They are reporting that plans are afoot to keep tabs on any members who vote against John Boehner for another term as Speaker and strip them of their committee memberships.

House Republicans are quietly discussing a proposal that could fundamentally alter the way future speakers of the House are chosen, according to multiple GOP sources, with the objective of avoiding a repeat of John Boehner’s embarrassing reelection vote in 2013.

The rule tweak began as an informal discussion but has morphed into a concrete proposal that is beginning to circulate in the House. According to people briefed on it, any Republican who votes on the House floor in January against the conference’s nominee for House speaker—that is, the candidate chosen by a majority of the House GOP during its closed-door leadership elections in November—would be severely punished. Specifically, sources say, any dissenters would be stripped of all committee assignments for that Congress.

“There’s a real concern that there’s between 30 and 40 people that would vote against the speaker on the House floor, so they’re trying to change the conference rules to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said a GOP member familiar with the proposal.

Let’s play along for a moment and assume this to be true. To be clear, the article is not claiming that this plan is coming from the Speaker’s office, but from some of his supporters among the majority caucus. (And it’s tough to imagine how opposed Boehner would be to this sort of thinking.) It would certainly be a bold move, but it would also immediately backfire among conservatives in the base were it to be put into action and become public knowledge. And how could it not get out in the media? The final vote for the next Speaker will be a matter of public record. So too will be any changes in committee assignments as we move into the next Congress. It’s wouldn’t exactly require the services of Sam Spade and Nero Wolfe to match up the two lists and see who had been taken to the woodshed.

But if this story were true, why would the House GOP leadership really care about keeping it under the covers? Even if they were ready to make what would amount to an open declaration of war, it’s not as if the conservative insurgency has exactly been hitting them out of the park during the primary season. Wouldn’t Team Boehner declare aloud that they finally have the Tea Party on the run and are looking to solidify their position? A story of them dodging around the cloak room with this plot just doesn’t make sense.

But just to try to shed some light on this, I spoke with a GOP aide pretty close to the top of the food chain this afternoon. Apparently this isn’t the first time this story has made the rounds. Jake Sherman at Politico was shopping around the same tale back in May and it didn’t go anywhere. So what was the answer from our source?

The story is unfounded. As a colleague of mine said yesterday, ‘I stopped reading it halfway through.”

It’s technically still Summer until Monday, so I suppose we’re still in the slow season for news.