Perhaps more than most successful politicians, congressional leaders have to watch their back. Someone is always waiting to take over for them. They hold their jobs by keeping their troops happy -- winning legislative victories, avoiding embarrassing votes, causing trouble for the opposition. And the vote to hold their job is truly secret.
Already we see signs of this competition. Speaker Boehner has been playing cat and mouse with Eric Cantor for years. Today congressman Clyburn is hinting he'll fight congressman Hoyer for the Democratic leadership if former speaker Pelosi retires. And Senator McConnell is clearly concerned that Senator De Mint might want his job. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats say they love Harry Reid, but many view Senator Schumer as leader-in-waiting.
Congressional leaders have power -- over the agenda, the policies, the committee budgets, even the perks like office spaces. But they also have money to back up that power and to hire patronage employees. It turns out that the Senate leadership got $21,658,000 in fiscal year 2010 and the House leadership got $25,881,800, according to an informative chapter in this book. That makes winning all the more valuable.