When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took to the floor during the debate on whether to censure Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) for a video depicting him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, McCarthy continued the GOP’s practice of not really defending what Gosar did.

What McCarthy did focus on, though, was how much Democrats might rue the day. He cited the supposed precedent set by the ultimately successful effort not just to make Gosar the first House member since 2010 to be censured, but also to strip Gosar of his committee assignments.

McCarthy said the vote would mean members in influential positions would “need the permission of a majority to keep those positions in the future” — even as no Democrats have targeted their colleagues with similarly (even metaphorical) violent imagery.

McCarthy expanded on that point by concluding his remarks thusly: “A new standard will continue to be applied in the future.”

McCarthy wasn’t the only one to preview something so ominous Wednesday, nor was it the only time GOP leaders have wielded threats about what would happen if Republicans regained the majority. Indeed, this has become a growing mainstay of the GOP pushback on Democratic majorities this year.

Other members alluded to similar things Wednesday.

“When Republicans are in the majority, where’s that gonna end?” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) said.

Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) added: “When the pendulum swings — and it will — we are all going to suffer the consequences.”

While the latter two comments could be interpreted as being more of the slippery-slope variety, McCarthy and other GOP leaders have been more explicit about GOP majorities exploiting the supposed new standards Democrats have set.

Early this year, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated that Democrats eliminating the filibuster and its 60-vote threshold would result in a “scorched-earth” approach down the road.

“Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin — can even begin to imagine — what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like,” McConnell said in March.

By August, McCarthy made a more direct threat about what a future GOP majority would do, warning telecommunications companies that Republicans “will not forget” it if they comply with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

“If these companies comply with the Democrat order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy claimed. “If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.”

Around the same time, another member of House GOP leadership, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), issued a threat on the same topic. Banks said on Fox News that a future GOP majority should strip members of the Jan. 6 committee of committee assignments — not just Republicans who crossed over to serve on the committee, but every member.

“When we win back the majority next year, we have a duty as Republicans to hold every member of this committee accountable for this abuse of power, for stepping over the line, by preventing them from being in positions of authority,” Banks said. Banks clarified that he meant this would mean to “take them off any committee, get them as far away from positions of power as you can because they’ve shown us that by threatening to do this that they abuse their power, wherever they are.”

As recently as this week, Republicans again warned that the Jan. 6 committee was setting a precedent with its subpoenas and its enforcement of them — specifically, by holding Stephen K. Bannon in contempt of Congress for ignoring his subpoena — that Republicans would exploit.

“Now that Democrats have started these politically motivated indictments for contempt of Congress, I look forward to seeing their reactions when we keep that same energy as we take back the House next year!” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) said.

Added Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio): “There are a lot of Republicans eager to hear testimony from [White House chief of staff] Ron Klain and [national security adviser] Jake Sullivan when we take back the House.”

The comparison is not an apt one. Neither Klain nor Sullivan previewed an uprising to overturn a presidential election, as Bannon did before Jan. 6, or utterly ignored a subpoena, as Bannon did. And both would have much more obviously legitimate claims to executive privilege in requested testimony in that they, unlike Bannon during the relevant period, actually serve in the White House and the administration.

McCarthy’s comments are actually a replay of what he said the last time a Republican member was penalized for promoting violence against Democrats. When the House voted in February to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee assignments, McCarthy made a similar argument.

He cited a “long list” of people Republicans might target for removal from committees — some of whom McCarthy also cited Wednesday — including Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

The analogies between the Greene, Gosar and Bannon cases and those of Democrats mentioned above are quite imperfect, for some of the reasons we’ve mentioned above. And that shouldn’t be discounted.

At the same time, Republicans have proved they are quite willing to exploit their hold on the levers of power before, and they’ve seen the political utility of the kind of burn-it-all-down approach that Donald Trump embodied. In that context, the fact that they’d threaten to pursue such retribution shouldn’t be totally surprising, but nor should we discount what it could mean for the future of governance in this country. And that is in many ways the point of the exercise.