And the payback keeps on coming.
After three conservative House Republicans were kicked off the whip team as a result of voting against a rule for trade legislation on June 11, a new round of punishment is being meted out: Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz has taken away the gavel of Subcommittee Chairman Mark Meadows. Meadows, who is now the fourth member of the House Freedom Caucus to face retribution for his "no" vote on the rule, was the chairman of the Government Operations Subcommittee. Reached by CQ Roll Call on Saturday, the North Carolina Republican declined comment.
Chaffetz, however, told CQ Roll Call in an emailed statement that, "I made a tough decision that I believe is in the interest of the Committee. I think highly of Mr. Meadows but a change was needed based on multiple factors."
Chaffetz didn't say what those factors were, but, in a conversation with Politico — which first reported the news — Chaffetz said there were a “variety of factors” that led to him taking Meadows's gavel.
“I’m just going to leave it at that,” he said, when asked about the other factors. “There were a variety of factors, but I did what I felt was in the best interest of the Oversight Committee.”
Meadows was also one of the 25 Republicans who did not vote for Boehner to be speaker at the start of the 114th Congress, and he has often shown a willingness to vote with the conservative wing of the party. It appears as if the rule vote, in which 34 Republicans went against GOP leadership, was the final straw.
The punishment is yet another indication of the intensifying clash between conservatives and more moderate Republicans in the House GOP Conference.
Trent Franks, who was one of the three House Freedom Caucus members kicked off the whip team earlier in the week, told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday that "there's a polarization taking place" between conservatives and leadership, as right-wing voices are now being locked out of strategy sessions with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.
While the Arizona Republican didn't seem to harbor any real ill will toward leadership — "if I was in their place, I might have done the same thing" — Franks did say that the trade bill "catalyzed" the division within the Republican Conference.
The other two Republicans kicked off the whip team, Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Cynthia M. Lummis of Wyoming, also both spoke to CQ Roll Call and seemed to appreciate leadership's position. Pearce said he knew it was coming — "it was not a surprise" — and Lummis said she respected Scalise's position.
Still, as the House Freedom Caucus proves to be more meddlesome with leadership's plans, having members in both the HFC and on the whip team could have been valuable. There are now no HFC members serving as deputy whips, according to Pearce. And stripping Meadows of his subcommittee gavel gives him less to lose when deciding whether to vote for leadership's plans.
But there are plenty of leadership loyalists who feel not enough is being done to keep members in line. Ohio Republican Pat Tiberi said earlier this week that there was “a growing majority” in the GOP Conference frustrated with Republicans who didn’t want to be part of the team. “And I think that’s a discussion that’s happening with a lot our members right now,” Tiberi said, “what those repercussions should be if you’re not going to be part of the team.”
And Boehner told members during a closed-door meeting this week that he wasn't happy about Republicans voting against rules.
“We’re a team,” Boehner told reporters following the meeting, “and we’ve worked hard to get to the majority, we’ve worked hard to stay in the majority — and I expect our team to act like a team.”