Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio addressed his decision to remove four rebellious Republicans from plum committee assignments this week, telling a closed-door gathering of GOP lawmakers Wednesday that the moves were no “conservative purge.”
The speaker said the Republican Steering Committee “hopes” not to repeat its actions, a statement several members said they took as a threat that it could, indeed, happen again.
“The Steering Committee this week decided to remove committee assignments from four members, and replace them with other members. This was not done lightly. This is something the committee took seriously and hopes never to have to do again,” Boehner said, according to a person in the room.
One member who was not one of the four congressmen removed from a committee said Boehner’s words were perceived to be a warning to other members to vote with leadership or else.
“It sure sounded threatening to me,” the member said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conference deliberations. “He brought up the four people taken off committees and he said there’s other people he’s going to talk to.”
Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, who was removed from the Financial Services Committee, said Boehner “indicated ... there were other names that could have been discussed. I’m paraphrasing but that’s basically what he said.”
Boehner said the changes were not based on ideology, noting that some very conservative members were added to the Financial Services and Budget committees to replace the four rebellious Republicans who were purged.
“The committee’s decision had nothing to do with ideology. For those suggesting otherwise, I’d respectfully suggest that you look at some of the people the Steering Committee put in charge of committees. I’d also suggest you look at some of the members who were added to the committees by the Steering Committee. If you do that and come away with the conclusion that there was a ‘conservative purge,’ I’d be interested [in] hearing the rationale,” Boehner said.
Still, the removals have outraged outside conservative groups and activists, and some of the members who lost their committee assignments have threatened retaliatory strikes on Boehner and his leadership team.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., who declined to characterize Boehner’s remarks in the closed-door meeting, criticized the decision to remove the four lawmakers from their committees.
“When we begin to punish people for doing what they truly believe is right and when what they’re doing is completely within the parameters of the Republican party platform and those things we say we believe, then we are stepping towards division,” Franks said.