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With a small purge of rebellious Republicans — mostly conservatives — from prominent committees Monday, Speaker John A. Boehner is sending a tough message ahead of the looming vote on a fiscal cliff deal.
David Schweikert of Arizona and Walter B. Jones of North Carolina were booted from the Financial Services Committee. Justin Amash of Michigan and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas were removed from the Budget Committee; Huelskamp lost his place on the Agriculture Committee as well.
Huelskamp was undaunted. “The GOP leadership might think they have silenced conservatives, but removing me and others from key committees only confirms our conservative convictions. This is clearly a vindictive move, and a sure sign that the GOP Establishment cannot handle disagreement,” he said in a statement.
But the message from leadership was clear.
“You want good things in Congress and to have a good career? Better play along nicely,” a GOP aide said, characterizing the message behind the moves.
The Republican Steering Committee made the decisions at a Monday meeting after reviewing a spreadsheet listing how often each GOP lawmaker had voted with leadership, three sources said.
The shuffling is the latest sign that Boehner is flexing his muscle with the right flank of his conference as he seeks a united front during tense fiscal cliff negotiations with President Barack Obama. The Ohio Republican had previously altered the makeup of the Steering Committee, increasing his own votes on the panel from four to five and reducing the number of representatives from the class of 2010 from two to one.
According to a GOP aide familiar with the situation, Schweikert was told that he was ousted in part because his “votes were not in lockstep with leadership.”
All of the lawmakers, apart from Jones, were rebellious right-wingers. Huelskamp and Amash both voted against the budget proposed by Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin in committee and on the floor, saying it did not cut spending fast enough. They also voted against the current continuing resolution that is funding the government through the end of March.
The moves sparked a quick backlash on the right. Heritage Action for America CEO Michael Needham called Schweikert’s ouster “unthinkable.” “Congressmen Schweikert, Huelskamp, and Amash are now free of the last remnants of establishment leverage against them,” Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said. “The dirty little secret in Congress is that while refusing to kowtow to the wishes of party leaders can sometimes cost you some perks in Washington, the taxpayers back home are grateful.”