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GOP Steering Committee Shuffles Conservatives

Speaker John A. Boehner initiated today a small purge of rebellious Republicans — mostly conservatives — from prominent committees; it’s the latest instance of the Ohio Republican’s clamping down on his fractious conference.

The decisions were made by the GOP Steering Committee at a Monday meeting, which reviewed a spreadsheet listing each GOP lawmaker and how often he or she had voted with leadership, three sources said.

Reps. David Schweikert of Arizona and Walter Jones of North Carolina were booted from the Financial Services Committee. Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas were removed from the Budget Committee.

According to a source, Schweikert was told that he was ousted in part because his “votes were not in lockstep with leadership.”

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said, “The Steering Committee makes decisions based on a range of factors.”

One GOP leadership aide said, “Changes are made for a variety of reasons, most often at the request of committee chairs.”

Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, an outspoken conservative, was placed on the Financial Services Committee, something that a second leadership aide noted to demonstrate that voting record was not the only reason behind the changes.

All of the lawmakers other than Jones were rebellious right-wingers. Huelskamp and Amash, for instance, both voted against the budget proposed by Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin in committee and on the floor, because 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, with Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham calling Schweikert’s ouster “unthinkable.”

Schweikert defeated Rep. Ben Quayle in a contentious GOP primary and was not regarded as leadership’s first choice in that race. Schweikert’s tactics in the rough-and-tumble primary, according to several sources, rubbed leaders the wrong way.

A GOP lobbyist emailed about the Schweikert situation, “Wow. Don’t F w Jeb.” The reference was apparently to incoming Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the departing GOP Conference chairman.

The decisions came as a major surprise to Republican members. When first contacted about the changes, several of the lawmakers’ offices said they had not yet been notified.

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.

A GOP strategist said, “This is a move that the whip team has been advocating for some time. They are using all of the tools at their disposal.”

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