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A boisterous Wednesday meeting of the Republican Study Committee became heated over the recent removal of four rebellious Republicans from plum committees, culminating in a key lawmaker explaining it wasn’t voting records but an “obstinate factor” that contributed to the ousters.
The meeting was also marred by confusion about whether Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was making an appearance to explain the committee removals.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who was booted from a coveted spot on the House Budget Committee and also lost his position on the Agriculture Committee, told reporters that McCarthy was going to address the group. RSC Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio told the group the whip would be there to explain whether a secret vote scorecard had been used to weigh whether to kick members off committees. But a GOP leadership aide said McCarthy was never scheduled to attend.
That led to Jordan telling the group that McCarthy had, in fact, bailed out at the last minute to tend to a family emergency, said Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, who was at the meeting.
“That was the announcement Jim made, that [McCarthy] was going to be here to tell us whether or not there was scorecard and what it meant if there is one and then some things came up at the last minute,” he said. “My understanding is a family matter came up and he’s leaving to go back home.”
McCarthy was still in town when the House voted, hours after the RSC meeting.
That part of the RSC meeting was treated as sensitive, and staffers were asked to leave the room as the “executive session” to discuss the removal of the four lawmakers from their committee slots began.
The conversation became heated, with lawmakers discussing how voting records and participation in National Republican Congressional Committee fundraising “across the street” played in the decisions.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, a staunch conservative who sits on the Republican Steering Committee that made the decision to remove the lawmakers, said he became increasingly angry while listening to the discussion and ended up providing the most detailed defense yet for the decisions.
“I couldn’t help but kind of speak up for the steering committee and the leadership,” he told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview after the meeting.