Boehner Purge a Gavel-Shot to the Kneecaps of Conservatism

I’m not going to say there’s a lot of bending over backwards to tick off conservatives going on in the House of Representatives right now, but I’d love to be Speaker John Boehner’s chiropractor right now.

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.”

Boehner’s spokesman says the shuffle involved a variety of factors but didn’t say the members’ votes weren’t one of them, or even that they weren’t an important factor.

But of course they’re an important factor and probably the most important factor. Why do I say that? Read on.

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 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.

So the information was leaked and I’m in no mood to be charitable to the Speaker and say his office couldn’t be the source. We all know it could and, if I had to lay money on it, I’d bet it was. This sort of move — summary dismissal from important committees for which you leak to the press before yuo notify the affected members — is a big, fat backhand to the face, a reminder that John Boehner is in charge of the GOP House caucus and not we upstart conservative Tea Partiers. It’s what happens when a besieged leader wants to secure his position to hold off a siege. Make no mistake, conservatives have gotten very close to positions of real influence inside the ranks of the professional Republicans and that just won’t do. And so, a purge of the problem children who believe conservatism is more than a suit you put on to gull the rubes during an election year.

Today was an exercise in raw political power, another battle in the ever-widening war to decide who really owns the Republican Party. The sides are pretty clear. It’s good to know on whose side the GOP House leadership truly is.