House Speaker John Boehner has ousted a handful of the chamber's most conservative members from their posts on key committees because senior aides say some folks just weren't voting in line with leadership's wishes. The House Steering Committee, which chooses members for committee assignments, has informed Republicans Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, David Schweikert of Arizona, Walter Jones of North Carolina, and Justin Amash of Michigan that their committee assignments have been changed.
Huelskamp and Amash will be removed from the House Budget Committee and Schweikert and Jones will be thrown off of the Financial Services Committee.
"It is little wonder why Congress has a 16 percent approval rating. Americans send principled representatives to change Washington and get punished in return," Huelskamp says."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."
Leadership has not formally explained why the members have been shuffled around.
"Changes are made for a variety of reasons, most often at the request of committee chairs," a leadership aide told U.S. News. Another aide told NBC News the men were being replaced because they were "not being team players."
Speculation is running rampant. Huelskamp and Amash were already in hot water with leadership for voting against procedural measures including a continuing resolution to keep the government operating through the spring. The pair also struck down Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget because they said it did not offer extreme enough cuts to discretionary spending. Schweikert defeated incumbent Rep. Ben Quayle in a bitter member versus member primary this summer, where the GOP leadership had quietly preferred Quayle. Jones has been a thorn in the side of House leaders for years, notably voting against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Amash's office would not comment on the matter. A spokesman for Amash said they will wait until they receive new committee assignments. In an E-mail, a spokeswoman for Schweikert said he was disappointed with House Republican leaders but he "remains committed to fighting for the conservative principles that brought him here."
Messages left for Jones were not returned.
Conservative groups are taking notes on Boehner's recent move to oust key members from their committee positions and are crying foul.
FreedomWorks, a conservative non profit, sent a letter to supporters urging them to call Boehner's office and demand leadership reinstate members to their original posts.
"This is a clear attempt on the part of Republican leadership to punish those in Washington who vote the way they promised their constituents they would -- on principle -- instead of mindlessly rubber-stamping trillion dollar deficits and the bankrupting of America," says Matt Kibbe, FreedomWorks president. "This is establishment thinking, circling the wagons around yes-men and punishing anyone that dares to take a stand for good public policy."
Club for Growth, a Republican super PAC that supports fiscally conservative candidates for Congress, also admonished the House Republican leadership decision to remove some of the members from their committee assignments.
"Congressmen Schweikert, Huelskamp, and Amash are now free of the last remnants of establishment leverage against them. We expect that these three defenders of economic freedom will become even bolder in their efforts to defend the taxpayers against the big spenders in both parties," Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said in a statement. "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."
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Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News & World Report. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow her on Twitter @foxreports.