House Republicans Rip Boehner After Committee Reshuffling

Budget hawks say House speaker is losing power, respect.

GOP Reps. Tim Huelskamp, left, and Justin Amash, right, tell <em>U.S. News</em> they are upset with the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner.
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Three Republicans ousted from their committee assignments want answers from House Speaker John Boehner, saying without their help, Boehner has less flexibility on making a grand bargain to avoid the fiscal cliff.

Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, and Arizona Rep. David Schweikert won't let the committee shuffling that left them without posts on the financial services and budget committees go unnoticed and have publicly requested a written explanation of why they were removed. They also want details on the "scorecard" that the steering committee used to determine which members would be kicked out.

Conservative members say before a few colleagues were removed, no one was aware such a "scorecard" existed.

"Not only do I deserve answers... my colleagues who have been safe so far should know to how they can avoid retribution in the future," Huelskamp told U.S. News. "After all, the entire GOP conference was warned last week that leadership is watching their votes as well."

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While only four members were directly affected by committee rearranging, the expulsions could have a ripple affect on the impending fiscal cliff negotiations.

The committee drama has left some conservative members with less incentive to vote with leadership on a plan to avoid the $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts slated to go into effect in 2013.

"The issue of losing committee assignments is still being worked out, and it has really soured the milk here," Huelskamp says. "If they come to conservatives with some plan that raises taxes; it won't be easy to get it through. There is strong opposition to where they are headed."

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Amash says Boehner is losing grip on his party just as he needs them to line up behind a deal.

"He lost the support of a great many people in the Republican conference and this has been coming for some time," Amash told U.S. News. "It is hard for me to find someone who is not frustrated with leadership."

Amash says it is not just the committee shuffling that has members agitated, but leadership's close hold on the fiscal cliff negotiations.

"We are the members of Congress, and we would like to represent our district," Amash says. "We would expect to be involved in any negotiations. It is not fair to the American people for the speaker and the president to put a deal on the table and tell us we have 24 hours to support it."

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A Republican House aide says leadership has already taken too much away from members to be able to broker a fiscal cliff deal with the GOP's most conservative members.

"Leadership has turned on their own and purged conservatives of their caucus who stand up and right the bell on irresponsible spending," the aide says. "What has happened with committee assignments has only emboldened conservatives. They are going to continue voting their conscience. We don't have earmarks anymore, so they cannot take away that, and they took away some of our committee assignments. There is nothing else they can take away unless they take the toilet paper in the bathroom."

Frustration over the committee switches have spread well beyond the confines of Capitol Hill.

A few outside groups have called for Boehner to be replaced as the Speaker of the House.

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Ned Ryun, president of the American Majority, a conservative grassroots group, has outlined how every Democrat and 16 Republicans could block Boehner from being the leader, and has set in motion a "Fire Boehner" campaign.

"Boehner had a litmus test list created to target conservatives who don't vote with leadership. That's not what the GOP is about. This intransparent list has enraged our base to find more open, more articulate leadership," Ryun said.

Boehner's office did not respond to requests for comment regarding this story.

A body of powerful House Republicans still remain unaffected by the committee maneuvering, and has signaled they will stand behind Boehner to avoid going over the fiscal cliff. Even past rivals, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor have voiced support for Boehner's latest package, which lays out $2.2 trillion in deficit saving and $800 billion generated from reforming the tax code. House Budget Committee Chairman, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, also endorsed Boehner's plan.