Boehner purges Tea Party members over budget, Grover Norquist loyalty

Grover, Grover, Grover.

GOP House member Justin Amash posted a blistering broadside at the House Republican leadership last night, via Facebook, for being booted off a key House committee because of his insistence on voting against the House leadership in budget battles, and for Grover Norquist.

First, about losing their seats:

Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) lost spots on the House Budget Committee, according to an aide. The Hill listed Amash earlier this year as one of the House GOP’s most frequent defectors.

In particular, Huelskamp cited a video he recently posted to his congressional website urging Republicans to adhere to the Taxpayer Protection Pledge advocated by Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform, as something that could have upset party leaders.

“It’s clearly meant to punish and penalize in a vindictive manner,” he added.

As Dave Weigel points out, Amash and Huelskamp, among others, are being punished for being too conservative, read: too Tea Party-friendly and too Grover-friendly:

Over the next two weeks, Washington bubbled with rumors of Republicans agreeing to raise taxes, and violate the pledge they’d made to Grover Norquist, if it got them a “grand bargain” that cut spending on entitlements. Huelskamp responded with a YouTube video in which he warned that “a lot of my colleagues appear ready to break their word,” but when he signed that pledge, he “meant it.” On Dec. 3, Republican leaders sent an open letter to President Obama admitting that their ideal plan couldn’t pass, but some combination of entitlement cuts and “revenue” enhancement could. Conservatives like Huelskamp attacked, joined by David Koch’s Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity and the Heritage Foundation.

This was when Huelskamp learned he’d lost the plum committee assignment. Joining him in exilewere Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who’d also been bounced from Budget, and Arizona Rep. David Schweikert, who’d lost a place on Financial Services. Huelskamp and Amash had both voted against Paul Ryan’s 2013 budget when it got into the committee, on the grounds that it didn’t balance fast enough….

Conservative activists interpret the Amash/Huelskamp/Schweikert purge as a rearguard action against the party base. There’s reason to believe them. The 2011 debt limit standoff cratered public opinion of the GOP, and when it didn’t recover, leaders started to criticize the new outside groups that had subjected Republicans to litmus tests, threatening them if they cast wayward votes. On Tuesday, Amash said he voted against the 2013 Ryan budget—after “voting with our team 95 percent of the time”—because “we did not take a strong enough stance in dealing with our debt.” That was exactly the argument made by Heritage Action, the campaign branch of the conservative think tank, which had launched in the Tea Party year of 2010. Republican leaders can’t punish Heritage, but it can punish back-benchers.

And here’s the blistering broadside against Boehner that Justin Amash posted on Facebook last night:

Rumor has it that I’ve been removed from the House Committee on the Budget. Remarkably, I still have not received a single call, e-mail, or text from Republican leadership confirming this story. In fact, I wouldn’t even have learned about it if not for the news reports. I look forward to hearing from my party’s leadership about why my principled, conservative voting record offends them. That’s sure to be a lively and entertaining conversation.

In the meantime, I can only speculate as to what specifically would make Republican leadership punish several of its party’s most principled members. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, who was kicked off of both Budget and the Committee on Agriculture, voted with me against the 2013 House budget resolution because it does not sufficiently address the federal government’s debt crisis. That was one of only three times during this Congress that I voted against the Chairman’s recommendations in committee. In fact, I voted with the Republican Chairman more than 95% of the time, and I have voted with my party’s leadership more than three-quarters of the time on the House floor.

What message does leadership’s heavy-handedness send? It says that independent thinking won’t be tolerated, not even 5% of the time. It says that voting your conscience won’t be respected. It says that fulfilling your commitment to your constituents to work with both Republicans and Democrats to reduce our debt takes a back seat to the desires of corporate special interests. And, most troubling for our party, it says to the growing number of young believers in liberty that their views are not welcome here.

I’ll miss working with my colleagues on Budget. I don’t relish this situation, but if one thing is clear based on the response from the grassroots, it’s that leadership’s actions will backfire. If they think kicking me off of a committee will lead me to abandon my principles or stifle my bipartisan work toward a balanced budget, I have a message for them: You’re dead wrong.

Young believers in liberty?  You go get ’em, Paul Revere.

Oh, and as an aside, I’m loving the comments on Amash’s Facebook page:

You’d think Jesus would know how to spell.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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