Boehner Purges Wayward Republicans From Budget Committees

House Speaker John Boehner has purged the body's key financial committees of members of his caucus that didn't toe the line.

House Speaker John Boehner has purged the body’s key financial committees of members of his caucus that didn’t toe the line.

Roll Call (“GOP Steering Committee Shuffles Conservatives“):

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.” Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said, “The Steering Committee makes decisions based on a range of factors.” One GOP leadership aide said, “Changes are made for a variety of reasons, most often at the request of committee chairs.”


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 shuffling is the latest sign that Boehner is flexing his muscle with the right flank of his conference as he seeks a united front during tense fiscal cliff negotiations with President Barack Obama.
A GOP strategist said, “This is a move that the whip team has been advocating for some time. They are using all of the tools at their disposal.”

It’s a hardball move well within his prerogative as party leader in the House. It’s also another move in the unwelcome direction of turning the US Congress into a parliamentary system with lock-step party-line votes. It’s not supposed to work this way, as Members are elected to represent individual districts with disparate needs, not as part of a national party ticket.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Al says:

    Is this the “Parliamenting” of Congress or the old guard trying to protect itself from irrelevance? (Yes, I realize it’s probably a bit from column a and a bit from column b but the question is how much of each?)

  2. john personna says:

    Parliaments do not fall into the two party trap.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: I’m not sure what you mean. Lots of parliamentary systems are coupled with first-past-the-post, single member district systems.

  4. Geek, Esq. says:

    James, we’ve had lockstep parliamentary-style voting for well over a decade now.

    And these guys aren’t being punished for voting with the Democrats and breaking the party line. They’re being punished for refusing to allow Congress to function at all–these are the guys that oppose governing.

    If you’re in Congress and try to make it impossible to govern, you should get slapped around like this.

  5. george says:

    @john personna:

    Parliaments do not fall into the two party trap.

    But they run into the problems of having a party whip force everyone in line – at least in Canada, and that often creates real problems. You also get problems if you use the first past the post system of a party gaining a majority in parliment with 40% of the vote (happens in Canada all the time, there’ve been only a couple of elections in the last few decades where the party winning the house majority has more than 50% of the vote.

    Which wouldn’t be a problem, except a prime minister in Canada (and I think the UK) has far more political power concentrated in their hands than under the current US system – party whips basically ensure that. Which would be a good thing I suppose if there was a good prime minister, but I don’t think there’ve been any of those (the one thing most Canadians can agree on politically (except for a few party hacks) is that all the prime ministers in living memory have been uniformly bad, and not the sort you want to give a lot of power to.

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Well, for obvious reasons we need to retain at least some degree of skepticism of a “GOP Divided!” article from the liberal media which largely is derived from unnamed sources.

    That aside, if Boehner indeed is manipulating committee assignments to help dilute the effect of the extreme and irrational elements of his caucus not only is that within his prerogative that’s simply an example of sound judgment and effective leadership. The inmates can’t be allowed to run the entire asylum.

  7. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    I just think it’s odd to peal off one aspect, which is not unique to parliamentary systems, and call it something that defines parliamentary systems. This is particularly true when monolithic voting in parliamentary systems is offset by having more parties, and more dynamic party changes.

    Our problems come from the feedback between our federal system and two party rule.


  8. john personna says:

    Shorter James: “Blame it on the parliaments, and not my beloved two party system.”

  9. wr says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: So we shouldn’t trust the liberal media when they report something that, in your mind, makes Republicans look good? I begin to understand why you never respond to anyone — if I had to keep this kind of logic in my mind, my head would explode.

  10. Rob Prather says:

    Nitpick: it should read “toe the line”.

  11. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: @john personna: We have a first-past-the-post, single member district system. Duverger’s Law says that these inevitably force two-party systems. My point here is simply that we elect 435 Representatives at the district level rather than having a national election where we express preferences for a national leader via a party vote, which is the case with parliamentary systems. Shoehorning the need for lockstep voting on such a system makes it dysfunctional.

  12. @john personna:

    I don’t recall Joyner ever being particularly a fan of the two party system.

  13. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    You just don’t need the word “parliamentary” in that explanation at all.

    In fact, the key difference between ours and the parliamentary one is that those single-party votes are constantly tested and can bring a fall of government or new elections. In that light it is really absurd to call party block voting “parliamentary” rather than calling it “party block voting”

  14. john personna says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I’m pretty sure he’s called it the best of all possible systems for the US.

  15. Brett says:

    @James Joyner

    It’s not supposed to work this way, as Members are elected to represent individual districts with disparate needs, not as part of a national party ticket.

    It’s already happened or happening, particularly in competitive districts. Quite a few races are “nationalized” these days, with the competitors mostly talking about national issues. That happened in the Matheson-Love race here in Utah.

    If we’re going to turn every race into one on national issues, we might as well go the full ride and have party discipline.

  16. David M says:

    For better or worse, this is why it’s made sense to vote the party not the candidate for quite a while.

  17. rudderpedals says:

    Boehner spent the last two years screwing the entire country. No surprise he’d screw over a couple of his own back benchers.

  18. @john personna:

    I’m pretty sure he’s called it the best of all possible systems for the US.

    Even if he did, that hardly sounds “beloved”.

  19. THe more I think about it, the more I see things Boehner’s way, for one reason: these aren’t just people who didn’t vote in lockstep, these are people whose fundamental purpose was breaking the government for their own partisan reasons. I don’t think this would have been necessitated if he didn’t have such an insurgent uprising in his ranks.

  20. Andre Kenji says:

    @john personna: No, it´s not so simple. Brazil is a very bizarre example: since party leaders have at their disposal LOTS of tools to impose discipline, including expulsion, there are dozens of parties(30 at the total) because everytime that a group of politicians enter in disagreement they create a new party(In part because they have no other alternative). There are dozens of parties and very little difference between them.

    In France there are several parties whose sole purpose is to run in the first round of Presidential Elections. By the way, the proposal of creating a instant run-off in Britain failed in part because people were afraid that the proposal, that would in theory increase the power of smaller parties, would also give more power to the BNP, a far-right party that did not have non-whites as members until some months ago.

    So, most Democracies that have more than two parties are a illusion because in most of times these parties are coalitions that works like a single party(Mexico and Brazil, for instance). In other Democracies most of these small parties are filled with crazies that only brings more gridlock to the table(Europe). One can argue that there is little difference between the GOP and the Front Nationale in France or the BNP in Britain, but, even so.