Back-bench freshmen Justin Amash, Tim Huelskamp and David Schweikert are gaining martyr status among conservative activists after they were “purged” from House committees for what they say is a matter of sticking to their principles on tough votes.
But some of their colleagues say the trio got yanked by the leadership-driven Republican Steering Committee because they’re jerks — or worse.
In an interview with POLITICO, one member of the Steering Committee called them “the most egregious assholes” in the House Republican Conference.
The argument: This went beyond voting records. The members who were booted made life harder for other Republicans by taking whacks at them in public for supporting the team, according to Republican sources familiar with the Steering Committee’s decision.
The fight has obscured an important shift in insider House politics, as these were the first members pulled off committees as punishment for political or personality reasons in nearly two decades. Even Tom DeLay, the fearsome majority leader known for hardball tactics, drew the line there.
By exacting retribution, party leaders sent a strong message to the Republican rank and file that they won’t tolerate members of the conference attacking each other in public. That’s a welcome message for some lawmakers who had urged leaders to attach consequences to working against the goals of the party.
Part of the reason for the talk of stripping committee assignments is that earmarks have been banned. Without that carrot, the stick of conditional committee service has been an increasingly appealing tool to foster unity.
“The guys who are taking heat for taking tough votes back home don’t understand why there aren’t consequences for people who don’t do the same thing,” explained one leadership aide.Roll Call reports on a meeting of the conservative Republican Study Committee:
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, a staunch conservative who sits on the Republican Steering Committee that made the decision to remove the lawmakers, said he became increasingly angry while listening to the discussion and ended up providing the most detailed defense yet for the decisions.
“I couldn’t help but kind of speak up for the steering committee and the leadership,” he told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview after the meeting.
“What I tried to explain to them was, it didn’t have anything to do with your voting record, a scorecard, your work across the street or anything else. It had to do with your ability to work within the system and to try to work. And to be, I guess, constructive in things. And I said, ‘I guess you could say it was an asshole factor,’” Westmoreland said. “Now I wasn’t calling any member in particular an asshole, I was just trying to describe an environment where some people that you’re trying to work with, they just don’t want to work within the system.”