In a discouraging sign for conservatives hoping the GOP will stay true to the fiscally conservative Tea Party message that won in 2010, House Speaker John Boehner has reportedly removed several of Congress's most outspoken fiscal hawks from committees dealing with fiscal matters, citing their unwillingness to be "team players." Business Insider reports:
The House Republican Steering Committee has purged Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) from their seats on the House Budget Committee, and Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) from the Financial Services Committee.
The ousted congressmen are all far right-wing deficit hawks, and have each butted heads with the Republican Establishment over government spending and the federal deficit. All three members were part of a small group of Republicans who voted against House Budget Chair Paul Ryan's budget proposal, which they said did not go far enough to bring down the national debt.
The purge sends a clear warning from Boehner that the Republican leadership will not tolerate inter-GOP squabbling as the budget negotiations heat up over the fiscal cliff — but there are signs that the iron-fist approach may backfire. Conservative groups, already displeased by the GOP's initial fiscal cliff counter-offer, slammed Boehner for the move Tuesday.
One of the especially vocal critics of the move has been Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, one of the four removed, who has slammed the Republican leadership for its seeming willingness to sacrifice fiscal conservatism on the altar of defense spending:
For a party that’s trying to expand its base and make sure it reaches out to young people and new groups, I think it’s pretty outrageous,” Amash said. He called it “a slap in the face” to the growing libertarian wing of the Republican Party, noting that he voted along with leadership 95% of the time during his first term.[...]
“It’s not acceptable to have budgets that are unbalanced to the year 2040,” he said.
Amash also disagreed with what he described as an entrenched view among Republican leaders that defense spending is off limits for cuts. He believes that while the nation’s military must remain strong, that defense spending should be on the table for reductions and that it could serve as a way to find a bipartisan agreement with Democrats on spending cuts.
“I think they (Republican leaders) are willing to raise taxes to avoid any defense cuts,” said Amash. “I think they’re willing to take really bad deals to avoid any defense cuts.”
With fiscal cliff negotiations at a stark impasse, this could signal that Speaker John Boehner believes he will be forced to accept a deal that contradicts fiscally conservative principles, possibly to a degree that the grassroots would see as problematic.