House Speaker John Boehner has denied purging prominent fiscal conservatives aligned with the Tea Party from powerful committee positions in congress, in what some believe is part of the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations.
Tuesday’s pulling of Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash from from the Budget Committee, and Arizona Republican Rep. David Schweikert from the Financial Services Committee will take effect in the upcoming session of Congress this January.
A fourth congressman, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, was also taken from his seat on the House Financial Services Committee, reports the Denver Post. Rep. Jones is considered more of a conservative maverick than a Tea Party member who has voted against his Republican party over issues like changing Medicaid.
Amash, 31, is most closely associated with retired Congressman Ron Paul, backing his failed bid for the presidency and later refusing to endorse Mitt Romney.
Both Huelskamp, a freshman who rode in on the Tea Party wave of 2010, and Schweikert told Breitbart News they believe they were removed from their positions because they refused to back off pledges to not raise taxes. All four congressmen had voted against raising the “debt ceiling” in the Summer of 2011. Three of the four, the exception being Schweikert, voted against the Ryan-written GOP budget blueprint that the House passed last March.
Huelskamp later released a press statement detailing the conservative stances he believes cost him his committee position. Included in his list are efforts to cut US$100 billion from the federal budget, improve transparency in the legislative process, and end hand-outs to big business.
The announcement comes in the wake of partisan wrangling over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which was created during an agreement on the federal budget last August that raised the “debt ceiling” without raising taxes.
Part of that agreement was the creation of a 12-person, House-Senate committee evenly divided between the political parties. This committee was charged with producing up to US$1.5 trillion more in deficit cuts over 10 years. If a majority of the committee agreed on a plan, it would receive a vote in both the House and the Senate. If the panel deadlocks or fails to produce at least US$1.2 trillion in additional cuts, or if Congress fails to enact its recommendations, the White House budget office would impose spending cuts across much of the federal budget, including the Pentagon, domestic-agency budgets and farm subsidies.
Republicans and Democrats, lead by Speaker Boehner and U.S President Barack Obama respectively, are at a stalemate in talks, with the fiscal cliff deadline only days away.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said last month heading over the fiscal cliff will mean a recession and cause a dramatic rise in unemployment, like none seen before. The U.S. economy will shrink by 0.5-percent in 2013 and unemployment will rise 7.9-percent to 9.1-percent.
Political news website Roll Call quoted an anonymous GOP leadership aide who said the moves were indeed retaliation for member not being in lockstep with Boehner. “You want good things in Congress and to have a good career? Better play along nicely,” the aide said.
A spokesman for Speaker Boehner denied the sackings had anything to do with the fiscal cliff negotiations, telling Breitbart News that “the Steering Committee makes decisions based on a range of factors.”
News of the sackings drew widespread criticism from prominent conservatives. Matt Kibbe, president of the Tea Party-aligned Freedom Works think tank, called the move “punishment” for not being “yes men” and “dar[ing] to take a stand for good public policy.”
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin accused the GOP of being “out of touch with America” in a statement.
“We send good conservatives to D.C. to fulfill the promises they made to the electorate, and yet when they stay true to their word the permanent political class in their own party punishes them,” she said. “This won’t be forgotten come 2014.”