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Conservative Civil War Brewing over Fiscal Cliff

In an attempt to rein in opposition to a potential compromise with Democrats , Speaker John Boehner is eliminating potential roadblocks on some key House committees. Yesterday two congressmen, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and Justin Amash of Michigan, were removed from the agriculture and budget committees, respectively. Today both men spoke with the press and at the Heritage Foundation’s Blogger’s Briefing to discuss their removal. At Heritage Huelskamp told the crowd,

As has often been said, no good deed goes unpunished… We were not notified about what might occur. It confirms in my mind the deepest suspicions that most Americans [have] about Washington D.C. It’s petty, vindictive, and if you have any conservative principles you will be punished for articulating them. For the freshman class of two years ago we were only asked three things. You have to first help the Republican team in terms of fundraising. Frankly, I have done that. I think the other folks who have been punished have done that as well. In exchange for that, in exchange for notifying the leadership how you would vote, you will be able to vote your conscience and your district. I have done exactly that and so have most of my colleagues. It just so happens I have a conservative conscience and a conservative district. They are very thrilled with my votes and will confirm their deepest suspicions that it’s not about principles, it’s about blind obedience. 

Conservative Senator Jim DeMint and the Heritage Foundation released a strong statement against the Boehner counteroffer. Roll Call reports,

“Speaker Boehner’s $800 billion tax hike will destroy American jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more, while not reducing our $16 trillion debt by a single penny,” the South Carolina Republican said in a Tuesday release. “This isn’t rocket science. Everyone knows that when you take money out of the economy, it destroys jobs, and everyone knows that when you give politicians more money, they spend it. This is why Republicans must oppose tax increases and insist on real spending reductions that shrink the size of government and allow Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money.”

DeMint’s reaction is not the only conservative stone thrown. Hours after Boehner released the counteroffer, The Heritage Foundation declared it “a dud.”

In another piece, Roll Call described why the leadership decided to shake up the committee assignments:

According to a GOP aide familiar with the situation, Schweikert was told that he was ousted in part because his “votes were not in lockstep with leadership.”

All of the lawmakers, apart from Jones, were rebellious right-wingers. Huelskamp and Amash both voted against the budget proposed by Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin in committee and on the floor, saying 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.

How much leverage do House Republicans have over Democrats in the looming fiscal cliff standoff? As Alana mentioned earlier, if a deal isn’t reached, a growing majority of Americans would blame the GOP for the failure. Many conservatives seem to believe that Boehner’s pragmatism is a sign of a total abandonment of conservative principles. House conservatives are under the impression that Americans have given them a mandate for solving the fiscal cliff crisis. While that is the case, Americans also voted to keep the Senate and White House under Democratic control.

If voters wanted conservatives to hold out for conservative principles, they would have voted for a Tea Party conservative in the presidential primaries and would have also elected many more of the Tea Party candidates who ran for Senate last month. The hope of House conservatives that they can get more from the House leadership (and from the Senate and White House for that matter) is a fantasy that could sink GOP popularity ratings. Boehner’s committee reshuffling today was an attempt to maintain control of the only branch of government the GOP currently holds. Boehner is fighting a war over the fiscal cliff on two fronts; today we saw him hit back at his right flank. 



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