Given everything on his plate, you wouldn’t expect John Boehner to face an uproar over the likes of Justin Amash and Tim Huelskamp.
Especially since most of America has never heard of them.
But many on the right are furious with the House speaker for purging them and two other conservative Republicans from key committee assignments. That may be inside baseball, but these folks are keeping score.
Boehner was retaliating—there’s no other word for it—against the lawmakers for repeatedly voting against the GOP leadership. He served notice at a closed-door meeting that rank-and-file votes are being “watched” by his team, according to The Hill.
No one should be shocked that a legislative leader is demanding loyalty from his members, but until now Boehner has been a go-along, consensus-oriented guy. Suddenly he’s channeling his inner Tom DeLay. Perhaps he realizes that he can’t lead a fractious caucus if he’s all carrot and no stick.
Some conservatives, who have long viewed the Ohio congressman as a country-club Republican too eager to make deals, are steamed.
Erick Erickson, the influential RedState blogger and CNN commentator, sounds supremely frustrated: “Conservatives are either going to hang together or separately. Right now they are getting played because Boehner, McConnell, and the like are sure the conservative movement has become a paper tiger. And, to be honest, conservatives have shown them this is true.”
What conservatives need to do, he says, is pump money and field challengers against establishment candidates: “Either start blowing stuff up or shut up.”
Rick Santorum also weighed in. “You saw just a conservative purge in the House. You’ve seen the Washington insiders all saying, ‘Well we have to back off of our principles, and get away from certain issues and compromise on others,’” the former presidential candidate told Politico.
The reason this matters, beyond the internal politics of the House, is that Boehner is trying to cut a deal with Barack Obama to avoid a plunge off the fiscal cliff. That means making concessions on tax revenue that are anathema to the party’s right flank. Boehner is sending a signal that crossing him on such a major vote will carry a significant price.
Jim DeMint, one of the most aggressively conservative Republicans in the Senate, struck back on Twitter. “Speaker Boehner’s offer of an $800 billion tax hike will destroy jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more,” he wrote.
On Thursday, DeMint announced that he is resigning to head the Heritage Foundation. Apparently he doesn’t want any part of John Boehner’s Congress.