In a controversial move that is already backfiring, last week Speaker John Boehner removed three fiscal hawks from key committees for not voting in lockstep with House leadership. In other words, House members are being punished for wanting to cut government spending and keep the promises they made to their constituents.
Boehner seemingly thought he could quietly remove Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas from the Budget Committee and Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona from the Financial Services Committee without any loud objections outside the halls of Congress. Maybe that would have been the case a couple of years ago before the rise of social media. The difference is today there is an army of grassroots liberty activists—both online and on the ground—that hold our elected officials accountable and stand up for legislators who vote the right way.
We the people will not keep silent when the GOP establishment punishes legislators for being fiscally responsible. As soon as the news of the committee purge leaked, the conservative blogosphere went wild, spreading the word and calling on Boehner to put fiscal conservatives back on their respective committees.
The legislators that were ousted are widely supported by the grassroots because of their consistent voting record in defense of economic freedom. Amash, Huelskamp, and Schweikert were 2012 recipients of the FreedomWorks Freedom Fighter Award, awarded to members who earned a minimum score of 90 percent on the FreedomWorks Congressional Scorecard during the 2011 legislative session, which occasionally required legislators to break with GOP leadership inside the Beltway in order to protect liberty and strengthen the economy across the country.
Justin Amash is the only congressman with a 100 percent lifetime rating from FreedomWorks. Tim Huelskamp and David Schweikert have a solid 96 percent lifetime rating from FreedomWorks. These principled legislators have stood with the Constitution even when it was unpopular to do so. They should be praised, not punished.
As Justin Amash quipped on Twitter, “only in Washington, D.C., is a person taken off of the Budget Committee for wanting to balance the budget.”
Speaker Boehner alleges that these lawmakers got the boot because of their unwillingness to be “team players”, not their ideology. This lame explanation makes no sense, as their principled ideology stopped them from voting for big spending bills pushed by House leadership.
Republican leadership reportedly used a secret vote score card, in a closed-door meeting, to determine committee assignments. Lawmakers that dissented from the GOP establishment on high-profile votes were ousted from their committees. Never mind that the GOP establishment often took anti-conservative positions on key votes.
According to Hill sources, House leadership specifically penalized GOP lawmakers that principally voted against the Continuing Resolutions, the Budget Control Act, and the Paul Ryan Budget.
All three legislators voted against the House leadership supported Continuing Resolution that would have continued our unsustainable levels of deficit spending without any spending cuts.
All three legislators voted against Speaker Boehner’s Budget Control Act which created the failed Super Committee, and allowed President Obama to raise the debt ceiling to over $16 trillion and did not cut, cap, or balance federal spending.
Reps. Amash and Huelskamp voted against House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget citing that it did not cut enough spending and would not balance the budget until at least 2040 – far too slowly given the massive size of our nation’s debt. They opted to support the Republican Study Committee’s more conservative budget instead that would balance in just five years without raising taxes.
Fortunately, Boehner’s plan to punish legislators with conservative voting records is backfiring. Amash, Huelskamp, and Schweikert are now seen as fiscal heroes more than ever before. The grassroots sent these lawmakers to shake up Washington—and we couldn’t be more proud of them.
A similar scenario happened back in 1995, when Appropriations Chairman Bob Livingston, with the blessing of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, kicked Rep. Mark Neumann off the committee for voting against a leadership-sponsored bill. Neumann became a conservative hero and wrote to his freshman colleagues that “if voting my conscience gets me kicked off committees, I’m sorry I only have one committee to get kicked off of.” Not only did Neumann stay on Appropriations, but he was also later assigned to the all-important Budget Committee.
Yet, Boehner refuses to learn any lessons from the blowback after the Neumann purge or the recent election.
If the Republican Party wants to become the majority governing party, it must stop disfranchising the millions of grassroots citizens upon whom it depends to win.
Boehner’s conservative purge has only reenergized the grassroots to fight the establishment powers that be. Lawmakers that are ousted from committees solely for being fiscally responsible should wear it as a badge of honor. It means they’re doing something right.
Julie Borowski is a Policy Analyst at FreedomWorks, an organization dedicated to lower taxes, less government, and more freedom. Her writings on economic policy have appeared in numerous newspapers and online outlets. She is on the Board of Advisors for the Coalition to Reduce Spending and she launched an independent YouTube channel called TokenLibertarianGirl in June 2011.
She was previously selected to be a Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow with the Institute for Humane Studies where she worked at the Center for Competitive Politics. Most recently, she was a government affairs associate at Americans for Tax Reform.
Julie has volunteered for political candidates in Kentucky and in her home state of Maryland. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Frostburg State University in May 2010 where she studied political science, economics and international studies. She is now located in Washington, D.C.