House GOP leadership purges conservatives

In addition to waving various white flags to signal their willingness to negotiate a surrender on tax increases, the House Republican leadership has decided to hang a few conservative heads from the battlements of its crumbling political fortress.  According to what an unnamed GOP leadership aide told NBC News, this was done because the four representatives in question are “not team players.”  That’s indisputably true, if we’re talking about Team Tax Hike:

The decision made Monday during a meeting of the Republican Steering Committee strips Reps. David Schweikert (R-AZ) and Walter Jones (R-NC) of their seats on the Financial Services Committee, and Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) of their seats on the House Budget Committee.

The decision to take the committee seats away from Schweikert, Amash and Huelskamp has transformed into a mini-battle between conservatives and the Republican leadership establishment, with Schweikert’s office saying his removal was a result of his “voting based on principle.”

“This morning Congressman Schweikert learned there was a price to be paid for voting based on principle. That price was the removal from the House Financial Services Committee,” Schweikert’s Communications Director Rachel Semmel told NBC News in a statement, “We are obviously disappointed that Leadership chose to take this course, but Rep. Schweikert remains committed to fighting for the conservative principles that brought him here.”

Huelskamp issued an angry statement after he learned he would no longer sit on the House Budget Committee: “It is little wonder why Congress has a 16 percent approval rating: Americans send principled representatives to change Washington and get punished in return.  The GOP leadership might think they have silenced conservatives, but removing me and others from key committees only confirms our conservative convictions. This is clearly a vindictive move, and a sure sign that the GOP Establishment cannot handle disagreement.”

The House leadership officially says the removal of these four conservatives is about their conduct with respect to the rest of the GOP team, rather than ideology, citing the fact that Paul Ryan got to keep his committee chairmanship as evidence against a conservative purge.  Of course, the guy who just climbed off his party’s presidential campaign bus, after serving seven terms in Congress and becoming one of the Party’s highest-profile spokesmen, has a lot more juice than freshman and sophomore Tea Party types.

One can’t help but notice that most of the insolence from the booted conservative congressmen had to do with their Tea Party ties, resistance to tax increases, and criticism of the last meaningless budget “deal” the leadership worked out with President Obama.  For example, while establishment Republicans were rushing to shred their anti-tax pledges in a comically doomed, tone-deaf effort to appear “reasonable” to the media, Tim Huelskamp reaffirmed his anti-tax pledge with a Twitter hashtag and Internet video:

Huelskamp and Amash were both prescient critics of the Budget Control Act of 2011.  Amash issued a statement explaining his vote against it:

The House???s Budget Control Act raises the government???s debt ceiling by $900 billion but requires no structural reforms and only $25 billion in cuts next year. It includes a mere pledge to pass a balanced budget amendment in exchange for authorizing another $1.6 trillion of debt next year. The pledge is not binding. It can be ignored at any time.

It is wrong to continue to burden our children and grandchildren with trillions upon trillions of dollars of debt. Time is up. Congress cannot wait any longer to act responsibly and begin to address its addiction to reckless spending.

Huelskamp also voted against the Budget Control Act, saying that he refused to be “complicit in recklessly spending and borrowing on the backs of the next generation,” while urging conservatives to “make good on their promises to cut trillions in spending, enact structural reforms, and fill the role of elected representatives, rather than hand control to an exclusive committee”:

Back in April – when I voted against the continuing resolution for this year ??? I said ‘no’ because the cuts were minimal. I came to the same conclusion today: these are paltry cuts compared to the $14.3 trillion in debt we already have and the $7 trillion in new debt we can expect in the next decade. This is not a path to fiscal solvency, it’s a path to fiscal insanity. My constituents and our economy deserve a long-term solution that ends the biggest problem: we simply spend too much.”

“Despite having pledged to the American people an open and transparent process and despite having months to fix this problem, we were asked to vote in the 11th hour for a bill that the public had less than 16 hours to read and understand. The culture of fiscal irresponsibility may not have been created by this Congress, but we were sent here to put an end to it; I’m afraid this bill does not rise to that occasion.

Huelskamp didn’t exactly stop worrying and learn to love the deficit bomb after watching the Budget Control Act live down to his expectations, telling Newsmax in late October 2012, “What has happened since the August 2011 budget deal is that we’ve spent more than we’ve taken in very quickly… What that sends is a message to our creditors in the international markets is that we’re not serious about our spending problems.  Whoever the president is in January is going to likely face a real threat, another potential downgrade to our credit rating because of the inability of Washington to get its spending under control.”

“Creditors?’  Wait, the United States has creditors?  You mean the national debt isn’t just an abstract number, a meaningless debt we “owe to ourselves” that never has to be repaid, and which can be increased without limit?  Too bad no one was able to convince the voters of that in the last election, before the truth hits them in the face like a shovel.

Well, as Huelskamp anticipated, “Whoever” is indeed the President again, and he thinks the national debt is made of Monopoly money.  It’s a trivial non-issue that serves primarily as leverage for Big Government to demand even more power through increased taxes… and, yes, even more spending.  Give Barack Obama credit for this much: usually dishonest leftist ideologues who pretend to be deficit hawks so they can strong-arm tax increases will wait until after the ink is dry on the “budget deal” to start spending all that lovely new money… but Obama’s actually got more spending built right into his all-taxes, no-spending-cuts “balanced approach.”  The House leadership’s genuine “balanced approach” – which includes both tax hikes and real spending cuts, but is still good for shaving only about 20 percent off the ten-year projected deficit, at best – just arrived back on Capitol Hill marked “Return to Sender,” only a few hours after they submitted it to the White House for consideration.  Completely absent from the discussion is talk of the conservative low-tax, pro-growth approach to increasing government revenue, coupled with a real effort to dismantle Food Stamp Nation.

You can’t really blame the GOP leadership for purging those conservative committee chairs.  There might even be some long-term political benefit to the Tea Party conservative wing of the Republican Party, which will be able to campaign in 2012 without its stalwarts leaving their fingerprints on the massive tax increases that are about to knock America into an outright recession, or even depression.  As Club for Growth president Chris Chocola put it, the purged conservatives “are now free of the last remnants of Establishment leverage against them,” and can therefore become “even bolder in their efforts to defend the taxpayers against the big spenders in both parties.”

And why would the GOP leadership want people like Amash, Huelskamp, Schweikert, and Jones bringing those A-list committee chambers down with cries of “I told you so!” after the next “budget deal” proves to be an even bigger farce than the last one was?