Speaker Boehner issues curt reply to conservatives stripped from committees

Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerChaffetz calls for ,500 legislator housing stipend GOP super-PAC promises big spending in 2018 Ryan reminds lawmakers to be on time for votes MORE (R-Ohio) issued a curt written reply to three conservatives removed from key committees, leading one GOP lawmaker to say the decision “confirms the worst fears of the American people.”

The Republican Steering Committee voted to remove Reps. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), David SchweikertDavid SchweikertBipartisan lawmakers give blood in honor of Scalise GOP senators pleased with Ivanka Trump meeting on family leave, child tax credits GOP rep: Verbal discipline a factor in Trump obstruction question MORE (R-Ariz.) and Justin AmashJustin AmashRepublicans slam Trump’s new policy toward Cuba Kids shouldn't be charged as sex offenders Dem: Disrespect for rule of law by Trump administration 'off the charts' MORE (R-Mich.) from their posts on influential committees.

The lawmakers last week wrote to BoehnerJohn BoehnerChaffetz calls for ,500 legislator housing stipend GOP super-PAC promises big spending in 2018 Ryan reminds lawmakers to be on time for votes MORE, who had earlier moved to strengthen his control of the steering committee, demanding a written explanation for the committee changes and a copy of any vote scorecard that was used to make the decision.

The Speaker replied on Monday in a three-paragraph letter.

“As has been made clear, there is no scorecard or any other single criteria used to determine committee assignments,” Boehner wrote. “The Steering Committee is a deliberative body that reviews all appropriate information. Any member of the committee may present information. No appointment or decision is made without the assent of a majority of the Steering Committee members.”

The Speaker encouraged the lawmakers to meet with members of the steering committee if they wanted more information.

Huelskamp, who was stripped of his assignments to the budget and agriculture panels, released Boehner’s letter late Tuesday along with a statement denouncing the Speaker.

"With this letter, Speaker Boehner has confirmed a secret scorecard was used to punish conservative Republican congressmen," Huelskamp said. "This decision by GOP leadership, in a closed-door backroom session, confirms the worst fears of the American people: that promises of transparency were simply an election-year Republican ploy.”

"Mr. Speaker, the American people are disappointed,” he added. “Mr. Speaker, the American people deserve to know. The American people demand to see your secret scorecard.”

Huelskamp said last week that Boehner told members in a closed-door conference meeting that leaders are “watching” member votes. The Speaker had characterized the moves as a response to disloyalty, not a punishment of the members’ conservative ideology. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), a veteran who repeatedly opposes the leadership from the left, was also removed from the Financial Services Committee.

 In an interview on Tuesday, Huelskamp accused Boehner of "parsing words" and said he had been told by members of the steering committee that a scorecard had been used.

"It's the same old, same old. It's just a Republican Speaker instead of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)," Huelskamp said of Boehner's tactics.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is due to meet with the conservative Republican Study Committee on the issue on Wednesday, Huelskamp said.

The Kansas freshman said he would consult with his constituents before deciding whether to support Boehner for Speaker when the House formally votes in January. He said he is also eyeing Boehner's moves during the fiscal cliff negotiations.

"I am waiting to see what happens at the end of the year," Huelskamp said.

He added that he was worried that Boehner is already wobbling on the key issue of raising tax rates. "I see him caving," Huelskamp said. The Speaker has offered $800 billion in new tax revenue as part of a $2.2 trillion deficit reduction package, but he has remained opposed to raising tax rates.

--This article was originally published at 6:55 p.m. and last updated at 9:40 p.m.