Boehner defends retribution

A day after winning his third term as Speaker, John BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan: Benghazi report shows administration's failures Clinton can't escape Benghazi responsibility If 'bipartisanship' is now a dirty word, how about a rebranding? MORE (R-Ohio) said his conference had begun a "family conversation" about how to respond to the 25 conservatives who revolted and voted against him on the floor.

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Boehner confirmed that the Rules Committee agreed hours after the Tuesday vote to boot two of the defectors off the committee: Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), who challenged Boehner for Speaker, and Rep. Richard Nugent (R-Fla.), who voted for his fellow Florida Republican.

But the Speaker said no final decisions had been made, suggesting Webster and Nugent could rejoin the committee, even as some rank-and-file members complained bitterly about leadership’s retribution in a closed-door GOP conference meeting on Wednesday.  

“We had a situation yesterday where we had to constitute the Rules Committee because of some of the activities on the floor. Two of our members weren't put back on the committee immediately,” Boehner told reporters.

“We're going to have a family conversation … about bringing our team together,” he continued. “And I expect those conversations for the next couple of days will continue and we'll come to a decision about how we go forward.”

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), who also broke from Boehner, said late Tuesday that Webster and Nugent's removal is something that would happen in a "communist country."

"They voted the way their districts wanted to," Yoho said on Fox News's "Hannity" Tuesday night. "And to be held in jeopardy for that or retribution is wrong, because that would be something you would expect in China, Cuba, Russia or in a communist country ... to, when you have a voice of dissension, to be punished.

"But in America, where we honor free speech and a Constitution that protects that, we should not have to go through that," he added.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who backed Webster for Speaker, accused Boehner of using “intimidation tactics.”

“Boehner kicked Webster and Nugent off Rules Committee 4 voting against Boehner. No room for intimidation tactics. I stand w/them,” King tweeted on Tuesday.

The House Rules Committee convened for the first time this year on Wednesday.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and ranking Democrat Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) only hinted at the sudden departures of Webster and Nugent.

The nameplates for Webster and Nugent had already been removed from the dais, there were also empty corresponding chairs.

Boehner said Wednesday that he plans to talk to some of the members who voted against him.

After he announced he would not back Boehner, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) lamented to reporters that he was immediately told he would not become a subcommittee chairman. But leadership aides denied his allegations. 

Boehner also defended Majority Whip Steve Scalise from criticism over his speech to a white supremacist group more than a decade ago.

“I know this man. I work with him. I know what's in his heart,” the Speaker said. “He's a decent honest person who made a mistake. We've all made mistakes.”

— Peter Sullivan and Cristina Marcos contributed to this report, which was updated at 12:22 p.m.