Boehner tightens grip on caucus


Before he became the House’s most powerful member, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Hill he had learned a lot from watching previous Speakers.

“I’m going to run the House differently than it’s being run today, and I’m going to run it differently than my Republican predecessors ran it,” Boehner said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Two years into his Speakership, Boehner is also evidently planning to run the House differently from how he ran it in the past.

Since the election, he has tightened his grip on his conference to give himself more power over rank-and-file members. As The Hill noted last month, Boehner has expanded his voting weight on the panel that hands out plum committee assignments, shot down a challenge to his earmark moratorium and worked behind the scenes to ensure that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) won her leadership contest.

This week, the Speaker and his lieutenants stressed the need for unity by penalizing GOP lawmakers who have failed to toe the party line.

Reps. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) lost spots on the Financial Services Committee, and Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) were stripped of their seats on the Budget Committee.

Conservative groups on the right did not take the news kindly, and neither did Huelskamp.

In a press release, the Kansas Republican said, “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.”

Later this month, Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will probably be scrambling for votes to pass a debt agreement. They are unlikely to get those of Huelskamp, Amash, Schweikert or Jones.

But there is a good chance they wouldn’t have secured those votes anyway.

The move to oust these members might resonate with on-the-fence House Republicans who want to climb the GOP ladder. Being loyal is the only way to do that.

GOP leaders have threatened tough enforcement before, and it didn’t work. In 2011, Boehner famously advised Republican members to “get your ass in line” behind his debt proposal. They didn’t, and Boehner ended up having to withdraw the bill.

In politics, party discipline is vital. Boehner is trying to instill more of it in the House Republican Conference.