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McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) isn't the only House leader seeking revenge against colleagues who step out of line. GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) is now retaliating against a fellow Republican for voting against him in the Speaker vote earlier this month.
Multiple GOP sources told The Hill that McCarthy and his allies on the Republican Steering Committee have booted conservative Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) off of the Armed Services Committee, making good on a vow to retaliate after the Freedom Caucus member voted for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) for Speaker.
"Removing any member from a committee solely because they voted according to their constituents wishes is viewed very poorly by the general public and is the kind of punishment politics that American people hate," Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told The Hill after he was told about Hice losing his committee seat.
Hice was one of six Republicans either in the Freedom Caucus or aligned with it who did not vote for McCarthy on the House floor during the Speaker's vote on Jan. 3: Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) backed Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), while Massie, Hice and Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.) all voted for Jordan for Speaker.
It's unclear if any of those members also faced retaliation.
But the fact that Hice was singled out by the Steering Committee during a closed-door meeting on Wednesday is significant: He's expressed interest in running to be the next chairman of the Freedom Caucus, the group that helped oust Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2015 and blocked McCarthy from succeeding Boehner as Speaker. Members are close allies of President Trump but frequently give their own leadership team fits.
Hice is also a Freedom Caucus board member. The affable, conservative lawmaker joined the Armed Services Committee last year, so he is a relatively new member.
Two less-senior Republicans were added to the Armed Services panel for this Congress: Two-term Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) and freshman Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.).
Sources close to McCarthy called the account provided to The Hill flat-out "wrong," pointing out that it was in fact McCarthy who pushed for Hice, just elected to his third House term, to remain on Armed Services.
"McCarthy nominated him; no one seconded" the nomination, said a GOP source. "Jody Hice got Jody Hice booted from [Armed Services], and the members of the Steering Committee would attest to that."
McCarthy's office in a statement did not directly take on the Hice issue.
"Being the minority brings tough decisions and limited opportunities compared to previous Congresses," a McCarthy spokesman said. "From day one Leader McCarthy has stressed the importance of getting the right people in the right seats on the bus. The Steering Committee's recommendations reflect how we will best work together as one conference to achieve our goals."
A second GOP source familiar with the Steering meeting said Hice was denied his slot on the Armed Services Committee because he was not a team player.
"The votes just weren't there," the second source said. "Someone who votes against leadership and their own chairman is just going to have a hard time getting back on [Armed Services].
"It's a pattern and he wasn't a team player."
In a hallway interview Thursday afternoon, Hice would not directly comment about the retaliation but said he was "disappointed but not surprised" that he would not be returning to Armed Services.
"I'm going to continue fighting for the principles the people of the 10th district of Georgia sent me here to fight for, regardless of what committee I'm on and will continue working with leadership on the things that we're in agreement on," Hice told The Hill. "There is more than we agree on than that we don't agree on, and I'm going to continue doing what I can to move the ball forward."
Sources close to Hice say that hours after the Speaker's vote, McCarthy stopped Hice on the House floor, questioned him about his vote for Speaker and threatened to remove him from the Armed Services Committee.
That moment can be seen in a C-SPAN video at the 2:09 mark, though the audio cannot be heard. Hice allies say McCarthy's message was clear on the floor: The minority leader would not be supporting his return to the Armed Services panel.
The Steering Committee's action against Hice comes the same week the Pelosi-aligned Democratic Steering Committee denied a request from a vocal Pelosi foe, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), to serve on the powerful Judiciary Committee. Rice was one of 15 Democrats who tried, unsuccessfully, to block Pelosi from returning to the Speaker's office.
Juliegrace Brufke contributed.
Updated at 3:14 p.m.