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Purge-worthy?

2:45 PM, Dec 13, 2012 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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"What I tried to explain to them was, it didn’t have anything to do with your voting record, a scorecard, your work across the street or anything else. It had to do with your ability to work within the system and to try to work. And to be, I guess, constructive in things. And I said, ‘I guess you could say it was an asshole factor,’” Westmoreland told Daniel Newhauser and Jonathan Strong of CQ Roll Call. “Now I wasn’t calling any member in particular an asshole, I was just trying to describe an environment where some people that you’re trying to work with, they just don’t want to work within the system.”

For example, according to a source, Huelskamp didn't have the courtesy to tell Ryan he was voting 'no' on the budget before his intentions were reported on Twitter. Huelskamp spokesperson Karen Steward told me that "Congressman Huelskamp had multiple discussions with leadership and chairman prior to public announcements about his intentions on the Ryan budget." But Steward did not say specifically whether or not Huelskamp informed Ryan of his vote before it was reported on Twitter.* (On a personal level though, Huelskamp, a farmer from western Kansas and father of four adopted children, is one of the nicest politicians I've ever met.)

Sources say that Amash frequently attacked fellow Republicans on his Facebook page or during radio interviews in districts outside of his own (though sources didn't point specifically to any egregious comments). As for Schweikert, his colleagues believe he's the source of an embarrassing story about Republican congressmen skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee. Politico notes that "Schweikert has publicly denied that he was the source and one of the reporters on the story confirmed that he was not the source on television."

A fourth House Republican, Walter Jones of North Carolina, lost his seat on the Financial Services Committee but kept his spot on the Armed Services Committee, even though he frequently votes against the Republican leadership on defense issues. Sources say Jones lost the seat on Financial Services because he was not an active member of the committee.

So it's certainly possible that simply voting against the Ryan budget isn't why Amash and Huelskamp were removed them from that committee. But it's hard to believe that flip-flopping on the budget wasn't part of the reason they lost their seats.

Only two issues surrounding the Ryan budget were different between 2011 and 2012, and neither issue had to do with the substance of the budget itself. One, conservatives had grown frustrated with the budget compromises struck to avoid government shutdowns or defaulting on the debt. Two, the Club for Growth came out against the Ryan budget in 2012. The Club said the Ryan budget reneged on the sequestration agreed to in the 2011 debt ceiling deal, but in reality it replaced those cuts.

Whether Amash and Huelskamp acted out of frustration or in response to the Club for Growth, their votes against the Ryan budget amounted to little more than posturing. Huelskamp and Amash are still free to find new and ever more creative ways of defining true conservatism. They just won’t be doing that from their perch on the budget committee.

The truth is that the loss of their committee seats is actually a boon to both congressmen. Huelskamp was elected in 2010 to the most Republican district in the country, and he seems to have every intention of being seen as the most conservative congressman in the country. Amash wants to be the next Ron Paul. Huelskamp and Amash have now been given a bigger microphone and greater cachet on the right by losing their committee seats and attaining the status of martyrs for the conservative cause. But it's a status they don't deserve.

*Update: Huelskamp explained his opposition to the Ryan budget in this piece in the American Spectator:

When the House passed the “Path to Prosperity” budget drafted by my colleague, Rep. Paul Ryan, “tax reform” was included, but in name only. The bill lacked a provision that would have required a later House vote on such reform, which meant that its proposal was merely a few words on a page. For that reason, I was one of two Republicans on the Budget Committee who opposed the Ryan budget in committee, and one of ten House Republicans to oppose it on the floor.

Huelskamp is referring to using reconciliation to require Ways and Means write a tax bill, which the Budget Committee could do, but it couldn't require Ways and Means to implement a particular tax reform. Again, the 2011 budget, which Huelskamp voted for, and 2012 budget, which Huelskamp voted against, dealt with tax reform the same way.

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