Tea Party purge backfiring?

John Boehner, Speaker of the House: casualty of the Tea Party/Establishment War?
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The Great Tea Party Purge, or the Night of Long Knives, might backfire on House Speaker John Boehner, Republican Floor Leader Eric Cantor, and Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy. Conservatives outside the House questioned it immediately. Now conservatives inside the House have denounced the move. And at least one activist says the subjects of the Tea Party Purge might be freer than ever to fight against Republican cave-ins.

Details of the Tea Party Purge

Matthew Boyle of Breitbart News has kept up with the Great Tea Party Purge since it happened. The purge affected three key men, all Tea Party freshmen:

Effective next Congress, [Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy] pulled Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash and Arizona Republican Rep. David Schweikert off committees from which they could exert conservative pressure on fiscal matters. [They pulled] Amash and Huelskamp…from the Budget Committee and Schweikert from the Financial Services Committee.

Add Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) to the Tea Party Purge list. He also lost his seat on Financial Services.

Before that announcement, Tim Huelskamp said loudly he would stand by the no-new-taxes pledge he and others made to Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist. He and Schweikert both know the leaders moved against them because they fight for conservative principles. A nameless, faceless aide confirmed that to Roll Call.

You want good things in Congress and to have a good career? Better play along nicely.

FreedomWorks head Matt Kibbe denounced the Tea Party Purge that day. But then came the report that former Representative Dick Armey (R-TX) quit FreedomWorks. Why did he quit? Maybe because Matt Kibbe was ready to write an angry open letter to Boehner. Armey didn’t like that, but couldn’t stop Kibbe. So he quit.

Dick Armey used to be Republican Floor Leader. If he was really at FreedomWorks to subvert it from any true reform mission, he’s better gone, and FreedomWorks is well rid of him.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) still refuses comment. But incoming House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling today told Boyle he had nothing to do with the Tea Party purge. That same nameless, faceless aide who talked about “playing along nicely” tried to hint that Hensarling didn’t want Schweikert and Jones on his committee. Well, according to Hensarling, that’s a lie.

Secret Purge List

John Boehner, Speaker of the House, and author of the Tea Party Purge

John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives. Official portrait.

Boyle learned late last night that Boehner, Cantor, and McCarthy used a secret list of key votes to select their victims. Tim Huelskamp gave the details to the Heritage Foundation. (See the remarks at the 3:56 mark on the video.)

Someone walked in with a list of votes. [He] said if you didn’t [cast] the right vote[s] – which by the way, [usually] was not the conservative position – then [they said] “we’re going to have to remove you from the committee.”

Huelskamp also expressed his fear that the House leaders planned to pass a tax increase through the House. That, he said, would discredit the Republican Party forever.

The Club for Growth said today they want to see that list of votes. Boehner refuses to share it.

Boehner doesn’t seem ready to stop purging. Today he threatened more of the same. But this afternoon he changed his story. He and his aides told BuzzFeed they purged the four for being troublemakers. Among other things, they accused Schweikert of leaking the story of several Congressional junketeers getting drunk and swimming in the nude in Israel’s Lake Kennerit (a/k/a Sea of Galilee) last summer. Schweikert, and several reporters, all deny this. (Interestingly, Eric Cantor was the senior Member of Congress on that junket!)

No Holds Left

The Club for Growth also said the four victims of the Tea Party Purge could now fight harder than ever for conservative ideas in the House.

The GOP leadership has nothing to hold over these members anymore. [This] will just [make] them…even more vocal on the need to limit government and pass pro-growth policy.

And with Dick Armey gone from FreedomWorks, that outfit can fight harder, too. No one will look over their shoulders to tell them to “play along nicely” with House Republican leaders.