Several weeks ago, Congressman Steve Scalise (LA) was elected chairman of the Republican Study Committee. Many of us felt a deep-rooted disquiet that Scalise would be too closely aligned with leadership. We feared he wouldn’t properly defend conservatives and their policies. Well, his response to the recent leadership purge of conservatives from congressional committees has validated our fears. The fact that he was at the scene of the crime as a member of the Steering Committee makes his response even more troubling.
On Monday, Congressman David Schweikert (AZ) was kicked off the Financial Services Committee, Congressman Justin Amash (MI) was kicked off the Budget Committee, and Congressman Tim Huelskamp (KS) was kicked off both the Budget Committee and the Agriculture Committee. They were unambiguously told that their conservative voting records and their dissent from leadership made them unqualified to sit on those committees.
Outgoing RSC chair, Jim Jordan, delivered an appropriate response for the leader of the conservative caucus. “It’s unfortunate and unhealthy for our party that principled conservatives are being punished for voting their consciences and keeping the promises they made to their constituents,” he lamented.
Incoming RSC chair, Steve Scalise, not only failed to call out leadership for their unprecedented purge, he denied the problem while concurrently driving a wedge between several conservative members. Here is what The Hill reports based on an interview with Scalise:
Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), the incoming chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), told The Hill that the removal of GOP Reps. David Schweikert (Ariz.), Justin Amash (Mich.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.) and Walter Jones (N.C.) from plum committee spots had nothing to do with ideology.
Scalise pointed to the ascension of conservative Tea Party favorites to top-notch committees.
“What they fail to mention is that [Rep.] Mick Mulvaney [R-S.C.] got a seat on Financial Services; [Rep.] Raul Labrador [R-Idaho] was fighting real hard to get elevated to Judiciary Committee so he can be more involved in the debate on immigration, and he got that post, so I don’t think anybody would question the conservative credentials of Mick or Raul,” Scalise said. […]
“In the end you look at Mick and Raul getting elevated to positions that they wanted, so, while some went down, some went up. It was more an individual thing. It had nothing to do with conservatism. Otherwise, Mick and Raul wouldn’t be where they are,” Scalise explained.
Huh? What does the non-sequitur of Mulvaney and Labrador have to do with those who were kicked off committees? Did Scalise even speak with those three members? They were blatantly kicked off their current committees because pf their conservative dissent. Even a willfully blind individual knows that. John Boehner even admits that they were punished because of their voting pattern. What voting pattern? They opposed Boehner's fiscally reckless deal in 2011 that has led us to this so called "fiscal cliff" fight.
“Some went down, some went up,” claims Scalise. What??!! Nobody is ever thrown off a committee for no good reason other than for a scandal. Even many RINOs who consistently voted against leadership from the left were kept on key committees for years. There are a number of them who are there to this day. In fact, the top three committees – E&C, Ways and Means, and Approps – are full of them. Joe Heck, who consistently votes against leadership bills, is a member of the Steering Committee, which made the committee assignment decisions in the first place, for goodness sakes!
The fact that Mulvaney and Labrador, who are good conservatives, were appointed to their committees doesn’t negate the incontrovertible fact that members were unprecedentedly kicked off because of ideology. Moreover, it’s not like they were appointed to one of the 3 Super A committees. No conservative was elevated to those committees this time. Mulvaney was merely swapped out of Budget for Financial Services, two comparable committees. Labrador is an immigration attorney and an expert in the field. We are supposed to cheer the fact that they filled a number of vacancies with a man who should have always been there?
Here are some more points to consider:
- Due to election defeats and retirements, there are a number of vacancies on the committees. There are enough conservatives in the House that leadership is forced to put some of them at least on ‘middle ground’ committees. They can’t relegate every last one of them to Admin, Science, and Veterans Affairs.
- The purge of Schweikert and Huelskamp are even more egregious then it appears. Schweikert is to Financial Services what Paul Ryan is to budget. He managed $3 billion in assets in Maricopa County and is the foremost authority on GSEs in the House. He was a workhorse on the committee. Additionally, his dissent was on issues pertaining to budget, not on his committee assignments. Furthermore, there were 7 vacancies on the committee. This was so blatant and so punitive that there’s no way Scalise could miss it. Behind the scenes, House leaders pushed for Ben Quayle against Schweikert in the Arizona Republican Primary, but they could not beat him.
- Tim Huelskamp is among the most qualified people to serve on the Ag committee. He's a farmer. He lives in one of the most Ag districts in the country. He has a Ph.D. from American University in Political Science, and his dissertation was on Ag policy. He is one of the biggest experts in this field in the House. And KS-01 has had someone on the Ag committee for 151 years. This purge is no accident.
“Some went down, some went up.” Indeed.
Finally, there is a real disconcerting and inconvenient reality about this whole situation. In addition to being the incoming RSC chairman, Scalise is on the Steering Committee. He was in the room when the decisions were made. He was there at the scene of the crime. Did he vote for it? Against it? Did he speak out against these decisions?
His statement to The Hill would indicate that he obviously did not speak out against the purge. In his mind, there was no purge. Therein lies the problem.