Conservative Congressman Tim Huelskamp, one of three freshmen representatives ousted from top committee posts this week, slammed the House Republican leadership Thursday, and said that the purge was “a warning” to other members not to go against the party leaders on a fiscal cliff deal.“I think that was clearly a warning from leadership that ‘We’re watching your votes, and if you don’t vote the way we like it, you might be punished like these three people,'” Huelskamp told Business Insider.
In the days since the “purge” was reported, Huelskamp has taken the lead in demanding an explanation for why he and fellow Tea Party-friendly freshmen Justin Amash (R-MI) and David Schweitkert (R-AZ) were stripped of their coveted positions on the House Budget and Banking Committees.
So far, the reasons for the removals remain hazy. Republican leaders have insisted that the decision had nothing to do with conservative ideology, but was based on the perception that the three congressman have not been “team players.”
Notably, all three congressman voted against last year’s debt ceiling deal, as well as Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget.
According to Huelskamp, people who attended Monday’s Steering Committee meeting — where the decision was made — have said that members of the committee came to the meeting with a list of votes that were a “litmus test” for committee appointments.
“If you didn’t reach a particular score then apparently, you’d be punished,” he said, adding that he is demanding the leadership disclose which votes were used as criteria. “If you vote with them, you get a position; if you vote with your district, you don’t.”
Huelskamp also said that House Speaker John Boehner has indicated that the purge is a warning, and told members at the Republican conference meeting Wednesday that “we are watching all of your votes.”
He suggested that the warning is meant to deter Republican members from voting against a deal on the fiscal cliff. GOP House leaders have said that they are willing to put revenues on the table, a concession that pits the party against powerful conservative activists, including Grover Norquist and the Club for Growth.
“I think the immediate issue is that they would like to raise taxes and get that passed through the House,” Huelskamp said. “This was meant to get people in line.”
Although other Republicans have disputed Huelskamp’s interpretation, the “purge” has sparked outrage among conservative groups, and even led some activists to call for Boehner’s removal from the speaker post.
“Conservative groups have not been happy with the leadership of the U.S. House — whether it’s the debt deal, whether it’s the failure to actually pass budgets, whether it’s the inability to actually articulate why we’re conservatives in a meaningful manner,” Huelskamp said. “This just brought home the concerns people had about the GOP Establishment leadership.”