As I noted, John Boehner got as much flak from his right flank on his three-page “counter-offer” as he did from his left. Conservative groups groused at the inclusion of $800 billion in revenue collection increases, even as it followed the Romney campaign pattern of lowering rates while broadening the base. Obviously they would rather do that without having to raise revenue at all. RedState put up the “white flag of surrender” to characterize the counter-offer.
There’s no question it’s a more moderate offer than, say, the Ryan budget, even though Boehner heaped praise on that inside the counter-offer letter. The counter-offer looked a lot like what Boehner and President Obama worked on during the summer of 2011. But that fell apart over tax increases, and anyway, this is a first offer, which in a normal negotiation would have to move toward the middle of the two endpoints.
But Boehner did something else yesterday to consolidate his power, which could prove more important than the counter-offer itself.
With a small purge of rebellious Republicans — mostly conservatives — from prominent committees Monday, Speaker John A. Boehner is sending a tough message ahead of the looming vote on a fiscal cliff deal.
David Schweikert of Arizona and Walter B. Jones of North Carolina were booted from the Financial Services Committee. Justin Amash of Michigan and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas were removed from the Budget Committee; Huelskamp lost his place on the Agriculture Committee as well.
Huelskamp was undaunted. “The GOP leadership might think they have silenced conservatives, but removing me and others from key committees only confirms our conservative convictions. This is clearly a vindictive move, and a sure sign that the GOP Establishment cannot handle disagreement,” he said in a statement.
But the message from leadership was clear.
“You want good things in Congress and to have a good career? Better play along nicely,” a GOP aide said, characterizing the message behind the moves.
Whatever the outcome, the budget vote will be tight, and at least in the lame duck session, Democrats are running out of members. Bob Filner (D-CA) was sworn in as the Mayor of San Diego yesterday, and had to resign his seat (he didn’t run for re-election to the House, so this doesn’t affect the next Congress). That leaves 191 Democrats in the lame duck, compared to 241 Republicans. Which theoretically leaves less members available to vote for a final deal, especially if it does the unthinkable and raises tax revenues. So Boehner made a power play yesterday, punishing Republicans who went off the reservation in previous votes. Huelskamp and Amash voted against the Ryan budget resolution last time around because they thought it wasn’t conservative enough. And they got their just desserts. This doesn’t seek to turn around their votes per se, as much as to whip in line anyone else thinking of wavering from leadership.
Dick Armey quit FreedomWorks, the Tea Party group, over differences in “direction.” As Armey is a former member of House leadership, I have to believe that this is somewhat related. Basically, the House GOP is making all of their moves now, to warn conservative members to get on board, and they were trying to get fake-grassroots support as well. The civil war inside the GOP has already begun, though it exists on a battlefield so far to the right it’s hard to distinguish between the two sides. It’s the confederates versus the confederates.
UPDATE: And now Jim DeMint has criticized the Boehner counter-offer. Boehner can’t take DeMint off a committee.