John Boehner has dished out a little payback, kicking two House Republicans off the influential Rules Committee and stopping a third from sponsoring a bill after they voted against his re-election for speaker.
The returning Republican members of the rules panel were announced late Tuesday after the election for the chamber’s top post, in which 24 of Boehner’s fellow party members didn’t vote for him. Absent from the list: Florida Reps. Daniel Webster, who voted for himself for speaker, and Rich Nugent, who also voted for Webster.
Boehner confirmed Wednesday that the two “weren’t put back on the committee immediately.” Speaking to reporters after House Republicans’ weekly private meeting, he said they are “going to have a family conversation, which we had this morning, about bringing our team together.”
Webster and Nugent, who served on the Rules Committee in the last Congress, were on the list to be reappointed until they voted for Webster for speaker, according to a House leadership aide who asked anonymity to provide details of private discussions.
Nugent said Wednesday he might be returned to the Rules panel.
“I’m not on Rules, I will tell you that,” Nugent said. “But it’s not really clear that I couldn’t get back on it. I carried a lot of water on the Rules Committee, took a lot of tough votes.”
Unlike Nugent, Webster said he wasn’t particularly interested in winning back a seat on the committee. “Do you see people running to get on it?” he said with a laugh. He said he hoped Nugent would be restored.
Rep. Randy Weber, a Texas Republican, said Boehner won’t let him sponsor a bill headed for House floor consideration because he voted for Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas for speaker.
“Sometimes there are casualties and changes, and people make decisions,” said Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican. “They make decisions to do things knowing sometimes there can be consequences.”
While he praised Webster and Nugent for their service on the panel, Sessions said membership on the leadership-driven committee requires loyalty to the Republican conference.
“Making decisions for everybody is what the Rules Committee does,” he said. “It is not a self-serving committee. We do things for the team.”
Taking Republicans off committees and denying them the spotlight of sponsoring bills are two of the few sticks Boehner, 65, of Ohio, has to keep his troops in line. He has used the committee maneuver before and may use it again when Republicans fill out the rest of the committee rosters in coming days.
In 2012, Republican Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, David Schweikert of Arizona and Walter B. Jones of North Carolina were pulled off panels by the Boehner-led Republican Steering Committee in part because of their votes against the party and because they publicly criticized colleagues for their votes.
At the time, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, a Georgia Republican, used an unprintable term to describe their behavior, and his spokeswoman, Leslie Shedd, said “it had to do with their inability to work with other members.”
Weber said Wednesday he was punished for backing Gohmert.
“I’ve already lost the authorship of one bill,” Weber said. “Look, it shouldn’t be that way. It was going to be a bill on regulation of clean nuclear energy.”
Huelskamp, who voted for Webster for speaker, said he lost out on a subcommittee chairmanship because of the vote. A committee chairman, whom he would not identify, had promised him the gavel, he said.
Huelskamp, who lost his spot on the Agriculture Committee in the last Congress, was also a member of the Small Business and Veterans Affairs committees.
Boehner was re-elected with 216 votes, followed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, who finished with 164 votes. Webster led a field of other Republican candidates with 12 votes, followed by Gohmert with three votes and several others who captured one or two votes.
Some of the two dozen Republicans who voted for candidates other than Boehner are already making the case that he should avoid retribution.
“One thing I respect the speaker for, and I believe it will be true with me – we'll find out – is that he is not a vindictive man. And my vote was a vote of conscience,” said Rep, Scott Rigell, a Virginia Republican who voted for Webster. “Something I share with my staff all the time is that I want to serve without fear and leave without regret.”
Boehner told USA Today in September that he didn’t foresee having to use his power over committee assignments to punish opponents.
“I just don’t think it’s necessary,” Boehner said at the time, predicting that “very few” colleagues would vote against him.
Gohmert said retribution would divide Republicans.
“It appears before we can work together, we are now going to have another fight,” Gohmert said in a statement. “It would be a shame if the speaker of the House who has so much power is a sore winner.”