Conservative purge in the House Republican caucus?

Has John Boehner decided to crack down on dissent within the House caucus?  Roll Call’s Jonathan Strong reports on a reshuffle of the committee-assignment deck that leaves a few conservatives without a hand in the coming fiscal-cliff fight:

Speaker John A. Boehner initiated today a small purge of rebellious Republicans — mostly conservatives — from prominent committees; it’s the latest instance of the Ohio Republican’s clamping down on his fractious conference.

The decisions were made by the GOP Steering Committee at a Monday meeting, which reviewed a spreadsheet listing each GOP lawmaker and how often he or she had voted with leadership, three sources said.

Reps. David Schweikert of Arizona and Walter Jones of North Carolina were booted from the Financial Services Committee. Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas were removed from the Budget Committee.

According to a source, Schweikert was told that he was ousted in part because his “votes were not in lockstep with leadership.”

The correlation to dissent may not cover the reshuffle entire, Strong reports.  For instance, Schweikart’s problem might be less his votes and more in the way he campaigned against Ben Quayle:

Schweikert defeated Rep. Ben Quayle in a contentious GOP primary and was not regarded as leadership’s first choice in that race. Schweikert’s tactics in the rough-and-tumble primary, according to several sources, rubbed leaders the wrong way.

A GOP lobbyist emailed about the Schweikert situation, “Wow. Don’t F w Jeb.” The reference was apparently to incoming Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the departing GOP Conference chairman.

When analyzing assignment changes, don’t entirely discount the personal over the political.  The fiscal cliff could be coincidental to this, as this is the normal time for reassessing committee assignments for the upcoming session of Congress.  These committee spots are given out for many reasons, and policy fealty is only one of them.  Anyone who has seen politics up close at any level learns quickly that the systems are set up to reward and punish based on the whims of those elected to leadership.

That’s why Nancy Pelosi was so eager to retain her leadership of the House Democratic Caucus.  It’s also why her decision prompted no rebellion among those whom she had either appointed or protected to get into leadership along with her.

However, the changes certainly appear to prepare Boehner to deliver on any agreement he makes with Harry Reid and Barack Obama.  That came up as an issue in the summer of 2011, when a back-bench revolt began to look likely as details of the “grand bargain” got leaked during the final days of the debt-limit crisis.  It signals that Boehner wants to have a carte blanche on negotiations this time around, and that his leadership appears ready to give it to him.