With the Republican Party somewhat in disarray these days, it's not hard to see why House Speaker John Boehner opted to remove four tea party-endorsed congressmen from plum committee assignments this week. After all, it was the rowdy group of tea party freshman representatives that came to power in the 2010 mid-term elections that was largely responsible for the 2011 debt limit standoff that cost the party dearly in public opinion polls -- and quite possibly contributed to Mitt Romney's defeat. Republican leaders are wise to try to avoid re-creating that debacle again.
This time around, House leaders seem determined to hatch a deal on deficit reduction that avoids the fiscal cliff by a reasonably comfortable margin. Toward that end, Boehner and other leaders did the right thing, sending a message to the persistently unmanageable group by removing some from committee assignments. Bounced from the House Budget Committee were Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan. Reps. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., and Walter Jones, R-N.C., lost seats on the Financial Services Committee.
Amash and Huelskamp are known to be among the most conservative members of Congress. Both voted against Paul Ryan's budget proposal last year, saying the cuts didn't go far enough, and there were clear signs they'd oppose Republicans' latest plan in fiscal cliff negotiations. In response, tea party groups blasted Boehner and one influential commentator urged Republican lawmakers not to accept a deal on the fiscal cliff.
This sort of response just confirms that the tea party remains dangerously confrontational -- so much so, it's willing to take the country to the brink to get its way.
Let's hope these latest developments are a sign that Republican leaders will be less tolerant of obstinate members. It's critical not only to our fiscal stability, but also as a means of bringing the GOP back into the mainstream.