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On Monday, quietly but unmistakably, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) began to put the Tea Party in its place — which is apparently not on important House committees.

Right-wing sites like Red State are in an uproar because a bunch of “squishes” (aka moderates) have been named to “Super A” House committees like Ways and Means, Appropriations and Energy. Meanwhile, diehard Tea Partiers like David Schweikert (R-AZ), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) and Justin Amash (R-MI) were removed from their choice assignments.

Huelskamp and Amash had the audacity to vote against the budget of House Budget Committee chair and right-wing demigod Paul Ryan (R-WI). Their votes also couldn’t be counted on for negotiated compromises like this year’s continuing resolution.

Typically, Housemembers are only removed from committees because of scandals. But the scandal here is that Boehner seems to be intent on taking control of his caucus by sending a message.

That message?

“You want good things in Congress and to have a good career? Better play along nicely,” a GOP aide told Roll Call.

The Club for Growth, which funds Republicans with uncompromising far-right positions on cutting spending and lowering taxes, remarked that the leadership’s move sets the members free. “We expect that these three defenders of economic freedom will become even bolder in their efforts to defend the taxpayers against the big spenders in both parties,” Club for Growth president Chris Chocola said in a press release.

Red State’s Daniel Horowitz points out that those members newly appointed to the A-level committees had low scores from right-wing groups like Club for Growth and FreedomWorks.

And FreedomWorks sent an email blast to its members calling on them to tell Speaker Boehner to “stop purging fiscal conservatives.” By Tuesday afternoon, the group had introduced a new hashtag: #PurgeBoehner.

Is this politics as usual where members get punished for not playing the game, or is something bigger afoot?

Republicans know they’re losing the ongoing debate about the so-called fiscal cliff. Speaker Boehner’s counteroffer was blasted by Americans for Prosperity, while right-wing journalists who spent the last year telling us how Mitt Romney would win are now increasingly critical of Republican tactics.

“Republicans are losing the fight over which side appears to be reasonable and conciliatory — and which side is working hardest to make a productive deal,” Town Hall‘s Guy Benson wrote Tuesday.

The Washington Examiner’s Byron York explains the GOP’s predicament:

Republicans will cave on the question of raising the tax rate for the highest-income Americans. The only question is whether they do so before or after the government goes over the so-called fiscal cliff.

If the anger lasts, the 2014 election season will be marked by primary challenges to Republican members of the House by opponents who possess Schweikert, Huelskamp and Amash’s unswaying devotion to never-ever-never-ever-never-ever raising taxes.

Red State‘s Horowitz surmised: “Ultimately, there’s only one way to win this. We must overwhelm them with greater numbers in Congressional primaries.”

ABC News is reporting that Speaker Boehner is exploring a “doomsday” option that will let members vote “present” on the Senate’s bill to extend all the Bush tax cuts except on incomes over $250,000. As of yet, Grover Norquist, who enforces that American Taxpayer Pledge that all but a handful of congressional Republicans have signed, has not said if that “present” vote would violate his pledge to never raise taxes.

However, conservative activist Brent Bozell has made it clear that even the Republicans’ opening bid, which closes loopholes and relies on growth to get to $800 billion, isn’t good enough.

“All the party organs should be cut off,” Bozell told Buzzfeed. “The only people who should be funded are those conservatives who don’t break their word, and the primary opponents of the ones who do.”

“I just got off the phone with a multimillion-dollar donor to Republican causes and his answer to me was, ‘I don’t think I can support them anymore.’ I got an email from another billionaire who said, ‘I think my money should go to the Tea Party,” Bozell added.

Is Boehner preparing for an insurgency from his right flank if he’s forced to end the tax breaks for the richest 2 percent? Does he expect a new civil war in the GOP?

It sure looks like it.

Picture credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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