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Putting the Tea Party in the timeout corner

Forget about bipartisan cooperation--right now, Republicans can't even get along with each other.

Forget about bipartisan cooperation--right now, Republicans can't even get along with each other. GOP Congressman Tim Huelskamp called John Boehner's actions "petty" and "vindictive" after the speaker bumped him from a committee. "What outrages me is if you don't vote a certain way--whether you're Republican or Democrat--you get punished in Washington D.C.," he said on PoliticsNation.

Huelskamp was one of four congressmen kicked off committee assignments, a move that seemed tied to their refusal to vote with the party. That may be less a punishment, said some analysts, than an attempt by Speaker Boehner to clear the way for a budget deal.

Huelskamp says he's received "no explanation from our leadership" on why he was kicked off the House Budget and Agricultural Committees, but says it's "pretty clear" there was a "secret scorecard" on which he and his colleagues were being judged, and this move is retribution for not voting with Boehner. The Tea Party freshman refused to go as far as some conservative colleagues and join the #FireBoehner campaign, dodging a question about whether or not he'd support Boehner for Speaker again.

But he did criticize Boehner over the secretive nature of fiscal cliff negotiations, complaining that he and many of his colleagues have no idea what's being bartered behind closed doors. "They're sitting there making backroom deals," he said. "They won't tell either side what deal-making is going on and at the end of the day I don't think that's the way to make policy."

What Huelskamp himself would be willing to compromise on was unclear. Asked directly, he replied, "I don't like to use the word compromise very often. I think we work together," adding that he'd rather "meet in the middle." His idea of "meeting in the middle" seems questionable though, since he said he wanted to work on entitlement cuts, but refused to negotiate on raising taxes on the wealthy. He said, "I am not willing to let the president hold 98% of the population hostage" in order to raise taxes on the top 2%.

With disdain for the word "compromise" and a definition of "meet in the middle" that involves him getting his entitlement cuts without giving any ground on tax rates for the country's highest earners, Boehner may be smart to keep Huelskamp out of any backroom where the deal might be made.