Rep. Lynn WestmorelandOne Georgia Republican House leader said the decision to strip four conservatives from influential committee posts was not informed by ideology. Instead, he said, their removal was calculated by the “asshole factor.”

The reshuffling has become a minor controversy in recent days in conservative quarters of the caucus and culminated Wednesday in a heated discussion at a meeting of the Republican Study Committee, where members sought detailed explanations from leadership and top aides for the move.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who was party to the decision to reshuffle committee assignments, defended the decision in the sharpest terms yet both at the meeting and later in an interview with Capitol Hill newspaper CQ Roll Call.

“I couldn’t help but kind of speak up for the steering committee and the leadership,” Westmoreland, a Republican from Grantville, told the paper.

“What I tried to explain to them was, it didn’t have anything to do with your voting record, a scorecard, your work across the street or anything else,” he said. “It had to do with your ability to work within the system and to try to work. And to be, I guess, constructive in things. And I said, ‘I guess you could say it was an asshole factor.'”

Westmoreland cautioned that he “wasn’t calling any member in particular an asshole,” but that obstinate temperaments had affected a legislative stalemate.

– James Richardson