U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, who has recently made national headlines in his political battles with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was in the Statehouse on Monday where he used to serve as a state legislator.
Huelskamp, who represents the Big First, which goes from the western Kansas border all the way to Manhattan and Emporia, took questions about getting removed from the House Agriculture Committee and upcoming battles over raising the debt ceiling.
Asked if there could be a government shutdown if Congress and President Barack Obama fail to agree on a plan to raise the federal government's borrowing limit, Huelskamp said, "There certainly could be if folks aren't serious about the problem."
Huelskamp said Congress needs to adopt something similar to the so-called "cap, cut and balance" plan that he and other tea party-backed Republicans put together in 2011. The plan included large spending cuts and adoption by Congress of a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. Obama had said he would veto that plan if it ever landed on his desk.
Huelskamp said House Republicans will meet for a private retreat Wednesday through Friday to come up with strategies and proposals in tax and budget fights.
He said conservatives are upset about the direction of the House and that Speaker Boehner needs to come up with a plan. "The onus is on him to produce good Republican legislation," Huelskamp said.
Last month, the Republican Steering Committee, chaired by Boehner, removed several Republicans, who occasionally bucked leaders, from their committees, including Huelskamp from the Ag Committee.
Huelskamp said he was removed because of his staunchly conservative views. Boehner's office has denied this. Politico reported that one conservative close to party leaders said Huelskamp and the others were removed because they didn't work well with other members.
Huelskamp, whose district is dominated by agriculture, said that while he would prefer to keep his place on the committee, he can work on ag issues in other ways, including his membership on the House Small Business Committee.
Huelskamp was among 12 House Republicans who either abstained or voted against re-electing Boehner as speaker. During the House vote, a photograph published by Politico showed Huelskamp working on an iPad with a document on the screen that had the names of representatives that he hoped would oppose Boehner.
Asked if his run-ins with Boehner could hurt Kansas, Huelskamp said, "If the speaker would like to be petty and vindictive, I mean he might try to do that, but media like yourself are watching very closely, looking for those kinds of things, and we'll be reporting if we think he's punishing Kansas because he doesn't like what people say."
Recently, U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, has received a lot of national media attention for his uncompromising positions on the budget and gun control.
But those familiar with Kansas politics have long known about Huelskamp's refusal to budge.
Let's review Huelskamp's December.
Just one month after running unopposed to a second term in Congress, Huelskamp was in the middle of a political firestorm when House Speaker John Boehner kicked him off two crucial committees. Huelskamp lost his position on the House Agriculture Committee, a key assignment for someone representing the ag-dominated Big First district, and the House Budget Committee.
Huelskamp called the move "petty, vindictive politics."
Washington observers said Boehner was exerting discipline against Huelskamp and several other tea party Republicans who had voted against U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's GOP budget blueprint that passed the House in March and against the 2011 deal between Republican leaders and President Barack Obama for extending the debt ceiling.
As Boehner and Obama negotiate a deficit-reduction plan, Huelskamp has said he will not vote for any deal that includes a tax increase. Huelskamp cheered last week at the failure of Boehner's "Plan B," which would have prevented tax increases for all Americans but million-dollar earners.
Then last week, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough got angry with Huelskamp during an interview when they talked about the mass slayings at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Huelskamp said some were using the shootings to politicize calls for gun control. Scarborough resented that implication.
Nothing new here.
During his 14 years in the Kansas Legislature, Huelskamp was known for getting cross-ways with leaders, even those in his own party.
In 2003, GOP leaders kicked him off the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Then-Senate President Dave Kerr said at the time, "Sen. Huelskamp has been unwilling to apply constructive criticism and positive solutions to the myriad of budget problems of the state. We have no time to deal with anyone who is unwilling to be part of the solution."
But while he was angering Senate Republican leaders, Huelskamp found favor on the national stage.
In 2005, anti-tax leader Grover Norquist named Huelskamp "Hero of the Taxpayer" for fighting against taxes and trying to reduce the authority of the Kansas Supreme Court after the court declared the school finance system unconstitutional and ordered lawmakers to increase school funding.
Norquist even came to Topeka for a news conference to honor Huelskamp. At that press conference, Norquist illustrated the no-tax, no-way philosophy, saying, "Republicans who vote for tax increases are rat heads in a Coke bottle. They damage the brand. They don't just hurt themselves."
Huelskamp was often critical of Gov. Bill Graves, a Republican, and then in 2008 went after Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' son John for creating a prison-themed board game called Don't Drop the Soap.
Last year, some Republican leaders in Kansas voiced concern for putting the city of Manhattan in the 1st Congressional District during redistricting negotiations because they said Huelskamp would have trouble protecting congressional appropriations for the National Bio and Agro-Defense facility. Huelskamp has said he supports funding for NBAF, but his philosophical desire for smaller government has some worried.
In addition to NBAF, the 1st District depends on Medicare reimbursements for rural hospitals and farm subsidies. And while the potential for more wind farms is great in the 1st District, Huelskamp opposes extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind farms.
In June, several people at a town hall meeting in Hutchinson told Huelskamp that he should support the wind tax credit, but Huelskamp replied, "there is no money tree in Washington, D.C."