The Kansas Chamber on Monday issued the closest thing it could to an endorsement of 1st District Congressman Tim Huelskamp.
"While the Kansas Chamber PAC does not endorse or contribute to candidates for federal office, we can certainly thank them for standing up for the Kansas business community and Kansas taxpayers," Chamber CEO Bill Pickert said in a statement released Friday.
Huelskamp, a three-term Republican from Fowler, is locked in a tight re-election bid against GOP primary challenger Roger Marshall, a Great Bend physician. Like Huelskamp, Marshall describes himself as a conservative who opposes abortion and many of the policies of Democratic President Barack Obama.
But Huelskamp has angered many of the traditional farm interest groups in western Kansas, first for being removed from the House Agriculture Committee amid a political dispute with then-House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and then for voting against the Farm Bill.
As a result, Marshall has garnered endorsements from leading agricultural interest groups, including the Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Livestock Association and others.
The Kansas Chamber is a state-level political action committee but is not registered with the Federal Election Committee to make contributions in federal races. Nevertheless, it issued what might be called a glowing "statement of support" saying "Thank you Tim Huelskamp for being a stalwart example of a legislator who does not cave, but stands firm against an ever-expanding government, refusing to support special-interest gold-mines that hurt working Americans."
That statement, however, put the Kansas Chamber squarely at odds with the U.S. Chamber, which has been sponsoring independent TV ads in the 1st District criticizing Huelskamp and supporting Marshall.
A poll released July 24 by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University showed Huelskamp and Marshall locked in a statistical dead heat, with 15 percent of the voters surveyed still undecided about the race.
U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, is attracting some national media attention for a tweet he wrote yesterday that slams both Presidents Obama and Clinton.
After a House Republican meeting on immigration reform, Huelskamp tweeted: "Most House Rs agree w/ most Senate Rs and Americans. Trusting Obama w/ border security is like trusting Bill Clinton w/ your daughter."
Later on NBC News he described the remark as "offhand" but repeated it.
In June, Politico reported that Huelskamp used a variation of the line, saying, “The idea of letting this administration define border security is like letting Bill Clinton define sexual relations.”
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."
U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, and his iPad were in the middle of a revolt against House Speaker John Boehner that almost threw the election for speaker to a second ballot. Here is a link to POLITICO's story: http://politi.co/ULaXTJ
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."
U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, and U.S. Reps. Tim Huelskamp and Lynn Jenkins, all of Kansas, rallied around approval of a $35.2 million federal grant to build a new middle school at Fort Riley. The grant was awarded as part of the Department of Defense Installations and Environment fund, according to a release from Roberts' office.
The Geary County school district will match a portion of the funding, $6.7 million, for a total of $41.9 million to demolish and build the new middle school on post.
The school’s groundbreaking is expected Jan. 22 with doors opening in 2014. The school will hold roughly 700 students.
"Last year, I toured the school, and it was clear it was in need of modernization and we had to address the overcrowding," Roberts said. "Men and women in uniform who protect and defend our nation, should not have to worry about the quality of the schools where they send their children,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, has been taken off the House Budget Committee and House Agriculture Committee, according to several reports. Earlier this year, Kansas legislative leaders voiced concerns that Huelskamp's run-ins with House Speaker John Boehner would jeopardize funding for NBAF. The Hutchinson News is reporting this is the first time in more than 50 years that Kansas' 1st Congressional District representative wasn't on the House Ag Committee.
This from AP on the goings-on in D.C.
House Speaker John Boehner's decision to take plum committee assignments away from four conservative Republican lawmakers after they bucked party leaders on key votes isn't going over well with conservative advocacy groups that viewed them as role models.
Reps. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and Justin Amash of Michigan will lose their seats on the House Budget Committee chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan next year. And Reps. Walter Jones of North Carolina and David Schweikert of Arizona are losing their seats on the House Financial Services Committee.
The move is underscoring a divide in the Republican Party between tea party-supported conservatives and the House GOP leadership.
"This is a clear attempt on the part of Republican leadership to punish those in Washington who vote the way they promised their constituents they would — on principle — instead of mindlessly rubber-stamping trillion dollar deficits and the bankrupting of America," said Matt Kibbe, president of the tea party group FreedomWorks. "This is establishment thinking, circling the wagons around yes-men and punishing anyone that dares to take a stand for good public policy."
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, would only say Tuesday that the party's steering committee chaired by the speaker made the decision "based on a range of factors."
Groups aligned with the tea party movement were generally big supporters of Huelskamp, Amash and Schweikert. Jones is viewed more as a conservative maverick than a tea party Republican. He has frequently siding against GOP leaders on a range of issues over the years.
A spokesman for Schweikert said he was told specifically that he had too frequently voted "against the team."
"The GOP leadership might think they have silenced conservatives, but removing me and others from key committees only confirms our conservative convictions," Huelskamp said in a statement Tuesday. "This is clearly a vindictive move, and a sure sign that the GOP establishment cannot handle disagreement."
All four lawmakers had voted against the summer 2011 deal negotiated between Republican leaders and President Barack Obama for extending the government's ability to borrow money in exchange for $1 trillion in spending cuts and the promise of another $1 trillion in reduced deficits. Three of the four, the exception being Schweikert, voted against the Ryan-written GOP budget blueprint that the House passed last March.
Their removal from key committees with jurisdiction over the two issues was viewed a strong signal to other Republican lawmakers to look favorably on whatever final deal Boehner and Obama put together to avert a "fiscal cliff" combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts in January.
The changes in committee assignments could bring about more discipline from the GOP on high-priority issues next Congress, but conservatives were taking the news as an attack on their priorities.
"As the sun rises this morning we can look at John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy and know the opposition is not just across the aisle, but in charge of our own side in the House of Representatives," Erick Erickson wrote on the conservative website, RedState. "All the time and energy I would otherwise have to spend to convince conservatives that these gentlemen would be a problem for the GOP has been spared. They've proven it themselves."