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Huelskamp removal creates another GOP House Ag opening

Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.

Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.


The Republican leadership’s removal of Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., from the House Agriculture Committee for the next Congress has created another opening for a seat on the committee, and concern among Kansas farm leaders about losing representation on the committee.

Earlier this week, the House Republican leadership informed Huelskamp that he had been removed from the House Budget Committee and the House Agriculture Committee in the 113th Congress. In a news release, Huelskamp’s office said that he “was given limited explanation for his removal, but clearly his consistent, principled, and conservative votes have riled the GOP establishment.”

But House leadership sources said Huelskamp had lost his committee assignments because he was unwilling to cooperate with the leadership on a wide range of issues.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., R-Okla., already faces the job of recruiting members to replace Tim Johnson of Illinois, who is retiring, Jean Schmidt of Ohio, who lost her primary, and Bobby Schilling of Illinois, who was defeated.

There could be other openings if current Republican members of the committee opt for seats on other committees that they consider more powerful or relevant to their districts. Neither the Republican nor the Democratic House leadership has announced the members of the Agriculture committees for the next term.

“It is little wonder why Congress has a 16 percent approval rating: Americans send principled representatives to change Washington and get punished in return,” Huelskamp said in the news release.

“The GOP leadership might think they have silenced conservatives, but removing me and others from key committees only confirms our conservative convictions. This is clearly a vindictive move, and a sure sign that the GOP establishment cannot handle disagreement.”

Huelskamp has been most known for his opposition to tax increases, increasing the debt limit and refusing to withdraw anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage amendments when requested by the House leadership, but he has also been an active conservative on farm and nutrition issues. In his news release he cited "attempting to curb the explosion in food stamp spending and other entitlements” as one of his accomplishments in Congress.

During this fall’s election campaign, Huelskamp and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, introduced a bill that would eliminate new limits on the number of calories in the school lunches that was part of the implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Huelskamp also praised students in Sharon Springs, Kan., for producing a “We Are Hungry” video criticizing the calorie limits and portrayed their actions as an example of “the power of activism.”

“I am so honored and proud to represent Sharon Springs students and their teachers in Congress,” Huelskamp said in a news release. “They refuse to let a top-down, heavy-handed federal government dictate what should be a day-to-day local decision: what goes on to the cafeteria tray.”

“At a very young age, these students are learning first-hand the consequences of what happens when government becomes too powerful,” he said. “But, they are also learning about the power of activism, and how an average person can transform a debate and influence public policy. Nearly every major media outlet has covered this issue and in no small part due to their fun and compelling ‘We Are Hungry’ video. We are inspired by their efforts, and will continue to work toward passing the ‘No Hungry Kids Act’ in order to get these mandates off the books.”

But both Kansas and national farm leaders have told The Hagstrom Report privately that they have worried Huelskamp’s priorities may hurt the interests of farmers and rural America and that his election may signal that rural America is out of step with the rest of the country.

They have pointed out that Huelskamp’s predecessors in the Kansas’ First District — former Sen. Majority Leader Bob Dole, Sen. Pat Roberts, and Sen. Jerry Moran — have been viewed as centrist leaders who have united farmers and the hungry. Most farm leaders view the presence of the food stamp program in the farm bill as a key to convincing urban and suburban members of the House to vote for it.

Kansas farm leaders are dismayed by Huelskamp’s removal, the Kansas City Star reported today.

“It certainly puts our members and Kansas as one of the top ag states at a signficant disadvantage in setting federal policy,” said Aaron Popelka, vice president of legal and governmental affairs for the Kansas Livestock Association.

“Having somebody from the Big First on House Ag has been extremely important and deserving because of the amount of wheat and agriculture that come from there,” said Justin Gilpin, CEO of the Kansas Wheat Commission.

“For the first time since Kansas was admitted to the union, the Wheat State might not have a voice on the House Agriculture Committee,” the Hays Daily News said today.

Throughout his career, Huelskamp has shown an unwillingness to cooperate with Republican leadership. When he served in the Kansas legislature, he lost his seat on the Ways and Means Committee. Huelskamp said it was because he opposed wasteful spending, but two state Republican leaders told The Topeka Capital-Journal in 2010 he was booted off because he would not work with the leadership, according to his biography in the Almanac of American Politics.