TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp blasted House Republican leaders Wednesday for "petty, vindictive politics" following their decision to remove him from key committees, including an agriculture panel he says has included a Kansan for 151 years.
The GOP congressman, who represents Kansas' 1st District, said on a media conference call that his only explanation is that he didn't vote with House Speaker John Boehner on key votes over the past two years.
"I think it's the worst form of petty, vindictive politics that a member is removed from a committee when he votes his conscience and he votes his district," said Huelskamp, who was elected to his first term in 2010.
Huelskamp 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 House GOP leadership. Huelskamp said leadership had a list of people who didn't vote with them on key issues, including raising the federal debt limit, and they were punished.
Huelskamp said it would be the first time in 151 years that Kansas hasn't had a seat on the House Agriculture Committee. Agriculture is the leading industry in Huelskamp's district and Kansas.
He said he hadn't heard and explanation from 2nd District Lynn Jenkins, who sits on the House Steering Committee, as to why he was removed or what happens next.
Annie Dwyer, spokeswoman for Jenkins, said the congresswoman had spoken several times with Huelskamp since his removal and that several options were being explored to return a member of the Kansas delegation to the agriculture committee.
"It is very important for our state to have a seat at the table for discussions in this committee. Committee assignments are an internal issue, and she is doing what she can to address this difficult situation," Dwyer said.
Huelskamp did say that Sen. Pat Roberts, also a Kansas Republican, was working to help sort out the changes and committee assignments. Roberts is the ranking minority member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. A spokeswoman for Roberts confirmed that the senator, who held the 1st District seat for 16 years, had spoken with Boehner about Huelskamp's removal, but declined to elaborate.
It was the second time in the past 10 years that Republican leadership removed Huelskamp from key committees over conflicting political views.
In 2003, then Senate President Dave Kerr removed Huelskamp from the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which writes the Kansas budget. Huelskamp acknowledged he was not a team player and said he was being punished bucking moderate-GOP leaders. They argued he wasn't productive on the committee.
"What happened in Topeka is very similar to what happened in Washington, D.C.," Huelskamp said. "People go behind closed doors. They don't talk to your constituents. They don't care about your constituents. All they care about is raw political power.
Huelskamp said he didn't believe demotion would put the $1.14 billion National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan in jeopardy. The lab will focus on researching deadly animal diseases that pose threats to livestock. Manhattan was moved from the 2nd District to Huelskamp's as a result of the 2012 redistricting.
"NBAF is supported by the delegation. I would presume the entire delegation does not want to see agriculture put in second place, third place or fourth place or ignored in Washington," he said.