U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp has been eager to see House Speaker John Boehner out of a job for years.
Huelskamp, chairman of the House Tea Party caucus, battled Boehner over a long list of issues — defunding the Affordable Care Act, immigration reform, abortion laws, even shutting down the government. The feud got so bad Boehner removed Huelskamp from the House Agriculture Committee, a major blow to farm interests in Huelskamp’s huge western Kansas district.
On Friday, the conservative Republican and frequent cable guest got his wish. Boehner announced he’d be leaving Congress in October.
“I think he read the writing on the wall,” Huelskamp told reporters Friday on Capitol Hill. “That’s one thing John Boehner was good at, reading the writing on the wall. If there was a vote for vacating the chair, he would not have survived.”
Huelskamp may be celebrating the loudest, but other members of Kansas and Missouri’s congressional delegation may benefit from the speaker’s sudden departure.
Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins, the vice chairwoman of the House Republican conference who represents most of eastern Kansas, could be in the mix for the new Republican leadership team, said Chapman Rackaway, a political science professor at Fort Hays State University in Kansas.
“There’s certainly people who are going to be giving her a look — not for speaker — but there may be an opportunity for her to move up,” Rackaway said.
Jenkins’ fellow Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder, a Republican from Overland Park who was “tight” with Boehner, could lose out if the influence of the far-right conservative wing of the party rises after the speaker’s exit, Rackaway added.
In a statement, Yoder called Boehner “a good man, and I’m thankful for his service and dedication to this country.”
Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner, whose district includes most of St. Louis’ southern and western suburbs, could move up a rung in the leadership team if House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California is chosen to replace Boehner. She was chosen last year to serve as senior deputy whip.
“But I doubt that the House Republicans can get unanimity on a speaker candidate, so predictability is out the window,” said David Robertson, a professor of political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
In a statement, Wagner said that while she hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with Boehner, “I have always respected him for being truthful, selfless and always putting country above himself. He’s is a good man with a great heart, and I will miss him as a colleague.”
Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a tea party favorite whose sprawling district stretches from Columbia to the eastern Kansas City suburbs, released a statement thanking Boehner for his service and wishing him well “as he considers future opportunities to be of service to our nation.”
Ultimately, few will be as impacted by Boehner’s resignation as Huelskamp.
“I could imagine the scene in Huelskamp’s office right now probably looks a lot like the school dance scene from the old Charlie Brown cartoon,” Rackaway said.
There’s no question that Boehner had been the biggest impediment to Huelskamp’s career and aspirations for his role in Congress, Rackaway said.
“Whoever they put in (to replace the speaker), 90 percent likelihood is that it’s going to be better for Huelskamp than Boehner, whose relationship with Huelskamp had just become toxic,” Rackaway said. “I don’t think they even spoke.”
Plus, Huelskamp will be able to take the victory back to his conservative district — the sprawling Big First in Kansas — and point to Boehner’s defeat as the fulfillment of his promise to fight “establishment” Republican politics in Washington.
“He’ll at least get two (elections) out of this,” Rackaway said. “Boehner is not particularly popular in pockets of the 1st District and if there’s nothing else he can say, he can say, ‘I helped bring Boehner down and helped advance the cause of a real conservative agenda in the House of Representatives.’ ”
In 2013, Huelskamp was among a dozen House Republicans who abstained or voted for someone other than Boehner for speaker.
As punishment for his rebellion, House Republican leadership yanked Huelskamp from the House budget and agriculture committees.
Losing the agriculture post was particularly hard for Huelskamp, who represents a largely rural district where farming is big business. A representative from Kansas had served on the committee for nearly 100 years.
The question now for Huelskamp will be whether Boehner’s replacement will put him back on the Agriculture Committee, Rackaway said.
“Part of the reason he’s been stymied in his legislative efforts is because what he really needs to do for his district is be on the ag committee,” he said.
In a statement praising Boehner, former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole took a shot at Huelskamp, saying the speaker has “been plagued by a group of Republican naysayers, including one from Kansas.”
Dole said he doubts Huelskamp’s “group of obstructionists” will be supportive of whomever succeeds Boehner as speaker, “but we can always hope they will become team players.”
The Star’s Jason Hancock and McClatchy Washington Bureau’s Lindsay Wise and William Douglas contributed to this story.