Rep. Tim Huelskamp: Boehner’s resignation ‘victory for the American people’

Rep. Tim Huelskamp said he has been visiting with fellow conservatives about who should be the next speaker.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp said he has been visiting with fellow conservatives about who should be the next speaker. File photo

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 leave Congress in October.

Huelskamp said the resignation represents a “big victory for the American people.”

“If you were in town halls in the last five weeks I think everybody heard the same thing. The establishment’s out of touch, we’ve got leadership that’s not doing anything in the House and the Senate, and the president’s been running circles around John Boehner for five years and we’ve had the power of the purse and haven’t really used it,” Huelskamp told reporters on Capitol Hill on Friday.

“I think everybody said ‘OK, it’s time to move forward,’” he said. “...We need a speaker who actually has lived and can articulate conservative principles for the Republican party because that’s going to be the pathway to victory in 2016.”

Another member of the Kansas congressional delegation may benefit from the speaker’s 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.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Wichita thanked Boehner for his service and said he looked forward to voting for a new speaker “who will aggressively lead this body and fight for the conservative ideals that unify our party.”

Ultimately, few will be as affected by Boehner’s resignation as Huelskamp.

“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 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.”

Contributing: William Douglas and Lindsay Wise of the McClatchy Washington Bureau; Jason Hancock of The Kansas City Star