Friday, January 4, 2013

113th Congress: Huelskamp doesn’t vote for Boehner; Roberts to lose ranking member status on Agriculture Committee

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Kansas' all-Republican congressional delegation started the 113th session on Thursday by making news.

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp thumbed his nose at House Speaker John Boehner and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts was bumped from a ranking position on the Senate Agriculture Committee, but he will remain on the committee.

Huelskamp of Fowler, was one of several Republicans who didn't vote for Boehner, R-Ohio, who was elected to a second two-year term as House speaker.

Earlier this month, Huelskamp was one of several representatives who were stripped of key committee assignments because they bucked party leaders.

But Huelskamp denied that had anything to do with his vote for U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, for speaker.

"It's not about committee assignments. It's not about that. It's about a real concern that for two years we've had a lack of leadership based on conservative principles. It's a vote of no confidence," Huelskamp said.

But U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Topeka, whose district includes Lawrence, voted for Boehner, and later congratulated him on Twitter. "Thank you for your leadership — looking forward to the 113th."

In a news release, Jenkins said that as vice chair of the House Republican Conference, she hoped to reduce gridlock in Washington "and help lead the team that will finally start digging America out of this fiscal mess."

Also on Thursday, Roberts announced that he was being replaced as the ranking minority party member on the Agriculture Committee by U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.

Because of Republican rules, Cochran's time as ranking member on another committee had expired, and so he asserted his seniority on the Ag Committee.

Roberts said he supported Cochran and that "seniority is a well-respected and historic privilege in the U.S. Senate."

Roberts will remain on the Ag committee.

"Rest assured, I will remain a strong and vocal champion for agriculture as a senior member of the committee. I will retain my Finance Committee seat and as a senior member of this committee, I am able to affect trade policy, especially ag trade, tax reform and rural health care," he said.

In addition, Roberts will assert his seniority and become ranking minority member of the Rules Committee, which will be dealing with issues concerning filibuster rules.

After a bruising fight over the "fiscal cliff," which ended earlier this week, Congress faces more showdowns in the next two months over whether to increase the nation's borrowing authority and what to do about looming, automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic programs.