- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp said Friday he hopes eventually to regain a seat on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee now that Speaker John Boehner is resigning and also declared that he wants fellow Republicans to pick leaders who “respect conservatives.”

Huelskamp, a tea party favorite representing the 1st District of western and central Kansas, saw Boehner’s announcement that he’ll leave Congress at the end of October as a victory for “grassroots” conservatives. Huelskamp bucked House GOP leaders on key votes and was stripped of seats on the Agriculture and Budget committees late in 2012.

The other members of the state’s all-GOP delegation in the House were more complimentary of Boehner and issued statements wishing the Ohio Republican well. Kansas political icon Bob Dole, a former U.S. Senate majority leader and the GOP’s 1996 presidential nominee, issued a statement calling Boehner a “decent, honest person.”

“Since his election to leadership, he has unfortunately been plagued by a group of Republican naysayers, including one from Kansas,” Dole said. “In their refusal to support John, it has been difficult for House Republicans to pass important legislation.”

Boehner faced the threat of a vote in the House on whether he could stay on as speaker. He issued a statement Friday saying “prolonged turmoil” would “do irreparable damage” to the House.

Huelskamp said support for Boehner waned during Congress’ last recess because House Republicans became tired of defending him in their home districts.

“People are tired of the establishment, so the establishment lost today,” Huelskamp said.

Huelskamp said he doesn’t know whether Republicans will make changes among their leaders “all the way down.”

Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who represents the 2nd District of eastern Kansas, is vice chairwoman of the Republican conference, the fifth-highest House GOP leader. She issued a statement calling Boehner “a good man” but was traveling back to Kansas and wasn’t available for an interview, her staff said.

Huelskamp said he expects to quiz leader candidates about committee assignments, though he doesn’t expect changes until the end of next year.

His loss of the Agriculture Committee seat became an issue in his re-election race last year. He already faces two opponents for the August 2016 GOP primary, Alan LaPolice, a Clyde educator and farmer who gave Huelskamp a tougher-than-expected primary race last year, and Roger Marshall, a Great Bend obstetrician.

“I think at the end of the day, conservatives like me are going to have a much more prominent role in the U.S. House,” he said. “That will definitely be a question I ask anybody who calls about leadership, are you going to continue to punish conservatives or are you going to give us back our committee spots?”

Dole questioned whether “this group of obstructionists” will support anyone who follows Boehner, “but we can always hope they will become team players.”

Rep. Kevin Yoder, who represents the Kansas City-area 3rd District, thanked Boehner for his service and said he respected the speaker’s decision “so we can move forward together.”

And Rep. Mike Pompeo, while acknowledging differences with Boehner, praised him in an emailed statement for a “commitment to making America a better place.”

“I look forward to voting for someone (for speaker) who will aggressively lead this body and fight for the conservative ideals that unify our party,” said Pompeo, who represents the 4th District of south-central Kansas.


Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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