New Lines in Kansas Set off Political Scramble
June 9, 2012

KC Star:

Republicans and Democrats in Kansas began a mad scramble for candidates Friday in the wake of a dramatic redrawing of district boundary lines affecting every member of Congress and the state Legislature.
The new lines — drawn by a panel of three federal judges after lawmakers couldn’t complete the task — resulted in a flood of legislative seats without incumbents. That means a host of fresh faces will be in Topeka next January, and that party leaders are under a severe time crunch to find candidates before Monday’s noon filing deadline for the August primary.
“It’s probably the most disruptive redistricting in Kansas history,” said Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the state’s chief elections officer.
No less than the future course of the Brownback administration, which is seeking to stamp the state with a more conservative imprint, could be affected by the boundary-line shuffle, as well as the prospects for a billion-dollar bio-defense lab planned for Manhattan, Kan.
Under the new maps, the Kansas State University community moves from the 2nd Congressional District to the 1st, which is now represented by a staunch conservative, U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp. He’s known as a budget hawk who wants to curtail federal spending.
The new lines, however, were not expected to jeopardize the four incumbent members of Congress, all Republicans. The judges avoided maps that split Topeka and Lawrence.
The 3rd Congressional District, now represented by GOP freshman Rep. Kevin Yoder, drops a portion of Lawrence in the new map, making the 3rd District even more Republican.
Kobach said he won’t appeal the new maps, which were handed down late Thursday night, catching many off-guard. And he said he had no authority to delay Monday’s filing deadline, or the Aug. 7 primary, to give candidates more time to decide what office they’re running for and to campaign.
State law requires that candidates be residents of their legislative districts when they file, which caused some party officials to joke that a lot of apartments will be rented over this weekend.

Read more here:

Democrats Accuse Hartzler of Breaking Promise Not to Earmark
April 26, 2012

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is accusing Mo-4 Congresswoman of breaking her pledge not to support earmarks in legislation.
The DCCC says Hartzler and 64 other Members are asking the GOP Leadership to take up a measure called the "Miscellaneous Tarriff Bill"(MTB).
The bill would exempt small business from having to pay some tariffs on imports.
In the letter requesting the bill be considered, Hartzler and the other take note of the earmark issue.
They write, "Unlike spending earmarks, as they are sometimes erroneously characterized, a duty suspension included on the MTB is available to any US manufacturer."
A report in Politico assigns a political motive for the request.
"The push is a sign that freshmen who arrived in Washington talking up their anti-pork principles are now worried about what — if anything — they’ll have to show constituents when they hit the campaign trail. And, in typical Washington fashion, they think they’ve found a loophole that will get them past the ban."
Thursday Hartzler spokesman Steve Walsh also pointed out how the MTB is not a an earmark.
"MTBs are NOT limited tariff benefits or earmarks. House rules define limited tariff benefits as provisions benefitting ten or fewer entities. However, MTBs are benefits that are broadly available to anyone who imports a product."
Walsh also points out many earmarks increase spending, this reduces tariffs.
The issue is one House republican may have to sort out for themsleves.
Roll Call reports the Chairman of the house appropriations Committee is not as sure about the tariffs as hartzler and the other Republicans.

House Appropriators Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he thinks the tariff bills are no different from earmarks. One of his cardinals, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), said that if the tariffs are allowed, there’s no reason earmarks should be banned, Roll Call reported.
“What my resentment has always been is what’s the difference between this and a well-vetted road project for the transportation bill or a research project on the agriculture bill?” said Kingston, who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that deals with agriculture and rural development. “If you can give a tax relief, could you not do the same on a well-vetted expenditure that has broad support?”
Another Missouri Congressman, Billy Long, of southwest Missouri, also signed the letter. So did Ks-1 Rep. Tim Huelskamp

Huelskamp Tensions With Boehner May threaten NBAF Money
April 23, 2012

Wichita Eagle via KC Star:
A split between Kansas’ U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is complicating efforts to redraw the state’s congressional districts to ensure the new map doesn’t threaten funding for a federal bioterrorism lab in Manhattan, the president of the state Senate said Friday.

A spokeswoman for Huelskamp said there is no split with the speaker that would threaten the funding for the lab.

Kansas Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, told a Wichita Republican club that the Legislature will have to keep Manhattan in Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District, rather than including it in Huelskamp’s sprawling western-Kansas 1st District.

He said conflict between Huelskamp and Boehner could threaten efforts to get funding for the National Bio and Agro -Defense Facility, also known as NBAF. The $650 million national laboratory has been planned as a center to research and counter possible biological terrorism directed against the nation’s food supply.

“Not to get into too many details, there’s a pretty good-sized conflict between the U.S. speaker of the House and our congressman from the 1st District,” Morris told the Wichita Pachyderm Club. “He’s (Huelskamp) told people that if Manhattan and Riley County stay in the 1st District (as was proposed in some early redistricting maps), funding could be a problem for NBAF. That’s out there, so we’re dealing with that.”

Construction of the lab on property near Kansas State University was scheduled for this year, but it’s on hold because its $50 million funding was reduced to $10 million in President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal. The administration has directed the Department of Homeland Security to re-evaluate the project.

Asked by a Pachyderm member to elaborate on problems between Boehner and Huelskamp, Morris said, “Well, I don’t know how much I should say.

“There’s a major conflict between the speaker and the congressman and I think his thought is if Manhattan’s represented by that congressman, funding will not show up. That’s sort of the bottom line.”

Huelskamp spokeswoman Karen Steward said Huelskamp “has an open dialogue with the speaker and the rest of House leadership.”

ansas Freshman Congressman Profiled as House Debt Ceiling Hardliner
July 27, 2011

Ks. US Rep Tim Huelskamp (left) and Rep. Allen West of Florida 

From Politico:

Republican Reps. Allen West of Florida and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas share this much in common: They’re both conservative freshmen known for their blunt assessments of GOP-backed legislation and their willingness to buck party leaders.

But on one of the most critical votes of the year — one that may measure the true power of Speaker John Boehner inside the Republican Party — they’ve come down on opposite sides. West says the Boehner debt plan isn’t perfect, but he’s ready to support it because he doesn’t want to see interest rates raised. Huelskamp says he’s against the Boehner plan because it doesn’t have a strong enough commitment to the balanced-budget amendment and creates another commission to deal with the deficit.

The opposing views of these freshmen — both tea partiers swept into office last year — tell the greater story of the looming divide in the conservative movement as the Treasury Department’s Aug. 2 deadline approaches on the debt limit. West, known for his tough rhetoric and Army combat background, seems ready to embrace his role as one of Boehner’s soldiers as the speaker tries to govern a tough caucus, while Huelskamp is sticking it out with his ideological cohorts who don’t want to compromise on this defining issue.

The freshmen have always been critical to Boehner’s success, and many left a GOP meeting Monday unimpressed with the speaker’s plan to raise the debt ceiling through February, cutting and capping discretionary spending in an effort to save $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.

West, a firebrand any other day, wasn’t one of them. West has spent weeks warning that he doesn’t want to see what he calls “fairy dust spending cuts” that don’t pass muster when held to close scrutiny — a not-so-subtle reference to the government shutdown breakthrough, when the Congressional Budget Office scored the spending cuts as less than advertised and 59 GOP members, including West and Huelskamp, voted against final passage.

But West, a 22-year Army veteran, told Republican Conference members of his time at the Fort Irwin National Training Center — a military base where troops square off in live-fire combat to prepare for a variety of battlefield scenarios. West said that the soldiers who wasted too much time trying to come up with the perfect plan — deliberating and complaining among themselves — usually fell short because they were too inflexible or divided to see the path to victory.

“While you’re doing that, the enemy is probably going to kick your butt,” he said later. “If you can come up with the 70-75 percent plan and execute it very well, then you can win, and I think that’s what we have.”

On Tuesday, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy showed the Republican Conference a scene from the gritty Boston crime drama “The Town,” which is about two Southie career criminals who try to pull off the ultimate bank heist at Fenway Park. In it, Ben Affleck’s character asks his friend to commit a crime with him. “I need your help,” the character says. “I can never tell you about it; you can’t ask me later; and we’re going to hurt some people.”

“Who’s car are we going to take?” his best friend says without missing a beat.

“I’m willing to drive the car,” West told his colleagues after viewing the clip.

But not everyone wants to be an accomplice. Huelskamp was skeptical from the minute he saw the details of Boehner’s plan — another deficit-reduction commission, no guarantee that the balanced-budget amendment would be sent to the states and a lack of specifics for fiscal 2012 spending cuts. As a member of the Budget Committee, he says he has the benefit of seeing what it takes to get a budget blueprint through the House.

“I know folks have different strategies, and I have [the] advantage of looking at it as a member of the Budget Committee, looking at the numbers and realizing that we are in a serious crisis and this doesn’t do nearly enough,” he said.

Huelskamp sees the passage of another House plan as a form of welfare — for Senate Democrats and the president. “We’re helping them avoid responsibility,” he said.

“I appreciate people who think the House has lost and we can’t take on the Senate and president to do anything better, but I go home and talk to people, and they’re aghast and shocked that the president and Senate haven’t done any better,” Huelskamp said. “Now is not the time to abandon the only workable program that will avoid a credit rating downgrade.”

Most of the freshmen have taken a position somewhere between West and Huelskamp — leaving themselves wiggle room to come to a final decision just before a vote.

“It’s a very tough choice,” said Rep. Dennis Ross, another freshman from Florida. The freshmen were instrumental in pushing the balanced-budget amendment — once a relic of the 1994 Republican Revolution — to the center of the debate, and Ross, like many of his colleagues, would prefer the new plan guarantees the constitutional amendment will be sent to the states, rather than just offering a vote on it.

Other freshmen are getting the hard sell.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) was approached by Boehner on the way out of the cloakroom Tuesday to gauge his support.

“Every freshman has learned from our experience with the continuing resolutions. We all know there are a lot of word games going on, and sometimes, the way someone uses a word is not the way we interpret it. I expect people to be much more cautious,” Brooks said later. “I will probably not make up my mind for sure until the vote is in the process of happening.”

As the roll call vote lights flick on Thursday, Boehner is hoping more of his rookies follow West than Huelskamp, or his plan will be in trouble.

Hartzler, Huelskamp in Farm Subsidy Spolight
June 13, 2011

‘Politico’ reports commodity prices are near all-time highs, an anti-spending mission dominates among the House majority and the House Agriculture Committee is packed with 15 GOP freshmen, some of whom were swept into office backed by a tea party movement that seemed poised to slash everything — including crop subsidies.

But it’s an open question whether these freshmen will move to slash the sacred cow of farm subsidies — as several of the rookies themselves have received hundreds of thousands in subsidies over the years, including some on the Agriculture Committee, which will debate a farm bill in the coming year.

One of the top subsidy recipients among GOP rookies is Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, (Mo-4) who with her husband, Lowell, received $774,489 from 1995 through 2009 for their family farm, according to USDA data compiled by the Environmental Working Group. Indiana Rep. Marlin Stutzman’s farm received $179,370.13 in the same period. Ohio Rep. Bob Gibbs’s farm got $27,304.59.

Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, (Ks-1) by any measure one of the party’s most conservative members, took a bit of federal cash — just $258 in a disaster relief payment. But according to the Environmental Working Group, H & H Farms, which is owned by Huelskamps’ parents, received $1,169,499 in federal farm subsidies from 1995 to 2009.

These freshmen, now on the Agriculture Committee, will bring these experiences to bear when deciding how and where to slash farm subsidies long derided by conservatives and good government groups as corporate welfare. With a GOP spending blueprint that the Budget Committee says should save $30 billion from the farm program over the next decade, the freshmen say they know cuts are coming — but they don’t want farmers to be disproportionately hit.