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Kan. leader says spat puts NBAF funding in danger

Published on -4/23/2012, 10:20 AM

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A top Kansas lawmaker told a group of Republicans in Wichita that a rift between U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp and House Speaker John Boehner threatens funding for a federal bioterrorism lab in Manhattan, Kan.

Kansas Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican, said a proposal to move Manhattan out of the 2nd Congressional District and into Huelskamp's 1st District could be a setback for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF.

The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/I2IVyS) reports a spokeswoman for Huelskamp said there is no split with Boehner that would threaten funding for the lab.

Construction of the lab near Kansas State University was supposed to start this year, but was put on hold because President Barack Obama's budget proposal for 2013 reduces funding from $50 million to $10 million. The administration also has directed the Department of Homeland Security to re-evaluate the project.

The $650 million national laboratory would research and counter possible biological terrorism directed at 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 on Friday. "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."

When a Pachyderm member asked him to elaborate on the problems between Boehner and Huelskamp, Morris responded, "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 the bottom line."

Karen Steward, a spokeswoman for Huelskamp, said her boss "has an open dialogue with the speaker and the rest of the House leadership."

"He met with them just last week to talk about tax policy," she said.

Steward said Huelskamp had not told the state Legislature to leave Manhattan out of his district, and he doesn't think including it in the 1st District would hurt funding chances for NBAF.

"He hasn't had the opportunity to visit with Sen. Morris this year," she said.

Huelskamp, R-Fowler, served as a state senator, with Morris as Senate president, until he was elected to Congress in 2010.

Huelskamp has emerged as a spokesman for the tea party-inspired freshman representatives, demanding deep cuts in federal spending. He visibly split from Boehner last August over a Boehner-Obama agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling and reduce federal spending over time.

He criticized the deal on numerous talk shows and in print interviews, arguing it didn't cut spending enough.

In December, he again criticized U.S. House leadership for accepting a compromise to extend recession-spawned payroll tax cuts for two months. He said in a news release then that he wanted to see a longer extension of the cuts, and that "the House has caved yet again to the president and Senate Democrats."

Nothing has been resolved in Kansas on redrawing congressional and state House and Senate boundaries, which is done every 10 years when new census figures come out.

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Information from: The Wichita Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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