WASHINGTON — Amid an intraparty scramble to choose the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Kansas’ all-Republican congressional delegation was reserved on the matter Tuesday.
When asked whether he had a candidate to support, Rep. Tim Huelskamp said, “I do not. All I know is I would like for a change.”
“I know we have some forums starting tonight with various groups, so I’m anxious to hear what they have to say and see what the field looks like by Thursday, when our conference meets,” said Rep. Lynn Jenkins, vice chairwoman of the House Republican Conference. “I’ll listen and make my mind up in the best interests of Kansas based on the nominees.”
The Republican Conference will meet Thursday to choose a candidate for speaker. The entire House will then vote Oct. 29. A candidate will need to garner a majority of the House: at least 218 votes.
Boehner’s announcement Sept. 25 that he would resign as speaker and leave Congress stunned Capitol Hill and set off a flurry of speculation about who would succeed him.
Huelskamp, who has feuded with the speaker for years, saw his name thrown into the national spotlight as the House Freedom Caucus, of which he is a member, and House Tea Party Caucus, which he chairs, claimed victory.
“This is a momentous time. It’s a historic time. I don’t know of a time in the last century that the speaker has not left after either losing the majority or scandal or health problems,” Huelskamp said Tuesday. “He didn’t have 218 (votes) to keep the job, so he just showed himself out, I think.”
Huelskamp’s feud with Boehner cost him positions on two House committees — the Budget Committee and Agriculture Committee — the second of which is of heightened importance to Kansas. Calling Boehner “vengeful,” Huelskamp said he hopes to return to the House Agriculture Committee under a new speaker.
“I hope to get back on the Ag Committee. That was just a personal vendetta of John Boehner against conservatives that didn’t vote the way he wanted them to vote,” Huelskamp said.
“The farm bill will come up again in four years, and I would like to be on the committee then,” Huelskamp added.
The short list of Republican candidates to succeed Boehner includes Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California; Rep. Jason Chaffetz, of Utah; and Rep. Daniel Webster, of Florida. But, as Jenkins and Rep. Mike Pompeo noted, other names are being floated as possible options.
“I will end up doing what I’ve almost always done,” Pompeo said. “I will vote for the person I think can successfully lead our Congress in a conservative direction. Sometimes that may not be the most conservative person.”
While McCarthy, currently the second-ranking House member, is the leading contender for the top spot, questions have arisen over whether the five-term congressman is ready for the promotion.
During an appearance on Fox News last week, McCarthy noted the adverse effects congressional investigations of the Benghazi attack in 2012 have had on support for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The boast was seized on by Democrats as proof that investigations into the attack have been politically motivated.
Pompeo, a member of the Select Committee on Benghazi, brushed aside those claims Tuesday, calling it “pure noise.”
“I tune all of that out because if someone on one side says it’s political and someone on the other side says it’s not, I know what we’re doing,” Pompeo said. “If they’re speaking from the outside, I know what this investigation is, I’ve lived it and no one can tell me any different because I know what we’ve done.”
Boehner hasn’t been alone in garnering the scorn of conservatives. A recent Rasmussen poll of Republican voters found just 22 percent think Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., should remain in his position.
“I think the party needs a strong and forceful leader, and we need a spokesperson,” Sen. Jerry Moran said. “But the general complaints that people have with the lack of activity here is not a Republican leadership fault, it’s the fact that the Senate rules require 60 votes.”
Moran has argued the Senate should change the 60-vote requirement for cloture, a procedural move that ends a filibuster and allows a bill to be voted on. Republicans currently have a 54-seat majority.
Huelskamp referred to Republican complaints about a 60-vote requirement as an “excuse” by a Congress that has “rubberstamped the Obama agenda.” Jenkins urged the Senate to change its rules to correct what she called “a math problem.”
“We blamed (former Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid for many years, and now we understand it’s just the 60-vote rule that’s the primary problem,” Jenkins said.
Sen. Pat Roberts, meanwhile, didn’t comment on whether McConnell should remain majority leader, instead blaming Democrats for “abusing” the 60-vote threshold.
“The disappointment is with the Democratic minority caving to the demands of the Obama administration and blocking consideration of critical legislation and all appropriations,” Roberts said in an email.
Anger at Republican leaders often centers on congressional dysfunction that has resulted in a series of government shutdown threats and last-minute legislation. Huelskamp said he hopes the next batch of Republican leaders can change that.
“You expect that during the last week in Topeka,” the former state senator said with a laugh. “But that’s the way it’s been up here for four years and nine months, and I think it was that way under Pelosi and that’s just not the way to run that.”