U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp launched a Kansas-centric counterattack Wednesday after House leadership booted him from the Budget and Agriculture committees.
Losing his Ag committee seat is seen as a particular swipe at Huelskamp, who represents one of the biggest farm-based districts in the nation -- the Kansas 1st District. Huelskamp said the district has had a seat on Ag for more than 150 years. (UPDATE: He was wrong, it appears. The first Kansan on House Ag took the seat in 1879.)
"I think it's the worst form of petty, vindictive politics," Huelskamp said. He said he voted his "conscience" in opposing measures supported by the GOP leadership, including the Paul Ryan budget.
The Republican talked with more than two dozen Kansas reporters on a 25-minute conference call.
He indicated he is working "behind the scenes" to regain the Ag seat. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts is working on the issue, he said. Roberts once served as the chairman of the House Ag committee.
Huelskamp's ouster has touched off a firestorm of criticism from tea party conservatives, who say the congressman's voting record more closely matches their agenda.
"Apparently the 'country club' Republicans, led by Speaker (John) Boehner, will not tolerate any attempt to move the Republican party one millimeter toward more conservative positions," said a blog post on the Mountain Patriots Tea Party website.
The decision to remove Huelskamp was made by the House Republican Steering Committee. The committee includes Rep. Lynn Jenkins of the Kansas 2nd district, but Huelskamp said he did not think she was involved in the decision to "punish" him.
Huelskamp said Speaker Boehner told the GOP members today about the removals. He said Boehner threatened further punishment for members who do not vote with leadership.
But the freshman from Kansas said he would not "turn over (his) voting card" to GOP leaders.
Huelskamp has been kicked off committees before. He was removed from state legislative committee after disagreements with party leaders in Topeka.