U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp said Wednesday he's working to regain a seat on the House Agriculture Committee -- after an apparent purge of several conservative Republicans cost him the position.
In a conference call, the freshman congressman from Kansas said he learned Monday he would lose the Ag seat. His 1st District, which includes most of Kansas, is considered one of the biggest farm-based districts in the nation.
"As far as the Ag situation, that's a particular affront," Huelskamp said. "That's petty. That's vindictive...This is the single most productive ag district in the entire nation."
Huelskamp is a farmer. He said he is working with Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican and former House Ag committee chairman, to see if House leadership can be persuaded to change its mind.
Committee assignments are generally determined by the GOP's House Steering committee -- 30 Republican members who meet privately to make committee choices before the start of a new Congress.
As is the case with most House business, the committee is controlled by Speaker John Boehner. Several reports Wednesday said Boehner believes Huelskamp and at least two other members had been "disloyal" to the party's agenda in the House.
Huelskamp voted against a budget proposal from U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, complaining it did not cut spending enough. He voted against the farm bill in the Ag committee and opposed extension of the nation's debt ceiling.
He made no apologies Wednesday for his votes. "We've had a tremendous outpouring of support from people in Kansas," he said.
Several conservatives reacted bitterly to Huelskamp's demotion, which they blamed on Boehner's desire to compromise with Democrats on budget and spending issues.
"We expect that these ... defenders of economic freedom will become even bolder in their efforts to defend the taxpayers," said a statement from Chris Chocola of the conservative Club for Growth.
"Apparently the 'country club' Republicans, led by Speaker 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.
Huelskamp's Republican colleague, Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, is a member of the Steering Committee. Huelskamp said he did not blame her for the group's decision.