The House Republican leadership last week named seven new GOP members to the House Agriculture Committee, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) confirmed Rep. Collin Peterson (D, MN) will remain committee ranking member, but ag interests were surprised when House Speaker John Boehner (R, OH) made good on an earlier warning to his Republican colleagues that leadership is watching votes and public statements and those two factors will be part of the committee assignment process.
The new GOP ag committee members are Dan Benishek (MI), Chris Collins (NY), Rodney Davis (IL), Jeff Denham (CA), Richard Hudson (NC), dough LaMalfa (CA) and Ted Yoho (FL). One vacancy remains on the Republican side of the committee. The poster boy for GOP leadership’s tough stance on committee assignments is Rep.
Tim Huelskamp (R, KS), who lost his seats on the House Agriculture Committee and the House Budget Committee. Insiders say Boehner is trying to yoke up his party, getting members to toe the party line on votes and stop making public statements which undermine his leadership, especially as he goes toe-to-toe with President Obama on fiscal cliff negotiations.
Huelskamp, who represents Kansas’ First District – “The Big First” – a seat previously held since 1963 by Bob Dole, Keith Sebelius, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, is an outspoken fiscal and social conservative. He voted against the FY2012 GOP budget because he wanted deeper spending cuts and against the ag panel’s Farm Bill because it didn’t cut enough from the federal food stamp program.
Saying he has not been given a reason for losing his ag panel seat, Huelskamp said this week, “This is clearly a vindictive move and a sure sign that the GOP establishment cannot handle disagreement.”
Kansas ag interests let Boehner know they were not happy with the action as it leaves one of the nation’s largest ag states without a policy voice on the House ag committee. Other members losing key committee spots include Rep.
David Schweikert (R, AZ) and Rep. Walter Jones (R, NC) who will not return to the House Financial Services Committee, and Rep. Justin Amash (R, MI) who also lost his seat on the Budget Committee. For his part, Boehner is quoted as telling his party steering committee the action was not taken lightly and in no way represented a “purge” of independent conservative voices. Ironically, Boehner himself was the victim of similar “discipline” in 1998, when he lost his chair of the House Republican Conference.