Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp is one of the most energetic and principled of the 63 Republican freshman elected in 2010, a class that gave the GOP the majority in the House. In this exclusive video interview, Huelskamp offers encouragement to citizens who are feeling America is on the wrong track with weak congressional leadership.
“We are in a town that continues to move down the progressive route of bigger government every day. If we sit by, the president will continue to take over more and more of our economy, more and more of our lives and take away more of our liberties,” he said.
Speaking directly to viewers who may feel like giving up on politics, Huelskamp worries, “If we do nothing, I guarantee, we could lose it all. As Ronald Reagan said, if America falls, where will people escape to?” Did calls and emails about the Speaker vote make any difference? Huelskamp says, “Absolutely, without a doubt!” Citizen engagement and contact “scares the heck out of [elected members in Congress]!”
Huelskamp was shocked to hear John Boehner, after being reelected House Speaker, decry citizens who called Congress to urge a no vote on him. In this interview he reports that Boehner said, “Too many people were calling into Washington and beating up on his Members.”
But the congressman thinks this is the essence of self-government. It is not wrong for people to tell their elected members what kind of leadership they want, Hueslkamp thinks. Besides, he recalls, “John Boehner was probably involved in a coup against Speaker Newt Gingrich twenty years ago.”
Now the new chairman of the Tea Party Caucus, one of several conservative enclaves being fortified, hesays, “This town does not listen.”
As for the controversial vote against the speaker this month, he admits “it’s a difficult vote that comes with a lot of intimidation.” The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs committee, Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, let Huelskamp know he was jeopardizing an expected subcommittee chairmanship by announcing his intentions to not vote for Boehner.
Defiant, Huelskamp stood resolute against the threats and pressure tactics, as leadership punished Huelskamp last Congress for voting his conscience by stripping him of two committees. For Huelskamp, the lame duck CRomnibus was among the clues that this Republican leadership was not inclined to stand up to President Obama on principle. “They weren’t going to push conservative principles. They, actually, were pushing back against conservatives!”
Exposing the tactics leadership uses against renegades, Huelskamp said, “So much of it’s about money and campaign contributors.” The leadership puts you on a “do not contribute to” list.
Other power tools leadership use, he said, are threats to withhold funding, denial of committees, subcommittee chairmanships, reduced influence and denial of access to campaign contributors. They refuse to do fundraisers for you, he says, and they will even find primary challengers against you.
Whether or not the newly elected House Republican leadership for the 114th Congress will effectively coalesce, listening to those independent Republicans, like Huelskamp, aligned with the citizens who are clamoring to be heard, based for their frustration with weak leadership and the direction of the country, has yet to be seen.
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