The Garden City Telegram
12/8/2012
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

GOP divide

Huelskamp becomes target in ongoing Republican tiff.

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp wasted no time lashing out after being ousted from key committees in Congress.

House Republican leaders recently removed the Fowler Republican from the House Agricultural Committee and House Budget Committee. Huelskamp, who represents Kansas' 1st District, called the move "petty, vindictive politics," and said he was singled out for not voting with House Speaker John Boehner on key votes.

But Huelskamp shouldn't be surprised to know he was targeted for as much.

After all, he no doubt applauded a comparable development in Topeka that saw his ultraconservative GOP allies — Gov. Sam Brownback included — punish moderate Republican state lawmakers who wouldn't vote in lockstep with a radical Brownback agenda that already has produced a massive, controversial tax-cut plan poised to drive the state deep into debt and force higher property taxes.

The ultraconservatives' targets in the Kansas Legislature included Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton. Morris was part of a coalition of moderate Republicans who, unlike ultraconservatives seeking costly tax breaks for the wealthy, preferred balancing fiscal responsibility and support for such vital areas as public schools and transportation infrastructure.

The moderates wouldn't rubber-stamp every Brownback initiative, and as a result many lost their seats in the Legislature after ultraconservatives maligned them with a campaign of half-truths and misinformation.

As for Huelskamp, he argued that U.S. House leadership was intent on quashing dissent in stripping him of his committee posts.

Hardly. The big difference between what happened in Topeka and Washington, D.C., would be a willingness to compromise. GOP moderates in Kansas who were open to compromise were stymied, while Huelskamp's hyper-partisan tea-party allies in Congress resisted any kind of compromise with those outside their circle.

It's all more proof of a GOP divide between tea party lawmakers and other Republicans.

At least Huelskamp still has his seat in Congress — for now. It will be interesting to watch forces in his own party try to push him aside and out of politics come election time in 2014.

Recent history tells us to expect as much. That's politics in a divided GOP struggling to find an identity.