The House Freedom Caucus is blaming their own party’s leaders in part for the defeat of their colleague, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, in a primary on Tuesday — an accusation that is sure to escalate tensions between the conservative firebrands and top decision makers.
Some members of the caucus are furious that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) did not do more to help Huelskamp, a prominent member of the group of conservatives who helped drive John Boehner out of the speakership last year. Huelskamp lost to obstetrician and political novice Roger Marshall in a 13-point landslide.
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“Republicans need to be unified behind conservative principles to stop the Obama/Clinton agenda,” Freedom Caucus Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said in a statement. “The House Republican leadership’s opposition to Tim Huelskamp significantly damaged the ability of House Republicans to do that.”
House Republican leaders don’t control outside spending, and had nothing to do with the nearly $2 million in anti-Huelskamp ads that poured into his district from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Ricketts’ family “Ending Spending” political group.
But that’s not the crux of the caucus’ anger. Huelskamp approached Ryan seeking a public assurance that he could reclaim his seat on the House Agriculture Committee next year, a critical position for his farm-heavy district. Boehner (R-Ohio) backed an effort to remove Huelskamp from the panel three years ago as punishment for repeatedly defying leadership in big votes, something Ryan promised he would never do.
The loss of his committee seat was likely Huelskamp’s undoing: Marshall attacked him relentlessly for being ineffective and putting “rigid” conservative values over the needs of his constituents.
The Freedom Caucus got heavily involved in the back and forth with leadership, imploring Ryan to go public with an alleged commitment to reinstall Huelskamp on the panel. But …