On Sandy Relief Aid, Kansas House Delegation Votes Unanimously Against

FILE - This Sept. 27, 2010 file photo shows Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas speaking in Emporia, Kansas, before winning his seat
FILE - This Sept. 27, 2010 file photo shows Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas speaking in Emporia, Kansas, before winning his seat in Congress. House Speaker John Boehner's decision to take plum committee assignments away from four Republican lawmakers after they bucked party leaders on key votes isn't going over well with conservative advocacy groups. Huelskamp will lose his seat on the House Budget Committee chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan next year. (AP Photo/John Hanna, File)

Intramural Republican politics in Kansas could be behind the decision of the state's entire House delegation to vote against Hurricane Sandy relief Friday, making it the only delegation to do so.

Kansas' four House members joined 63 other Republicans in voting against $9.7 billion in additional funds for the federal flood insurance program, the first part of a $60 billion relief package for residents of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut impacted by the late October super storm. The rise in power of conservative Republicans in the state is being mentioned by some as a potential cause of the state's decision to vote against the package. Kansas' two Republican senators voted for the relief.

Burdett Loomis, a political science professor at the University of Kansas, said that the conservative dominance is a likely reason behind the votes of at least two of the members -- Republican Reps. Lynn Jenkins and Rep. Kevin Yoder -- who have been the more moderate half of the state's House delegation. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R) has said he voted against the measure due to what he saw as there not being offsets for the $60 billion in spending, while Loomis believes that Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) voted no for similar fiscal reasons.

"For me Kevin Yoder and Lynn Jenkins, they are voting purely defensively and not having any possibly of a Tea Party candidate in a primary," Loomis told The Huffington Post.

Conservative and moderate Republicans in Kansas have been engaged in a bitter civil war for the last two years, culminating in an August primary, which saw conservatives largely oust moderate Republicans from the state Senate. Outgoing state Senate President Steve Morris (R-Hugoton), who was defeated in the primary, told HuffPost in August that conservatives -- including the Koch brothers -- want to turn the state into an "ultraconservative utopia."

Loomis said the Sandy relief vote surprises him due to the state's history of sending moderate Republicans to Congress.

"It is stunning to me in the long tradition of Bob Dole, Pat Roberts and Nancy Kassebaum, that you've got this unbelievably far right set of House members," he said.

Huelskamp told ABC News that he wanted to see the funds for Sandy relief taken out of another part of the federal budget. Representatives for Yoder and Jenkins did not return messages for comment. Pompeo could not be immediately reached for comment due to being on a flight from Washignton to Wichita, Kan. Huelskamp has been staking out a position against House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in recent weeks, including voting against the fiscal cliff deal and Boehner's reelection to speaker.

Montana Rep. Steve Daines (R), the state's sole member of the House, also voted no on the deal. Kansas is the only state with more than one member to vote no.

The Kansas delegation's decision has surprised Loomis and state Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita), who cited the federal government's assistance for Kansas in previous natural disasters, including the 2007 tornado that destroyed 95-percent of the city of Greensburg. They said with the current drought and threats of tornados, Kansas could be in a position to be seeking federal disaster aid soon. Neither think New Jersey and New York members would retaliate against Kansas.

"I do think their ideology got in the way of common sense," Ward told HuffPost. "It was more important of being good conservatives on spending. It was very shortsighted to say this to the victims of Sandy."

Belmar, N.J. Mayor Matt Doherty (D), whose Jersey Shore community suffered $130 million in damage in Hurricane Sandy, said he would be embarrassed if the Garden State's members of Congress voted like the Kansas delegation.

"It's disheartening to see elected officials in any state that won't stand up for Americans devastated by a natural disaster," Doherty told HuffPost. "I'd be embarrassed if the members of the New Jersey delegation did something like that to the residents of Kansas after they suffered a natural disaster."

UPDATE: Pompeo, responded to The Huffington Post Friday in an emailed statement:

“Prior to Hurricane Sandy, the House passed a measure to reform the National Flood Insurance Program. The Senate has not yet acted. But the program has racked up a $20 billion debt. I voted against authorizing another $9 billion of debt because there wasn’t a single offset in spending cuts to other programs. Either we reform the program so it never needs a taxpayer bailout again, or we offset it so we can afford it. Politicians shouldn’t use crises to kick the can down the road.”



Hurricane Sandy