A split between Kansas’ U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is complicating efforts to redraw the state’s congressional districts to ensure the new map doesn’t threaten funding for a federal bioterrorism lab in Manhattan, the president of the state Senate said Friday.
A spokeswoman for Huelskamp said there is no split with the speaker that would threaten the funding for the lab.
Kansas Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, told a Wichita Republican club that the Legislature will have to keep Manhattan in Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District, rather than including it in Huelskamp’s sprawling western-Kansas 1st District.
He said conflict between Huelskamp and Boehner could threaten efforts to get funding for the National Bio and Agro -Defense Facility, also known as NBAF. The $650 million national laboratory has been planned as a center to research and counter possible biological terrorism directed against the nation’s food supply.
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“Not to get into too many details, there’s a pretty good-sized conflict between the U.S. speaker of the House and our congressman from the 1st District,” Morris told the Wichita Pachyderm Club. “He’s (Huelskamp) told people that if Manhattan and Riley County stay in the 1st District (as was proposed in some early redistricting maps), funding could be a problem for NBAF. That’s out there, so we’re dealing with that.”
Construction of the lab on property near Kansas State University was scheduled for this year, but it’s on hold because its $50 million funding was reduced to $10 million in President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal. The administration has directed the Department of Homeland Security to re-evaluate the project.
Asked by a Pachyderm member to elaborate on problems between Boehner and Huelskamp, Morris said, “Well, I don’t know how much I should say.
“There’s a major conflict between the speaker and the congressman and I think his thought is if Manhattan’s represented by that congressman, funding will not show up. That’s sort of the bottom line.”
Huelskamp spokeswoman Karen Steward said Huelskamp “has an open dialogue with the speaker and the rest of House leadership.”
“He met with them just last week to talk about tax policy,” Steward said.
Steward said Huelskamp hadn’t told the state Legislature to leave Manhattan out of his district and that he doesn’t think including it in the 1st District would hurt funding chances for NBAF.
“He hasn’t had the opportunity to visit with Sen. Morris this year,” she said.
Huelskamp served as a state senator — with Morris as Senate president — until his election to Congress in 2010.
Since then, he has emerged as a spokesman for tea party-inspired freshman representatives demanding deep cuts in federal spending.
Huelskamp, R-Fowler, visibly split from the U.S. House speaker in August over a Boehner-Obama agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling and reduce federal spending over time. Huelskamp made numerous appearances on talk shows and in print interviews criticizing the deal, which he argued did not cut spending enough.
In December, he again criticized U.S. House leadership for accepting a compromise to extend recession-spawned payroll tax cuts for two months, to allow time for negotiating a continuation of the cuts through the rest of 2012.
Huelskamp wrote in a news release at the time that he wanted to see a longer extension of the tax cuts and that “the House has caved yet again to the president and Senate Democrats.”
As the state Legislature prepares to return to Topeka next week for its annual wrap-up session, nothing has been resolved on redrawing congressional and state House and Senate boundaries. That responsibility falls to the Legislature when new Census figures are compiled every 10 years.
The Senate rejected the final versions of congressional and House maps that passed the House, largely because the congressional map split Topeka between two congressional districts. An earlier version of the state House district map remains alive in a Senate committee.
The Senate has yet to pass a map for its own districts, although Morris said he’s optimistic that will be accomplished shortly after the Senate returns from the spring recess on Tuesday.
Traditionally, the House draws its districts and the Senate draws its own, and the other chamber approves the map without changes.
However, this year Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, has said the House will draw up its own Senate map if the Senate does not act soon.
Morris said he’s confident the issue can be resolved before the end of the wrap-up session and that it will not be necessary to delay the state primary election, currently scheduled for Aug. 7.