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Tim Huelskamp of Kansas has been one of the most vocal tea-party-backed conservatives in the House, but his calls to shrink the size of government didn’t apply when it came to bringing a new Department of Homeland Security lab to his district.
Just as lawmakers used to promote earmarks, Huelskamp and the rest of Kansas’ GOP delegation have touted the potential economic benefits of bringing the animal disease research facility to Kansas.
About $404 million for construction of the lab in Manhattan, Kan., was included in the fiscal 2014 Homeland Security bill (HR 2217) that the House passed this week; Huelskamp and other Kansas Republicans fought back attempts to drop the funding from the bill and keep the veterinary research facility at a site on Long Island, N.Y.
“As a Kansas farmer and rancher, I recognize the critical damage that would be done to our livestock industries” if work doesn’t go forward on the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, Huelskamp said on the floor Wednesday. “Indeed, shovels are being turned in Manhattan, Kansas, today.”
In defending what amounts to a bonanza for his district, Huelskamp was pushing to preserve a spending project against New York Democrat Timothy H. Bishop, who complained that a “boondoggle” on the Plains would simply duplicate some of the work that is being done at a site in his Long Island district.
“I am wondering where the deficit hawks are,” Bishop said. “If we’re looking to cut spending, here’s an easy $404 million.”
The fight with a Democrat over a large infusion of government spending for a single project marks an odd turn for Huelskamp, who drew sharp criticism in his district last year for voting against a bill that included money for the project.
The second-term lawmaker also ran afoul of the GOP last year, after rejecting as insufficiently conservative the budget resolution from House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis. GOP leaders later stripped him of his seat on Ryan’s committee. In January, he was a vocal critic of the big Superstorm Sandy aid package (113-2), arguing that the $50 billion in relief was not all emergency money that would be immediately used.
The Kansas lab would be a boon for a city with a population of about 54,000. In a January release, the delegation stressed the economic benefits of the facility, saying it would generate about 757 construction jobs and 326 permanent jobs, giving it an economic impact of about $3.5 billion on Kansas in its first 20 years.
The House’s Homeland Security spending bill would make the $404 million available through the end of September 2018, a fairly standard approach to funding large-scale construction.