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House GOP leader distances herself from Speaker Boehner

House GOP leader distances herself from Speaker Boehner
© Greg Nash

A member of the House Republican leadership team said she doesn’t work for Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerNetanyahu: 'No question' about Trump's support for Israel The Hill's 12:30 Report Boehner compares Trump to Teddy Roosevelt MORE, even though the Ohio Republican had helped raise money for her a day earlier.

At a “fair tax” rally back home, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), vice chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, lamented to the crowd that it would be tough to pass a proposal that would replace income taxes with a national sales tax.

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When she was asked whether BoehnerJohn BoehnerNetanyahu: 'No question' about Trump's support for Israel The Hill's 12:30 Report Boehner compares Trump to Teddy Roosevelt MORE might bring up the fair tax plan for a floor vote, Jenkins replied, “We don’t really care what House leadership thinks anymore,” according to The Wichita Eagle.

She said 60 percent of House members are relatively new and did not serve in Congress when the Speaker had the ability to exert influence by doling out earmarks.

“I just want you all to know I don’t work for John Boehner. He works for me,” she said at the event in Wichita with Sen. Jerry MoranJerry MoranSenate GOP to Obama: Stop issuing new rules Overnight Tech: Bill protecting online reviews heads to Obama | New addition to FCC transition team | Record Cyber Monday Overnight Finance: Trump expected to pick Steven Mnuchin for Treasury | Budget chair up for grabs | Trump team gets deal on Carrier jobs MORE (R-Kan.), a former member of the Senate GOP leadership team.

The timing of her remarks were odd. They came Tuesday, just a day after Boehner had visited Topeka to attend a fundraiser for Jenkins, the Topeka Capital Journal reported Thursday.

Nationally, grassroots conservative activists are increasingly frustrated the GOP establishment, illustrated by Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats unnerved by Trump's reliance on generals McCain: Tillerson ties to Putin a 'matter of concern' Heitkamp is Trump's top choice for Agriculture secretary: report MORE's commanding lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Rank-and-file House Republicans have spent the summer recess fielding questions from reporters and constituents about whether they support Boehner remaining as Speaker.

Right before lawmakers' August recess began, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) introduced a resolution seeking to oust Boehner from the top job, claiming that he fails to listen to his members and has created a culture of punishment in the Capitol. The resolution never got a vote, but Meadows has said repeatedly that Boehner may still be vulnerable after lawmakers return to Washington next week.

A Boehner spokeswoman had no comment. Jenkins spokesman Jeffrey Levicki said Thursday that his boss's quote was taken out of context and she was trying to say fair tax supporters should focus on the vote total, not what Boehner and other House leaders collectively think. 

“The Congresswoman strongly believes that as Congresswoman and Vice Chair of the Conference, she works for her constituents in Kansas and the Republican Conference, respectively, not the other way around,” Levicki said in a statement. “The same is true of Speaker Boehner.”

Jenkins, first elected to Congress in 2008, has served as vice chairwoman of the House GOP conference since January 2013. She frequently appears at weekly leadership news conferences with Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersGreens slam Trump’s Interior Department pick The Hill's 12:30 Report Trump to pick Rep. McMorris Rodgers for Interior secretary MORE (R-Wash.).

After she was reelected to her leadership job last fall, she pointed out in a news release that being conference chairwoman was the “fifth-highest ranking position in House Republican Leadership.”

Her remarks are also noteworthy because GOP leaders came to her rescue last fall when Jenkins appeared to be at risk of losing her Topeka-area seat. Top leaders were urging rank-and-file Republicans to cut checks to Jenkins a month before the November election after internal polling showed the race tightening, according to Politico.

She ended up defeating Democrat Margie Wakefield 57 percent to 38.6 percent.

- Updated at 3:19 pm.