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 Andrew BoehnerGOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan Can Jim Jordan become top House Republican? Tensions on immigration erupt in the House GOP 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 Andrew BoehnerGOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan Can Jim Jordan become top House Republican? Tensions on immigration erupt in the House GOP 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 MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA GOP senator’s defense of Tester counters Trump attacks GOP more confident about W. Va. Senate as Blankenship fades 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 John TrumpRed states find there’s no free pass on Medicaid changes from Trump Trump meets with Moon in crucial moment for Korea summit The Memo: Trump flirts with constitutional crisis 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 RodgersMillennial GOP lawmakers pleased with McMorris Rodgers meeting on party messaging The Hill's Morning Report: Trump’s Cabinet mess McMorris Rodgers seeks to tamp down unrest 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.