U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran of Kansas both voted late Thursday to advance a budget resolution that could pave the way for Congress to enact tax cuts similar to those that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback championed in Kansas in 2012, but which state lawmakers repealed earlier this year.
The measure passed by the narrowest of margins, 51-49, on nearly a straight party line vote. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was the only Republican to vote no on the measure.
By itself, the nonbinding resolution merely lays out a set of budget priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. But its passage would mean that the Senate could next pass a tax bill as part of a "reconciliation" process so it would only need 51 votes to pass, instead of the normal 60 votes needed to close debate on a bill.
"Our tax code is burdensome, confusing and outdated,” Roberts, the senior senator from Kansas, said in a statement following the vote. “There is widespread, bipartisan agreement on the need for tax reform, and I’m pleased the Senate took this important step toward providing tax relief to hardworking Americans. I look forward to continuing our work in the Senate Finance Committee to write a tax bill that allows Kansans to keep more of their hard-earned dollars.”
Moran, the state's junior senator, issued a similar statement.
“Our tax code should work for American families, not against them," he said. "Kansans know how critical tax reform is to their ability to find quality jobs, start small businesses, or pay for household items and utility bills every month. In the more than 30 years since we last passed major tax reform, the national and global economies have changed dramatically. We must adapt as well by establishing a fairer and simpler tax code to empower American individuals to succeed and American businesses to compete."
Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration are backing a tax plan that includes several elements similar to the controversial tax initiatives that Brownback championed in Kansas: reducing the number of tax brackets and lowering rates across the board; closing many income tax loopholes; and greatly reducing — but not eliminating, as Kansas did — income taxes levied against nonwage business income from partnerships, sole proprietorships, limited liability companies and other so-called "pass-through" entities.
As Brownback and his allies did in championing those kinds of cuts in Kansas, Congressional Republicans argue that they will stimulate job growth and economic expansion.
In Kansas, however, which Brownback said would be a "real live experiment" of the tax cut theory, jobs and gross state product lagged behind the rest of the nation while those policies were in place; state government suffered from severe revenue shortfalls that forced deep cuts in spending on highways, health care and education.
During the 2017 session, the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature passed a bill reversing course on those tax policies with two-thirds majorities in both chambers, overriding Brownback's veto of the bill.
The U.S. House has already approved a similar budget resolution, and negotiations were already underway Friday to find a path for the House to agree to the Senate's changes in order to avoid a lengthy conference committee process.
The entire Kansas delegation to the House, including 2nd District Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Topeka, have expressed their support for the general outline of the tax plan.
In an op-ed column for Fox News, however, Jenkins said Congress had learned from the mistakes in Kansas, and that the federal tax reform bill would be different.
"It’s no secret that Kansas made a few mistakes with its tax reform plan," Jenkins wrote. "First of all, they zeroed out the tax rate for pass-through businesses, which is the tax status used for most small businesses, and failed to erect any guardrails to discourage tax avoidance. This created a loophole that allowed some existing businesses and wealthy individuals to avoid paying income taxes altogether by simply reclassifying as a pass-through and thus create a new 'business' without adding any employees."
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas helped scuttle a Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare late Monday, but he said later Tuesday that he would support a repeal-only bill so that Congress could start fresh with open hearings on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.
Moran was one of two GOP senators who came out against the latest GOP bill, officially known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, or BCRA, Monday evening. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah also came out against the bill. They joined GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky in opposing the bill, guaranteeing it would not have enough votes to pass even the first procedural hurdle in the Senate.
“There are serious problems with Obamacare, and my goal remains what it has been for a long time: to repeal and replace it,” Moran said in a statement emailed to news outlets and posted on social media. “This closed-door process has yielded the BCRA, which fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare’s rising costs. For the same reasons I could not support the previous version of this bill, I cannot support this one.
“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” Moran’s statement continued. “Furthermore, if we leave the federal government in control of everyday healthcare decisions, it is more likely that our healthcare system will devolve into a single-payer system, which would require a massive federal spending increase. We must now start fresh with an open legislative process to develop innovative solutions that provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansans.”
Kansas’ other senator, Republican Pat Roberts, had been an early supporter of the bill, saying he would have voted in favor of a procedural motion to send the bill to the floor of the full Senate in order to continue debate and amendments.
The bill had been worked out largely behind closed doors in the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky instead of through the regular committee process.
It would have repealed many aspects of the Affordable Care Act, including the mandates that most individuals carry health insurance and that large employers make it available as an employee benefit. It also would have phased out the expansion of Medicaid, which has been an option for states as a way of extending coverage to the working poor who can’t afford or don’t have access to employer-based coverage.
The bill would have increased federal payments to hospitals in states like Kansas that have not expanded their Medicaid programs. Roberts had cited that as a reason for supporting the bill, arguing that provision would have brought more than $619 million to Kansas hospitals over the next eight years. But health care advocates, including the Kansas Hospital Association, said that still would not make up for the money Kansas is foregoing by not expanding Medicaid.
David Jordan, executive director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, a coalition of groups that supports Medicaid expansion, praised Moran for his decision.
“Sen. Jerry Moran deserves credit for taking a courageous stand against politics as usual and rejecting the harmful Better Care Reconciliation Act,” Jordan said in an email statement. “His decision is a testament to his commitment to make Kansas a healthier place to live. Senator Moran’s leadership will protect 120,000 Kansans from losing coverage and protect providers from devastating Medicaid cuts. We thank Senator Moran for his leadership and look forward to working with him to improve the health system in Kansas.”
The announcements from Sens. Moran and Lee initially left Republicans unsure about how to proceed. But Tuesday morning, President Donald J. Trump urged Senate Republicans to move forward with a bill simply to repeal Obamacare and work on a replacement package later.
McConnell then agreed to that process, and Moran said he would support it.
“I support the President’s efforts to repeal Obamacare, and I will vote in favor of the motion to proceed,” he said, according to an email from his office. “This should be followed by an open legislative process to craft healthcare policy that will provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansans.”
This post was updated with new information at 2:20 p.m.
A new SurveyUSA pollfinds that Kansas' Republican political leaders have high job disapproval ratings.
Fifty-eight percent of Kansans disapproved of the job Gov. Sam Brownback was doing while 35 percent approved. U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran had 53 percent and 50 percent disapproval ratings while 35 percent and 37 percent approved, the poll said.
Although within the margin of error, the Republicans' approval rates were even lower than President Barack Obama's, a Democrat, who had a 42 percent approval rate and 56 percent disapproval.
The poll also shows that Democrat Paul Davis, who is challenging Brownback in the 2014 election, has low name identification.
Eight of 10 voters were either neutral or had no opinion about Davis when asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him. In fact, his name ID was so low, the pollsters referred to him as "Paul David" instead of "Paul Davis."
Davis' campaign said SurveyUSA planned to re-do that portion of the poll. But Davis' camp said the point of the poll was that it showed that their candidate at this point lacks name ID.
When the poll asked individuals' opinion of Brownback, 22 percent were favorable and 47 percent unfavorable, while the remaining were either neutral or had no opinion.
Meanwhile, Davis was at 7 percent with a favorable opinion, 13 percent unfavorable, while 80 percent were either neutral or had no opinion.
In addition, only 29 percent of those polled approved of the job the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature was doing, while 61 percent disapproved.
The poll of 532 registered voters was released earlier this week and conducted on behalf of KWCH-TV in Wichita. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. Of those polled, 41 percent were Republicans, 30 percent Democrats, and 29 percent independents.
In case of a federal government shutdown, U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, and Mark Udall, D-Colo., have filed legislation that would ensure the military and National Guard units assisting in disaster recovery will not have their paychecks delayed.
"The financial well-being and readiness of those serving our country must not suffer due to gridlock on Capitol Hill," Moran said.
"Colorado’s flood victims and military families shouldn’t suffer if Washington gridlock and partisan stalemates lead to a government shutdown," Udall said.
Congress must pass a budget measure to avoid a government shutdown after midnight Monday.
The Republican-controlled House has approved a stopgap funding measure that also de-funds the Affordable Care Act. The Democratic-controlled Senate has vowed to keep funding the ACA and President Barack Obama has said he would veto any legislation that seeks to dismantle the ACA.
Kansas senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran were on opposite sides Monday on the farm bill that was approved 66-27 in the U.S. Senate.
Moran voted for the bill, while Roberts voted against it.
In statements, the two Republicans gave their reasons.
“The Farm Bill passed in the Senate meets the two benchmarks most important to Kansas farmers and ranchers: strong, stable crop insurance and disaster programs to provide livestock producers with confidence when faced with Mother Nature’s uncertainty," Moran said.
But Roberts said, “In this budget environment and at a time when we are looking to make smart cuts to farm programs, I cannot justify a subsidy program that can pay producers more than the cost of production and essentially becomes nothing more than an income transfer program, not a risk-management tool."
The bill, which will cost nearly $1 trillion over 10 years, finances crop insurance and food assistance for low-income families.
The Senate bill would cut $4.1 billion from food stamps over 10 years. The measure now goes to the House, where it faces an uncertain future. A House version would cut food stamps by $20 million.
Roberts was the ranking Republican member on the Agriculture Committee during the last Congress and supported last year's Senate-approved bill.
Roll Call reports that this year, changes made in the bill to win the support of the new ranking member, Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and other Southerners caused Roberts to oppose the new version.link text
Earlier this year, Cochran asserted seniority privilege on the Agriculture Committee after having been dropped as the top Republican on another committee. This pushed aside Roberts as the top Republican on the committee, although he is still a member.
U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, both Kansas Republicans, voted against gun legislation that would have expanded background checks and other restrictions.
The measure, put together by U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, was in response to the Newtown, Conn., massacre and other mass slayings.
The proposal to expand background checks to sales at guns shows and online received a majority of votes in the Senate — 54-46 — but failed Wednesday to get the required 60 votes needed to advance.
Of the bill, Roberts said, "I believe that Senators Toomey and Manchin came to the table with a sincere proposal, however, I have serious concerns with their legislation, including the expansion of the background check system and government intrusion on private firearm transfers.
"A background check can provide a key line of defense against gun violence, but it must be done in a way that does not infringe upon Second Amendment rights."
The National Rifle Association thanked legislators for defeating the background check expansion, saying it would have criminalized transactions between friends — a charge that supporters of the bill said was untrue.
Roberts said he supported an alternative bill that he said would improve the efficiency and accuracy of the background check system.
Moran did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his vote on expanding background checks.
U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, and U.S. Reps. Tim Huelskamp and Lynn Jenkins, all of Kansas, rallied around approval of a $35.2 million federal grant to build a new middle school at Fort Riley. The grant was awarded as part of the Department of Defense Installations and Environment fund, according to a release from Roberts' office.
The Geary County school district will match a portion of the funding, $6.7 million, for a total of $41.9 million to demolish and build the new middle school on post.
The school’s groundbreaking is expected Jan. 22 with doors opening in 2014. The school will hold roughly 700 students.
"Last year, I toured the school, and it was clear it was in need of modernization and we had to address the overcrowding," Roberts said. "Men and women in uniform who protect and defend our nation, should not have to worry about the quality of the schools where they send their children,” he said.
Two members of the Kansas congressional delegation won leadership positions on Wednesday.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican, was elected to serve as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, was elected vice chair of the House Republican Conference.
Moran will be responsible for recruiting GOP Senate candidates and helping them raise campaign funds.
Jenkins, who just won re-election to a third term, will be part of the Republican leadership team, advancing the party's agenda.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., is vying for the chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to get more Republicans elected to the Senate.
Roll Call reported Thursday: "Moran’s boosters said his tea party appeal will help block primary challenges for potentially vulnerable Members such as Sens. Pat Roberts (Kan.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.)."
Some interesting dissection of the presidential race has focused on Mitt Romney's failure to attract Hispanic voters, and that string leads to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
According to this article in The New Republic, after Texas Gov. Rick Perry jumped into Republican Party presidential contest, Romney attacked him on the right as being soft on illegal immigration.
In January, during the Republican Party primaries, Kobach, known nationally for pushing tough anti-illegal immigration legislation, endorsed Romney and Romney praised Kobach.
"I'm so proud to earn Kris's support. Kris has been a true leader on securing our borders and stopping the flow of illegal immigration into this country. We need more conservative leaders like Kris willing to stand up for the rule of law," Romney said.
Romney even started using the same term Kobach used to describe how the Kobach-written laws were making people "self-deport."
But after winning the GOP nomination, Romney said in an interview with Univision America Radio that he had never met Kobach and his campaign described Kobach as an "informal adviser." Later, the Romney campaign said Romney and Kobach had met but not in formal policy meetings.
Roll Call reports that U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., says he has enough support to become the next chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
"I have a sufficient number of commitments that if the election is held, I would be successful in becoming the chair," Moran was quoted as saying. link text
The current chairman, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, cannot run the committee for a third term.
Roll Call also said U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is considering running for the position.
Tuesday's U.S. Senate elections were a disappointment to Republican officials. Some had thought the GOP had a chance of winning a majority of seats, but they lost two, giving Democrats a a 55-45 edge, which includes two independent senators who caucus with the Democrats.