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 Sam Brownback championed in Kansas in 2012, but which state lawmakers repealed earlier this year.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"Our tax code is burdensome, confusing and outdated,” Roberts, the senior senator from Kansas, said in a statement following the vote.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."
In his criticism of U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on Monday, Dr. Milton Wolf indicated Republicans shouldn't make friends with Democrats and that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's recent controversies have been caused by the media.
Wolf, a tea party-backed challenger to Roberts in the GOP primary, was interrupted several times by applause during his 24-minute talk to about 50 people who attended an event put on by the Douglas County Republican Party at Famous Dave's restaurant.
One of Wolf's major criticisms of Roberts is that Roberts voted in the Senate to confirm President Barack Obama's selection of Kathleen Sebelius in 2009 as secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius has been at the forefront of implementing the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, which is opposed by all Republicans in Congress.
"One of the problems with our party is too often we're the go-along to get-along party," said Wolf. "We try to get people in the media to like us, we try to get the Democrats to like us. It never works. Ask Chris Christie about that. He can walk on the beach every day of the week with Barack Obama, but as soon as he starts looking like a candidate for the presidency, the media is going to stab him in the back," Wolf said.
In 2012, Christie, a Republican, praised the response of President Obama and the federal government to Hurricane Sandy, which battered the Northeast. Christie's appearances with Obama just days before the presidential election was criticized by some Republicans as helping Obama.
Recently, Christie has been embroiled in controversy over an allegation that his aides closed lanes to the George Washington Bridge in political retribution against a New Jersey mayor.
Wolf added, "You cannot make friends with our adversaries, and yet what we have — and this should trouble us all to know — is we have Sen. Roberts who voted to put Kathleen Sebelius in charge of Obamacare," he said.
Sebelius was confirmed as secretary on a 65-31 vote. Nine Republicans voted for her, including Roberts and then-U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Republican who is now governor of Kansas. In recent months, Roberts has called for Sebelius to resign after the troubled roll-out of the ACA's enrollment website.
The campaign of Dr. Milton Wolf, the Tea Party activist challenging U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., says Roberts' call for the resignation of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was "too little, too late."
Wolf's campaign said Roberts should apologize for voting to confirm Sebelius as President Barack Obama's secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius, a former Kansas governor, is implementing the Affordable Care Act.
"With her help, President Obama and the democrats rammed through the most disastrous legislation in recent history. Senator Roberts owes every American an apology," Wolf's campaign said.
Wolf, a radiologist from Leawood, announced his candidacy in the 2014 Republican Party primary last week. Just days later, Roberts issued a news release, saying that Sebelius, a former Kansas governor, should resign for "gross incompetence" because of glitches in the rollout of the federal online health insurance marketplace under the ACA.
The HealthCare.gov federal website for the health insurance marketplaces has been plagued with technical problems that have prevented many from enrolling.
Sebelius has acknowledged problems and said technicians were trying to expand the site's capacity. The website became operational Oct. 1.
Meanwhile, the Roberts campaign issued a statement saying that it ended the quarter Sept. 30 with $1.8 million cash on hand for the campaign, and touted Roberts' ranking as the fifth most conservative senator, according to Heritage Action.
"Kansans know that Pat is the tough, tested and trusted conservative in this race," said Dave Murfin, of Wichita, and Statewide Co-chair of Roberts for Senate.
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.
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.