Author Archives: Rhonda Holman

So they said

huelskamp“What difference does it make?” – U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (in photo), R-Fowler, calling the House-passed budget blueprint crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a “ceremonial bill” (though Huelskamp voted for it)

“Brownback, see me after class!” – among the messages on signs carried by schoolteachers at the Capitol last weekend

“They took out a dozen of us. It was very personal and extremely dishonest. That’s the kind of thing that went on, and now it’s coming back to roost.” – former state Sen. Dick Kelsey, in a Politico Pro story about the 2012 purge of centrist GOP senators

“Yeah, it happens all the time.” – Secretary of State Kris Kobach, to a Florida radio host’s suggestion that “widows are voting for their dead husbands”

Open thread (April 12)

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Pro-con: Does Sebelius leave a positive legacy?

sebeliuslaughingImplementing Obamacare was never going to be easy. And Kathleen Sebelius never had the kind of control a chief executive officer would. She was always dealing with a host of other players. And that’s to say nothing of her war with the congressional Republicans, who were trying actively to sabotage the law through repeal votes, funding cuts, and intimidation of would-be allies. More important, the law seems to be working, despite all of the early problems. Of course, Sebelius can’t take all or even most of the credit for the Affordable Care Act’s improved performance, any more than she should take all or most of the blame for the law’s troubles. Any accounting of her tenure must include such achievements (and others, like improvements to Head Start and stronger regulations on child care safety). To take one obvious example, Sebelius worked extensively with Republican governors who wanted to expand Medicaid in states with hostile conservative constituencies. The memories of Obamacare’s difficult start will certainly linger. But to the millions of people around the country who now have access to affordable medical care, I’m not sure that really matters. – Jonathan Cohn, the New Republic

It’s been quite a year for the former Kansas governor. October brought the failed launch of the HealthCare.gov website, which Sebelius initially characterized as simply the result of surging consumer demand for Obamacare and a “great problem to have.” December brought more embarrassing news as Sebelius waived the law’s individual mandate to buy insurance by categorizing Obamacare itself as a hardship worthy of exemption. This was just one of many on-the-fly rewrites the administration claimed the authority to make under a law passed by Congress and signed by the president. Though she is leaving now, her legacy is secure, as her name adorns several of the most consequential federal cases resulting from the law. Her resignation doesn’t change the fact that Democrats will remain politically accountable for a law sold on a fraudulent promise from President Obama. But this latest news does mean that not even the secretary of health and human services will get to keep her insurance plan. – James Freeman, Wall Street Journal

Open thread (April 11)

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Welcome to the skies, Learjet 85

learjet85aCongratulations to all those in Wichita and worldwide whose skill and hard work readied Bombardier Aerospace’s Learjet 85 for takeoff Wednesday from Mid-Continent Airport. It took 6 1/2 years for the midsize business jet to go from announcement to first flight, during a period that included a brutal recession. But the successful test further affirms that Wichita’s status as Air Capital of the World is a thing of the future, not just the past. Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement also offering congratulations: “Many thanks to the Learjet 85 team for its hard work in accomplishing this significant milestone in the program and Bombardier for its continued investment in Wichita.”

Open thread (April 10)

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Governance switch helped make airport name change possible

midcontinentAs the Wichita City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to finalize the renaming of Mid-Continent Airport as the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, it did so over the objections of the airport advisory board, which voted 10-1 Monday to oppose the change. That remarkable fact – that the citizen board assigned to advise the city on airport matters disagreed with such a historic decision yet was powerless to stop it – was made possible by the City Council’s 1999 decision to replace what had been a governing Wichita Airport Authority with an advisory board. Then-Mayor Bob Knight advocated the controversial change, saying the authority board was too focused on replacing then-airports director Bailis Bell and wasn’t doing enough to bring low-fare service to Wichita. Dave Bayouth, an advisory board member who again urged against the name change Tuesday, also sat on the autonomous authority board and criticized its dissolution, saying in 1999 that “the public does not want more government running anything.”

More polling problems for Brownback

brownbackofficialmugAnother Public Policy Polling survey has found Gov. Sam Brownback lagging Democratic challenger Paul Davis. In the firm’s April 1-2 poll of 886 Kansas voters (52 percent Republicans and 30 percent Democrats), 45 percent said they would vote for Davis, a Lawrence attorney who is the House minority leader, if the gubernatorial election were held today; 41 percent favored Brownback and 14 percent weren’t sure. Fifty-two percent said Kansas should accept the new federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage, and 41 percent said Brownback’s opposition to expansion would make them less likely to vote for him. In a February survey by the same North Carolina-based firm, Davis led Brownback 42 to 40 percent. The latest PPP survey was funded by the liberal group MoveOn.org, and a Brownback campaign spokesman dismissed the results.

Open thread (April 9)

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Nonprofit plan for NBC World Series looks promising

nbctourneyThe city of Wichita seems to be moving the National Baseball Congress World Series toward a secure future via the nonprofit NBC Baseball Foundation. There is even talk of trying to get a TV deal for Championship Week, which would be great for the players, teams and city. In any case, the tournament will need an engaged, hardworking board and a lot of help from community donors, sponsors and volunteers. But the NBC World Series’ rich history is wedded to that of the city and Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The plan also should be better for the Wichita Wingnuts, which had been overseeing the NBC.

Open thread (April 8)

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Open thread (April 7)

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Kansas delegation stands out for youth

CapitolBuildingThe Washington Post’s Wonkblog found that “Congress is actually getting younger,” and that Kansas’ delegation is the youngest of them all – an average 45.8. That is thanks in large part to 38-year-old Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, are both 50. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, is 45. (Wonkblog excluded states with House delegations of one.) “We normally associate youthful dynamism with coastal metropolitan areas, but as far as the House is concerned that energy seems to be coming from the heartland,” the blog noted. The age of Kansas’ two senators averages out to 68.

Open thread (April 6)

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Moran read Koch’s commentary into congressional record

morannew“The fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation’s own government. That’s why, if we want to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we have no choice but to fight for those principles,” wrote Koch Industries chairman Charles Koch in a Wall Street Journal commentary last week. His explanation of his free-market beliefs and political involvement was read into the congressional record by Sen. Jerry Moran (in photo), R-Kan. “In Kansas, there’s a company called Koch Industries that is a component of our state, its economy, and many, several thousand, Kansans work there. And unfortunately in the political discourse of our country, Koch Industries, its owners, are often subject to attack,” Moran said. According to the Washington Post, the political network backed by the Koch brothers raised at least $407 million for the 2012 elections, and their ongoing spending has inspired criticism by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on the Senate floor, including his contention that Republicans are “addicted to Koch.”

Citizens expect nothing less than ‘safe and secure’ jail

countyjailTo his credit, Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter emphasized last week that his “office has a zero tolerance policy against sexual assault and harassment of inmates” and is dedicated to operating a “safe and secure” Sedgwick County Jail. Citizens expect nothing less. It will be up to Easter and his team to ensure that the track record at the jail improves. The community has reasons for concern, including the charges against a former sheriff’s deputy of multiple counts of unlawful sexual relations at the jail and the reported incidents since 2013 of sexual assaults, harassment and misconduct involving inmates. Adding about 250 video cameras at the jail should be an asset in deterring and investigating such cases.

So they said

“Representative, this isn’t on the topic of the bill.” – House Speaker Ray Merrickmerrick_ray (in photo), R-Stilwell, interrupting as Rep. Randy Garber, R-Sabetha, brought abortion into the debate on a bill to bar another Sedgwick County gambling vote until 2032 (to which Garber said, “Pardon?”)

“Secretary Sebelius why is #unpopularity of ObamaScare so #shocking to you?” – Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, tweeting a link to an article saying HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was “speechless” when asked about the ACA’s poor polling

“@CongHuelskamp You do recognize you are a member of Congress? Might want to actually start acting like it. ‘ObamaScare’? What are you, 5?” – David Badash, editor of the online journal the New Civil Rights Movement, responding to Huelskamp on Twitter

“Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) hit the first three-pointer of the night.” – Washington Post article on a charity basketball game in which the Hill’s Angels (members of Congress and staffers) defeated the Hoya Lawyers (Georgetown Law School faculty) 46-40

Open thread (April 5)

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Open thread (April 4)

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More death, heartache at Fort Hood

forthood2014Americans again have Fort Hood on their minds and in their prayers after Wednesday’s shooting spree. The gunman, an Iraq War veteran being treated for mental illness, killed three people and injured 16 others before committing suicide. Though the incident stirred fears of another terrorist attack like the 2009 one in which more than a dozen died, it now seems more like another indicator of the urgent need to deliver help and hope to those active-duty military and veterans suffering from depression and other serious mental illnesses. It’s sobering, too, to realize that the military deaths on American soil followed the first month in 11 years with no U.S. fatalities in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Open thread (April 3)

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Could Pompeo lead the House intel panel?

pompeo,mikeRoll Call and other Capitol-watching media have included Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, among the lawmakers interested in succeeding Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, along with Reps. Peter T. King of New York, Devin Nunes of California and Jeff Miller of Florida. “All those candidates would carry on Rogers’ hawkish stance as chairman of the committee, and all are fairly close to Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, relationships that could be a major determining factor if Boehner continues his reign into the 114th Congress, as he has said he will,” reported Roll Call. Pompeo spokesman J.P. Freire told Roll Call that “it’s far too early in the process to speculate on who might be the next chairman, especially given that this is a decision only the speaker can make.” Pompeo lacks seniority on the panel, but has been an unflinching public defender of the intelligence community amid the Edward Snowden revelations. Rogers’ decision to retire at the end of the year took some by surprise.

Open thread (April 2)

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Open thread (April 1)

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Open thread (March 31)

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