Category Archives: Congress

Rumored Sebelius challenge of Roberts is far-fetched

sebeliushandsupThere was a time when Kathleen Sebelius might have successfully challenged Kansas Republicans’ ownership of both U.S. Senate seats, which dates from 1939. That was early in her second term as governor in 2007-08, when her approval ratings averaged 66 percent (compared with the average 52 percent during the same period of Sen. Pat Roberts and 48 percent of then-Sen. Sam Brownback). But the new talk of a run by Sebelius against Roberts is far-fetched. “One person who spoke directly to Ms. Sebelius said that she was thinking about it, but added that it was too soon to say how seriously she was taking the idea,” the New York Times reported. Now, thanks to her just-ended service in President Obama’s Cabinet and responsibility for the Affordable Care Act as secretary of health and human services, Sebelius is as unpopular in Kansas as in the rest of the nation. A Public Policy Polling survey of Kansans in February found that Roberts would beat Sebelius 52 to 38 percent. It even found that Sebelius would lose by 7 percentage points to Roberts’ tea party challenger, Milton Wolf. To get into the race, she also would have to elbow aside Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, the declared Democrat.

Reid keeping up criticism of Koch brothers

reidharrySenate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is keeping up his onslaught against the Koch brothers. This week he noted how Koch Industries benefited from a temporary provision of the Affordable Care Act while groups backed by the brothers have been attacking members of Congress who supported the ACA. “If the Affordable Care Act is so awful,” Reid asked, “why did Koch Industries use it to their advantage?” According to federal records, Koch Industries received $1.4 million to subsidize its costs for workers who retire before they become eligible for Medicare. Reid also suggested that GOP senators start wearing ties and jackets with the Koch Industries logo, like the patches on NASCAR uniforms. But even some Democrats are tiring of Reid’s tirades. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., complained that “this type of rhetoric does not help us move this country or move the agenda forward.”

Now even harder for GOP to repeal Obamacare

healthcaregovpageThe more than 7 million Americans who signed up for Obamacare (along with millions more who gained insurance through their parents or through expanded Medicaid) make “it highly unlikely that Republicans will be able to deliver on their promise to repeal the law,” columnist Doyle McManus wrote. It would be very hard to take insurance away from that many people. But, McManus wrote, “that doesn’t mean Obamacare is guaranteed to succeed. The program still faces a series of difficult tests – most important, keeping costs under control so insurance premiums don’t soar in coming years.”

Pompeo convinced that GM foods are safe, needed

food“The science is clear” that genetically modified foods are safe, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, told The Eagle editorial board. Pompeo introduced a bill this week that would require that new GM foods be reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; currently, such review isn’t mandated. The bill also would give the FDA sole authority on whether to label GM foods – barring states from imposing their own regulations. Supporters of labeling argue that it informs consumers, but Pompeo contends that a patchwork of unscientific state regulations creates burdens and barriers for Kansas farmers. “It’s a big deal to our growers,” Pompeo said.

Reid wrong to call Kochs ‘un-American’

reidharry“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., broke down all barriers to protocol recently when he called the Kochs ‘un-American,’” columnist Kathleen Parker wrote. She acknowledged that “allowing the super-wealthy to disproportionately influence political outcomes may indeed be bad for the democratic process – and that’s of legitimate concern to all. But one’s eyes should be wide open when people are singled out as un-American.” Parker’s conclusion: “Reid owes the Kochs – and the American people – an apology.”

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.

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.”

ACA working despite efforts of ‘haters’

healthcaregovpage“It has been obvious for some time now that the great fear among these politicians and conservative pundits was not that Obamacare would fail but that it would succeed,” wrote columnist Bob Ray Sanders. “I can only imagine how they must feel after watching people line up around the country Monday in an attempt to register for health care on the last day of enrollment, and to see the number of participants swell over the 7 million mark.”

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.

Legislature doesn’t want ACA to work in Kansas

healthcarereformEven after its disastrous rollout, the Affordable Care Act exceeded projections and enrolled 7.1 million Americans in private insurance plans by Monday’s deadline. This is on top of the more than 3 million adults younger than 26 who were added to their parents’ insurance plans, and on top of the millions who gained coverage through Medicaid expansion. “It’s working. It’s helping people from coast to coast,” President Obama said. But state GOP legislators are still determined to keep the ACA from helping low-income Kansans. The Kansas Senate voted last week to prohibit the state from expanding Medicaid unless the Legislature approves. And the House approved a bill to remove Kansas from the ACA (and potentially Medicare) and join a multistate compact.

Obama wants to give America a raise

obamalibyaPresident Obama had a commentary in The Eagle Sunday arguing in favor of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. “Its effect would raise wages not just for minimum-wage workers, but for nearly 314,700 people in Kansas and 28 million Americans across our country,” Obama wrote. “It would lift millions out of poverty immediately, and help millions more work their way out of poverty, without requiring any new taxes or spending. It will give businesses more customers with more money to spend. It will grow the economy for everyone. That’s why nearly 3 in 4 Americans support raising the minimum wage.”

Democratic complaints about Kochs ‘dumb and delusionary’

kochsSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., clearly considers Charles and David Koch (in photos) to be the Democrats’ main opponents this election year, and has been pushing back on the Senate floor at misleading ads sponsored by Koch-funded groups in some races. “But the notion that Democrats can gin up their voters by marketing fear of the Kochs is dumb and delusionary,” wrote Dick Polman, a blogger and former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist. “Why do I say this? Because the anti-Koch strategy is classic ‘inside baseball’ – of great interest only to those voters who obsess about the political process…. It’s also a sign of weakness when a party or a candidate whines that the campaign process is unfair.”

Did Roberts show GOP’s problem with Asian-Americans?

gopvoteAn article in Politico magazine headlined “Why Are Asian-Americans Democrats?” pointed to recent “clueless” remarks by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., during the confirmation hearing of U.S. surgeon general-nominee Vivek Murthy, a British-born Indian-American. Roberts’ small talk inviting Murthy to Dodge City to meet a “lovely doctor from India” and saying he would “be right at home” were of “the ‘I have plenty of friends who are Indian’ variety…. It likely reminded Murthy that he is different than the white ethnic majority – some other kind of American. However harmless it might seem, this is exactly the sort of exchange that makes Asian-Americans – the fastest growing ethnic group in the country – more likely to identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans, and by stunning margins,” wrote authors Alexander Kuo, Neil Malhotra and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo. Their conclusion: “As long as Republicans appear scornful of minorities, our findings suggest, they will not get Asian-Americans’ electoral support. This applies not only to rhetoric, but also to policy issues such as immigration reform.” Columnist David Harsanyi, while calling Roberts’ statement “clumsy,” responded that it could “be argued that the GOP is also a party that is far more likely to celebrate and foster the merit-based success on which the Asian community thrives.”

Pro-con: Was Reid justified in attacking the Kochs?

kochsBy far the largest voice in many of this year’s political races has been that of the Koch brothers (in photos), who have spent tens of millions of dollars peddling phony stories about the impact of health care reform, all in order to put Republicans in control of the Senate after the November elections. Now Democrats are starting to fight back, deciding they should at least try to counter the tycoons with some low-cost speech of their own. Democrats may never have the same resources at their disposal – no party should – but they can use their political pulpits to stand up for a few basic principles, including the importance of widespread health-insurance coverage, environmental protection and safety-net programs. The leader of this effort has been Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, who has delivered a series of blistering attacks against the Kochs and their ads on the Senate floor over the last few weeks. Mr. Reid’s comments have gone to the heart of the matter. A recent speech pointed out that the fundamental purpose of the Kochs’ spending is to rig the economic system for their benefit and for that of other oligarchs. – New York Times

An abhorrent floor speech by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., revealed such a twisted conception of both the First Amendment and the facts that all Americans, whatever their political persuasion, should be repulsed. Mr. Reid singled out billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, who express their libertarian conservatism through political donations. He called the Koch brothers’ political involvement “un-American,” accused them of trying to undermine “democracy” and even claimed that Koch Industries subsidiaries do business with Iran, which their company quickly denied. Reid apparently thinks the First Amendment, which protects free political expression for all Americans, shouldn’t apply to the Kochs. Yet he said nothing about leftist unions that spend more on politics than they do. A Center for Public Integrity study found unions and other Democrat-friendly groups outspent the Kochs on 2012’s state-level elections. Such political expression is quintessentially American. What Reid wants – free speech only for him, his liberal colleagues and the unions and other leftist groups that pull their political strings – would be truly un-American. And if money’s the issue, the left has far more to answer for. – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Moran has no doubt that Roberts will win primary

morannewSpeaking as both a fellow Kansas senator and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. Jerry Moran (in photo) told the Washington Examiner this week that he has “no doubt Sen. (Pat) Roberts will be the Republican nominee come August” and suggested Roberts’ voting residency isn’t a significant issue in his race against tea party challenger Milton Wolf. “I don’t think there’s Kansans that have the sense that Sen. Roberts isn’t a Kansan or has lost touch with our state,” Moran said. In the GOP primary, Moran said, “It’s a matter of Pat being Pat – that he continues his efforts in visiting with Kansans, telling his story.”

Pompeo wanted Snowden uninvited from SXSW

snowden,sxswOver the strong objections of Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, offered a live video conference on Monday with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Speaking from Moscow, Snowden expressed no regrets for having exposed U.S. intelligence gathering methods. “I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and I saw that the Constitution was violated on a massive scale,” Snowden said. Pompeo had urged the festival to uninvite Snowden. “Rewarding Mr. Snowden’s behavior in this way encourages the very lawlessness he exhibited,” Pompeo wrote in a letter, saying Snowden “is no more a whistle-blower than were Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs or Benedict Arnold.”

McCain, Dole react to Cruz’s criticism

cruz,tedSen. Ted Cruz (in photo), R-Texas, joked at the Conservative Political Action Conference about “President McCain,” “President Romney” and “President Dole,” suggesting they didn’t “stand for principle” as GOP presidential nominees. Afterward, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on MSNBC that he didn’t mind being criticized but “Bob Dole is such a man of honor and integrity and principle. I hope that Ted Cruz will apologize to Bob Dole because that’s, that has crossed a line that, to me, is – leaves the realm of politics and discourse that we should have in America.” McCain also said: “I wonder if he thinks that Bob Dole stood for principle on that hilltop in Italy when he was so gravely wounded and left part of his body there fighting for our country.” Dole’s response: “Cruz should check my voting record before making comments. I was one of President Reagan’s strongest supporters, and my record is that of a traditional Republican conservative.”

Roberts doesn’t dispute accounting of time in Kansas

robertsleftAfter the New York Times reported that Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., was using the house of some Dodge City donors as his voting residency, Roberts’ staff declined to detail how much time he spends in Kansas, according to Washington Examiner columnist Byron York. But an unnamed source gave York information indicating that in 2012 Roberts was in Kansas for all or part of 65 days, York wrote, leaving “151 days in 2012 when the Senate was not meeting and Roberts was not in Kansas.” Roberts didn’t dispute the numbers, telling York: “I don’t measure my service in days. I try to measure it in results.” Meanwhile, campaign e-mails from Roberts’ tea party challenger in the GOP primary, Leawood radiologist Milton Wolf, now refer to “Pat Roberts (R-VA).” Wolf has his own problems, though, including the Public Policy Polling survey showing that only 29 percent of GOP primary voters are familiar with him.

Poll good for prospects of Moran-led GOP Senate takeover

gopvoteA recent Washington Post-ABC poll should make Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., feel good about how he’s doing as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “While the generic ballot (would you vote for a Republican or Democrat?) is very close nationally, the GOP holds a significant 50 percent to 42 percent margin in only the 34 states holding Senate contests in 2014,” noted the Post’s Fix blog. “That stat is certainly encouraging for the GOP’s hopes to win six seats and the Senate majority – a goal that appears increasingly achievable.” Though GOP prospects in the Senate look good, 68 percent of those surveyed think that Republicans are out of touch with the concerns of most people. The public also favors Democrats over Republicans on the key issues of helping the middle class, health care, immigration, energy and tax policies.

More evidence of Roberts’ hard-right turn

rightturnonlyWhen CQ Roll Call looked at Sen. Pat Roberts’ 2013 voting record, it found the Kansas Republican voted against President Obama’s wishes 66 percent of the time, a score 6 percentage points higher than the Senate GOP average, and voted the party line 99 percent of the times when most Republicans voted opposite of most Democrats. “After 16 years in the Senate (and as many years before that in the House) cementing a reputation as an establishment Republican, one driven much less by ideology than by a desire for accomplishment, Roberts tacked hard to the right last year,” wrote CQ Roll Call’s David Hawkings.

Support for extended benefits, $10 minimum wage

minimumwagelogo2Two economic questions on the recent Public Policy Polling survey yielded results that might seem surprising in conservative Kansas: 61 percent said Congress should extend federal unemployment benefits for workers whose state unemployment benefits have ended but who cannot find a job, while 49 percent said they’d support raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour. The latter idea came up Thursday on the Kansas House floor, in the form of an amendment for a $10.10 minimum wage offered by Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City, but was rejected on procedural grounds.

Rogen right to highlight apathy about Alzheimer’s

rogen,sethGood for actor Seth Rogen for not only going to Capitol Hill to help his chosen cause – more federal funding for research on Alzheimer’s disease – but also shaming senators for variously dozing through, skipping and leaving the hearing, with the notable exceptions of ranking Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas and subcommittee chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. By the time Rogen spoke, Moran and Harkin were the only senators on the 18-member panel listening. “Very symbolic of how the government views Alzheimer’s. Seems to be a low priority,” Rogen later told his 1.84 million Twitter followers. Former six-term Kansas congressman Dennis Moore also testified about his own diagnosis in 2011. “Alzheimer’s is creating an enormous strain on the health care system, families and the federal budget,” Moore said. The disease cost Americans $203 billion in 2013, including $142 billion spent by Medicare and Medicaid.

Moran, Roberts should support treaty on disabilities

disabled3Any suspicion that the political right, after suffering a defeat on the debt ceiling and facing threats from business donors, is losing its clout can be dismissed by the fight over the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities,” wrote columnist Albert Hunt. One of the biggest champions of the treaty is Bob Dole, who said that it “would have passed by voice vote” if it had come up while he was still in the Senate. But now Dole is having trouble even convincing Kansas Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts to support it.

Pompeo defends Koch brothers, criticizes Reid

reidharryRep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, defended Charles and David Koch after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (in photo), D-Nev., blasted the brothers for helping finance attack ads against Democrats that Reid said were misleading and dishonest. “It’s too bad that they’re trying to buy America, and it’s time that the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers who are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine,” Reid said on the Senate floor Wednesday. Pompeo called Reid’s comments reprehensible. “This cannot be tolerated – not for these two great men or for any individual who disagrees with those in power,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Moran’s popularity stands out; Huckabee favored

huckabee,mikeThirty-seven percent of Kansas voters surveyed by Public Policy Polling approve of the job being done by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., compared with 26 percent who disapprove. That makes him more popular than Sen. Pat Roberts (29 percent approval), Gov. Sam Brownback (33 percent) or Secretary of State Kris Kobach (31 percent). And when asked about an array of potential GOP presidential nominees for 2016, the Kansans favored Mike Huckabee (20 percent; in photo), followed by Jeb Bush and Chris Christie (13 percent each), Ted Cruz (12 percent) and Rand Paul (11 percent); Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal drew less support. Democrat Hillary Clinton came out the loser in Kansas each time in hypothetical matchups against Bush, Christie, Huckabee and Paul.