Category Archives: Kansas delegation

Congress hates to cut military spending

militarymoneyMembers of Congress come and go, but one thing never seems to change: Lawmakers hate to cut spending on military programs, weapons and equipment, no matter how outdated or ineffective. That’s particularly true if the spending is connected to their home districts. The House, including many tea party members and all four Kansas delegation members, defied the wishes of the Pentagon – and circumvented its own budget caps – by voting to maintain funding for the Cold War-era U-2 spy plane and the A-10 Warthog plane, to keep open several military bases, and to keep 11 Navy cruisers and an aircraft carrier in service. “Congress simply undid all of the department’s cost-saving measures and slashed readiness accounts without offering alternatives,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking minority member on the House Armed Services Committee.

Does Huelskamp doubt bigotry of segregation?

huelskamp,timGov. Sam Brownback and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, shared a stage with first lady Michelle Obama at the event with high school graduates observing the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education decision ending school desegregation. Former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was on hand as well. Later, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, had this to say on the subject via social media: “@MichelleObama the real bigotry in America is towards people of faith. Ask your co-speaker Kathleen Sebelius about that.” The “real bigotry”? At least Huelskamp joined the rest of the Kansas House delegation and many other members of Congress in signing Jenkins’ letter to the superintendent of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site commemorating the anniversary and expressing the hope that the site “will continue to provide the opportunity for future generations to visit and take part in the search for justice and equality for all Americans.”

USA Today: Roberts spent 97 days in Kansas in two years

robertsleftIn the latest development in the story that won’t go away for Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., USA Today reported Saturday that he “spent official funds to travel to Kansas 26 times over the course of two years, spending a total of 97 days in the state between July 2011 and August 2013, according to Senate spending records.” It’s possible that he may have used personal or campaign funds to spend more time in the state (Roberts’ offices wouldn’t respond to USA Today’s requests for comment). But compare Roberts with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who “spent official funds to log roughly 475 days in Kansas” during the same period, USA Today reported. Time spent in the state a senator represents is a legitimate re-election issue, but it’s hard to see many Kansas Republicans being so disgruntled over it as to choose tea party challenger Milton Wolf over the three-term senior senator.

Pompeo needs to keep Benghazi probe from being partisan circus

pompeo,mikeThe appointment of Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, to the special panel investigating Benghazi reflects how much GOP leadership respects him. As a Thursday editorial argued, he needs to do his best to ensure the probe is substantive and productive and not a partisan circus, as some earlier committee hearings have been. He should avoid partisan grandstanding and instead pursue the nonpartisan goals of justice for the killers and safer U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world.

Dole hasn’t given up on U.N. disability treaty

dolemugCharacteristically, former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole didn’t give up after the U.S. Senate’s failure to ratify the United Nations treaty on disability rights in December 2012, when Dole visited the Senate floor in a wheelchair yet even fellow Kansans Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran voted “no.” When visiting Salina Tuesday, Dole told Kansas Public Radio that he and the White House are “working on some additional language” to allay some Republicans’ fears that the treaty could be a threat to the rights of homeschooling families. “When we get it all complete I’ll take it to Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran and try to get their support,” he said, suggesting it is two votes short of the necessary 67 and that another Senate vote could come July 21. That would be the day before Dole’s 91st birthday.

Roberts challenge showed problem with Kobach’s PAC

yardsign2Now that Milton Wolf, the tea party challenger to Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has failed to convince the State Objections Board to oust the three-term senator from the GOP primary ballot on residency grounds, it will be up to Republican voters to decide between the candidates on their merits. That’s appropriate, and voters can hope that the campaign can shift from mudslinging to issues and experience. But Monday’s proceeding before the board, whose three office-holding members all recused themselves after having endorsed Roberts, did offer a fresh demonstration of why it’s inappropriate for Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of the board members, to maintain his Prairie Fire political action committee and otherwise aggressively engage in politicking. As state Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, unsuccessfully argued during the recent session in offering a House amendment to nix Kobach’s PAC: “It’s very important elections are fair. The person who is the chief election officer of the state should not have a PAC.”

Jenkins received special treatment on CPA title

jenkins,lynnThe Kansas Board of Accountancy shouldn’t have given U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, special treatment in allowing her to continue to call herself a certified public accountant even though her license expired in 2012. The CPA title is supposed to be used only when a license is active, but the board decided that Jenkins could continue to use the title, provided she doesn’t perform any services for the public as a CPA. Dan Sweetwood, executive director of the Nebraska Board of Public Accountancy, criticized the Kansas board for seeming to be influenced by Jenkins’ political office. “She’s misleading the public,” he told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “It’s politically sensitive, but so what?”

Roberts shouldn’t overstate his status as a Kansas resident

robertsleftNational political observers have taken this week’s defeats for tea party challengers in North Carolina and Ohio as more good news for senators such as Pat Roberts, who faces a similar GOP insurgent in the August primary. Leawood radiologist Milton Wolf’s latest fight to oust Roberts from the ballot over his residency seems particularly desperate, considering the senator’s high profile at events around the state and enduring support in Kansas. Still, Roberts shouldn’t overstate his status as a Kansas resident, given the recent confirmation that he owns a home in Virginia, his voter registration is at a Dodge City donor’s house and that he rents out the Dodge City duplex he owns. It’s one thing to expect Kansans to accept that, as he recently said, “I’m a fourth-generation Kansan. Your home is where your heart is, and my heart is in Kansas.” It’s another thing to claim, as he also said, “I live in Dodge City.”

Moran is among the 10 most truant senators

morannewWhen National Journal checked the attendance records of current U.S. senators, it found they had missed an average 2.5 percent of roll call votes over their tenure. The bottom 10 included Sen. Jerry Moran (in photo), R-Kan., whose 6.5 percent made him less truant than only Sens. Marco Rubio (7.1 percent), R-Fla., and John McCain (10.5 percent), R-Ariz. (excluding the serious illness-related absences of Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill). According to GovTrack.us, Moran missed 59 of 910 roll call votes from January 2011 through this month, including 20 this year. Moran told The Eagle editorial board Thursday that he has missed some votes because he tries to get back to Kansas every weekend to meet with constituents and to “be a good son to an aging parent.” He said he takes his job responsibilities very seriously and has held town hall meetings in all 105 counties in Kansas since becoming a senator. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has missed 2.4 percent of roll call votes over his three terms. The impressive records of the Kansans in the House, where the median of missed votes is 2.4 percent: Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, 0.5 percent; Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, both 0.6 percent; and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, 0.9 percent.

Vote on Moritz gives Brownback a court seat to fill

moritzThree long years after the seat opened, a Kansan has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – Kansas Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz, with a vote of 90-3 on Monday. To their credit, Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran supported President Obama’s nomination of Moritz, with Moran calling her “well-prepared” and saying: “I am confident Nancy’s service on the 10th Circuit will be guided by the values we hold in Kansas, including empathy for others and respect for the rule of law.” Roberts and Moran inexplicably blocked Obama’s 2011 nomination to the seat of former Kansas Attorney General Steve Six, who also was well-qualified. But Moritz will be a great addition to the court; a Beloit native and Washburn University Law School graduate, she had experience as a federal prosecutor and coordinator of appellate cases for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas before Gov. Kathleen Sebelius appointed her to the Kansas Court of Appeals in 2004 and Gov. Mark Parkinson named her to the Supreme Court in 2011. Of course, Moritz’s confirmation also has a key benefit for Kansas Republicans – providing Gov. Sam Brownback with his first opportunity to name a member of the state Supreme Court.

Huelskamp thinks Benghazi worth $5 million reward

huelskampRep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, second to none in Congress in opposing federal spending, found one expenditure to endorse last week: a $5 million reward to anyone who could provide information about the Benghazi attacks on Sept. 11, 2012. Huelskamp is co-sponsoring legislation with Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, to mandate the reward through the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program. “By offering a substantial reward for information leading to the apprehension and prosecution of suspects in these attacks, this bill will help Americans learn the truth about Benghazi,” Huelskamp said in a statement.

So they said

robertsmug“Now that the Koch family is spending money to promote free markets and private enterprise, we are supposed to believe that our democracy is at risk? That is absurd.” – Sen. Pat Roberts (in photo), R-Kan., in opposing regulations on political speech

“The motto of our elected officials is: ‘If it ain’t broke, break it.’” – Elizabeth Kinch of Derby, speaking to state lawmakers at a south-central Kansas legislative forum

“And the key phrase as I visit with my colleagues this morning? In the #ksleg, there are no fair fights.” – Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, in a Friday tweet

“I don’t care if PBS exists.” – Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, as the Legislature debated whether to eliminate state funding for Kansas public broadcasting

Happy birthday to a third U.S. senator from Kansas

Wyden-0702508-18401- 0010In addition to Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, another Kansas native is serving in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Ron Wyden (in photo), D-Ore., was born in Wichita 65 years ago this Saturday while his father, Peter Wyden, was working for The Wichita Eagle. He would live in St. Louis, Chicago and Washington, D.C., before going to high school in Palo Alto, Calif. In 1996 Wyden moved from the House to the Senate; he became chairman of the Senate Finance Committee this year. There were four U.S. senators from Kansas until Arlen Specter, who was also born in Wichita, lost his re-election bid in Pennsylvania in 2010. Three or four might sound like a lot from one state except that New York is the birthplace of 11 current senators. Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania each can claim four. The states with no natives to their name? Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico and Utah.

Did X-ray scandal sink Wolf’s chances?

Wolf,MiltonWhile observing that most campaign gaffes and errors don’t matter, Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics saw an exception in Kansas’ GOP primary for U.S. Senate, where tea partier Milton Wolf is challenging three-term Sen. Pat Roberts. The incumbent “played right into Wolf’s hands when he admitted that he didn’t have a home in Kansas. This set off alarm bells with observers because residency issues likely played a big role in Sen. Richard Lugar’s (R-IN) primary loss in 2012,” the website wrote. “But then Wolf’s problems overshadowed Roberts: The insurgent, a physician, had posted morbid photos of X-rays on Facebook and made snarky remarks about them. Ultimately, the latter matters more: Wolf’s only chance to win was to run a flawless race against Roberts, and the X-ray disaster zaps any problems Roberts might have.” Still, Wolf showed unexpected strength with his first-quarter fundraising: more than $318,000, all but $5,050 of it from individual donors. Roberts raised more than $534,000 during the same period, including nearly $260,000 from political action committees (he had $2 million on hand).

Huelskamp’s claim about uninsured Kansans is ‘phony’

huelskamp,timRep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, told a Salina audience this month that “there are more people uninsured today in Kansas than there were before the president’s health care plan went into effect.” But on Friday the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog called that claim “bogus,” giving it the maximum four Pinocchios. After Huelskamp’s staff failed to provide backup data, the blog found that “there are no useful numbers on the number of uninsured since the enrollment period started in October of 2013.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported that 29,309 Kansans had signed up for health care on the federal exchanges as of March 1. Saying “few plans were canceled in Kansas despite initial reports that thousands of plans might be terminated,” the Fact Checker concluded that Huelskamp can be as critical “of the law as he wants, but he’s not entitled to conjure phony facts out of thin air.”

So they said

brownbackofficialmug“Thanks for what you do. Take care.” – Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo), waving to protesting schoolteachers as he got out of a car in Hays on Wednesday

“Hopefully this is going to put this litigation to bed.” – House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, at the Monday signing ceremony for the school-finance bill

“I’m trying to cover all 105 counties. I don’t know whether I’ll make it or not. When you’re 90, you don’t order room service.” – former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, quoted by the Washington Post cracking up an Olathe crowd on Monday on the first leg of his tour of the state

“I thought I was a conservative, but we’ve got some in Congress now who are so far right they’re about to fall out of the Capitol.” – Dole again, speaking in Ottawa

“4th Time’s the Charm. Dole 2016.” – a sign spotted Tuesday during Dole’s visit to the Dole Institute in Lawrence

‘Sebelius for Senate’ idea inspires caption contest

sebeliushandsupA Roll Call blog asked readers to vote for the best caption to accompany a cartoon depicting former Kansas governor and soon-to-be-former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tapping at a keyboard in front of a “Sebelius for Senate” website labeled as under construction. The choices: “Let me try this again.” “I’m going to need an extension on that campaign deadline.” “Comes with the territory. I wouldn’t exchange a thing.” “Yes! Definitely! Emoji symbols are planned for the finished product.” “Would you vote for me? I can help fix Obamacare!” The winning caption will be revealed Sunday.

More evidence of how far Sebelius’ star has fallen

CORRECTION State of StateThe gossip about a run for the U.S. Senate by exiting Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius prompted Rasmussen Reports to do a poll last week on her prospects. It found that 55 percent of likely voters in the state have an unfavorable view of their former two-term governor, and that she would lose to Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., by 17 percentage points. That’s quite a comedown for someone who has never lost an election and was once on the short list for vice president. Of those polled, 55 percent said they had a favorable view of Roberts, despite questions about his residency and the tea party challenge from Milton Wolf.

So they said

huelskamp,tim“Part of the problem with Washington is it’s April, and Washington somehow thinks the election is, like, next week.” – Rep. Tim Huelskamp (in photo), R-Fowler, in the Hill, complaining about GOP leaders’ foot-dragging on their alternative to the Affordable Care Act

“Today it was reported that: Kathleen Sebelius wants to return to Kansas and run for our U.S. Senate seat…. We need your financial support to resist Obama’s attempt to send his former Cabinet member back to Kansas to run for the U.S. Senate and ensure he understands that her liberal message is not welcome in our state!” – Kansas Republican Party e-mail pitch Wednesday asking for $5 or $10 contributions

“This is not your father’s Kathleen Sebelius, the competent governor who stressed her moderation, pragmatism and Kansas connections.” – Roll Call’s Stu Rothenberg, discounting her rumored run for U.S. Senate before Sebelius ruled it out

Kansas Democrats ‘just don’t win federal statewide races’

gopvoteIn pondering the gossip about a possible Kathleen Sebelius run for U.S. Senate, the FiveThirtyEight website noted the state’s “ruby-red” voting record: “The last time a Democrat was elected to the Senate from Kansas was 1932. That’s not only the longest drought for the party, it’s by far the longest winless streak. (The next longest drought for Democrats is in Wyoming, where they haven’t won a Senate seat since 1970.) Democrats have lost 29 consecutive Senate races in Kansas, and they just don’t win federal statewide races. Since 1940, Lyndon Johnson, in 1964, was the only Democratic presidential nominee to win in the Sunflower State.”

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.

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”

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.

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.”