Editor’s note: Both members of Kansas’s U.S. Senate delegation, Jerry Moran and Dr. Roger Marshall, paid separate visits to Barton County Friday and Saturday to hear residents’ concerns and provide updates on what is going on in Washington D.C. This is the first of a series covering topics discussed during their visits. The first part covers some topics addressed by both senators.
Concerned citizens from both sides of the aisle brought wide-ranging concerns and questions to Kansas’s U.S. senators, Jerry Moran (R-Hays) and Dr. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend), in separate visits to Barton County Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.
Moran stopped on his annual 105-county Listening Tour at Ehler Chevrolet in Hoisington, where he addressed a wide range of concerns from rural health-care access to election and border security issues.
Saturday morning, Marshall hosted a Town Hall forum at the Heritage Senior Center in Ellinwood, where many of the attendees’ concerns centered on the federal government’s response to COVID-19, as well as election security and education issues.
While the topics in the two senators’ visits differed in scope, there were several topics both men addressed in their talks.
Congressional term limits
Both Moran and Marshall were asked their viewpoints regarding term limits for members of Congress, and largely agreed on topic.
Both said they personally favor the idea of congressional term limits, but agreed that a cumbersome process makes the possibility of instituting those limits unlikely.
Moran, who said he voted for a constitutional amendment to place 12-year limits on members of Congress, addressed the topic by saying ideally, it is best for members to serve those periods and then return to private life in the areas they were elected to represent; however, in practice, many wind up remaining in Washington finding jobs in other capacities after leaving office, often rendering term limits ineffective.
Any congressional term limits, he said, would need to be nationwide, and not decided on a state-by-state basis. Otherwise, states that decide in favor of term limits would be at a disadvantage to those that do not, citing less experience as a factor.
Marshall, in discussing the topic, felt such an amendment would be unlikely to pass, particularly because, in his view, the chairpersons of the parties would not allow it to happen.
“The only way to get it accomplished would be some type of a Convention of States,” Marshall said.
Moran also felt it would take broader national support for the idea of term limits, but felt it was unlikely due to the cumbersome nature of the process of amending the Constitution.
With the contentious nature of last year’s Presidential and Congressional elections, the security of both past and future elections was a primary concern for citizens at both meetings.
Many area residents expressed concerns to both senators particularly regarding their views on the validity of the elections, and what role the federal government played, and will play in the election process going forward.
Marshall said that while voter fraud has been present in every election, practices some states use such as “ballot harvesting,” or the third-party collection of mail-in ballots by parties other than election officials, leaves a system that is vulnerable to widespread fraud. Proponents of the practice say it increases access to the polls for groups that might otherwise be restricted from voting.
Marshall said he believes evidence suggests widespread voter fraud occurred in the 2020 elections.
Both Moran and Marshall noted their belief that the Constitution clearly delineates the administration of the electoral process to state and local governments and, as such, felt it was important for the federal government not to infringe on the states’ abilities to conduct fair elections in the best way they see fit.
Moran said he would not vote for any bill designed to discourage anyone from voting who had the legal right to do so.
“I want everyone who is legally entitled to vote, regardless of who they are voting for, to have access to a ballot,” Moran said.
While some have questioned the validity of results in other states, both men praised the security election system in Kansas as a whole, and specifically in Barton County.
State Senator Alicia Straub, who attended Marshall’s Town Hall, took the opportunity to credit Barton County Clerk and lead election official Donna Zimmerman, who she said does an outstanding job of conducting elections locally.
In discussing the topic, Moran addressed concerns over his vote not to investigate the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, saying his goal in the process was to allow law enforcement to complete its investigation into those events. Regarding that vote, he indicated his belief that because of the divided political climate, regardless of what results a Congressional investigation would produce, there would be a significant group of people on either side of the aisle that would not trust the report’s accuracy and truth.
Despite the divided nature of the political system, though, both men also indicated there is a lot more bipartisan work that occurs in Congress than most people realize.
Marshall said there is a great deal of camaraderie outside the Senate chambers between Republicans and Democrats that people do not often see. Because there is so much media focus on hot-button issues, he said, bipartisan efforts to address critical topics often are lost in the discussion.
As an example, Marshall cited legislative efforts to address rising prescription drug costs, key agricultural and rural health-care issues.
Both cited key personal and professional relationships they have been able to build with colleagues across the aisle. Marshall cited his relationship with Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a man whose character he holds in high regard.
Moran described working together with Democrat John Tester of Montana. Both are members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to address critical issues regarding veterans’ abilities to access the health-care they need.
Both men also faced questions in regard to the federal government’s efforts to pass sweeping legislation regarding infrastructure. Both see it as an issue critical to the future survival of communities in rural Kansas.
Moran said it is a particularly vital issue for farmers facing stiff global market competition for their crops.
“What we do invest in our roads, bridges, highways, railroads, etcetera, determines whether or not we as manufacturers, farmers, and Kansans can compete in the global economy,” Moran said.
Both men discussed bipartisan efforts in the Senate to put together a more modest, lower cost infrastructure bill than what is being proposed by the Biden administration. Both also indicated those efforts are being met with significant resistance from Biden’s administration.
“President Biden’s team has walked away from three bipartisan solutions,” Marshall noted. “It’s tough sledding right now.”
Moran said his goal is to be part of the conversation to ensure Kansans’ interested are represented in the bill. A crucial component he would like to see included in any bill is increasing rural access to broadband, seeing it as vital to help rural communities compete in an increasing digital environment. He sees broad support for this component.
He also indicated having bipartisan support for an infrastructure bill is important, so that all voices, including those of Kansans’ are able to be heard in the process.
Both also expressed concern about how a potential bill would be funded.
With the COVID-19 crisis easing, Marshall said he believes there would be broad support for appropriating some of the money already set aside for COVID relief and using it to fund infrastructure projects, including roads, waterways, rail transportation and high speed internet.
The challenge, Marshall believes, to getting a bill passed is a determination on the part of the Biden administration to include items attached to the president’s environmental agenda, the “Green New Deal.” These are items Marshall and other members of the Senate see as detrimental to the economy, particularly in agriculture and oil-dependent economies such as Kansas.