There are a lot of voices to be heard in the massive First Congressional District and first-term Republican Roger Marshall said lots of them are concerned about national security, the economy and immigration.
With Congress out on spring recess, Marshall is back in western Kansas on his April listening tour, making a short stop at the Great Bend Public Library late Monday morning to meet with media representatives. He had later engagements Monday afternoon with the Great Bend Rotary Club and a town hall meeting in Ellsworth.
“The people of Kansas sent me to Congress to govern,” he said. While active with the Republican caucus, he still hopes to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats.
After stops in Johnson City and Scott City Tuesday, he will next be in the area at 9 a.m. Saturday when he visits the Hoisington Activity Center, 1200 Susank Rd., in Hoisington. He has already visited Phillipsburg, Norton, Beloit, Concordia, Clay Center and Junction City.
So far, on this swing through the state, the Great Bend doctor has heard a lot about national security, in light of missile strikes on Syria following a poison gas attack and problems with North Korea. While generally supportive of President Donald Trump’s tactics, “they don’t want boots on the ground,” he said.
The economy and world trade, particularly as it relates to agriculture, are also worrisome, Marshall said. He recently returned from a trade mission to Cuba and found apprehension with Trump, support for the U.S. and strong support for lifting the Cold War-era trade embargo on that island nation.
Marshall serves on the House of Representatives Ag Committee.
As for immigration as a concern among Kansans, “this is rising to the top,” he said. This is especially an issue in southwest Kansas, but is cropping up elsewhere.
“They say ‘you need to take courageous leadership,’” he said of what he is hearing. He believes in securing the borders, be it from drug smugglers or terrorists, but not the wall. A simplified work visa program would make a big difference.
“The whole government shuts down on April 29,” he said. That is, unless there is a budget in place.
So, when Congress returns to session next week, this will be the number-one priority.
The president has submitted a “skinny budget” with 15 to 20-percent cuts across the board except for the Military. But, “the president likes to negotiate,” Marshall said.
He expressed support for such programs as Meals on Wheels, in which volunteers deliver hot meals to and offer wellness checks for shut-in seniors, and RSVP, which coordinates volunteer activities. He noted these, and other programs, leverage federal money effectively.
Also looming is the return of the health care bill to replace President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act. “We got knocked down,” he said of the recent defeat of a bill championed by Trump.
But, “the demise of the health care bill is exaggerated,” he said. It will return and he is convinced it will meet the needs of patients, save money, protect hospitals and defund support for abortions.
After that, Marshall said tax reform will likely come next. The goal will be to offer incentives to businesses, but also holding them accountable to pay taxes in the U.S.
Marshall was elected last November to represent the Big First which covers 63 counties west of Manhattan and touches Nebraska, Colorado and Oklahoma. He won in the general election after defeating challenger and long-term incumbent Tim Huelskamp of Fowler in the August primary.