Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran are hopeful that the opinion polling will hold true and their Republican Party will retake control of the dysfunctional Senate from Democrats and especially from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Their frustrations with Reid dominated their same-day meetings with The Eagle editorial board Monday, when they were in Wichita for the groundbreaking at McConnell Air Force Base in preparation for the KC-46A tankers.
Both offered richly deserved criticism of Reid’s failure to allow amendments or otherwise give the minority a voice – or let the Senate do much of anything anymore, including pass budget bills. “The Senate is becoming a different place than it ought to be,” Moran said. But neither Moran nor Roberts acknowledged that the GOP shared blame for the dysfunction.
If the senators think the tea party has been a questionable influence on the GOP, and responsible for last year’s government shutdown and bizarre filibusters, they didn’t show it Monday. Both seemed to identify with concerns they’d heard from Kansans about the federal government’s rush toward socialism and failure to live within its means.
Of course, this is especially delicate terrain these days for Roberts, who faces tea party challenger Milton Wolf in the Aug. 5 GOP primary. Asked about Wolf’s charge that he is a recent convert to conservatism, Roberts cited his voting record and various rankings, saying he is a “conservative Republican” and “also very pragmatic.”
Moran and Roberts seemed confident that a Senate led by now-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would be more functional and fair. That would mean passing budgets and doing more oversight. It likely means restoring the 60-vote threshold, and the opportunities for amendment and debate.
In Roberts’ case, it also could mean another chairmanship. His preference would be the Senate Agriculture Committee, he said, which would put Kansas back where it belongs – at the table writing farm bills and other key legislation.
A GOP takeover also would be hugely significant for Moran, meaning he had triumphed as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. That could pay dividends for Kansas on Capitol Hill, too.
The editorial board meetings covered other ground, including the lack of easy answers on Iraq and the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
On the latter issue, Moran said that more money isn’t the sole solution and he was pleased to see Obama’s nominee to lead the VA, former Procter and Gamble CEO Robert McDonald, come from outside the system. Roberts similarly said it will take more than recently passed legislation to change the VA culture and fix the system, including its problems with hiring and firing.
Whatever the outcome of the November election, Kansans and all Americans can hope it leaves the “world’s greatest deliberative body” in a less debilitated state.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman