The 50 or so Kansans who came to Sen. Jerry Moran’s town hall Monday afternoon wanted to talk about trade, rural access to broadband and their fears that the United States will go to war with Iran.
But the first question Moran fielded was about his position on President Donald Trump’s treatment of four Democratic congresswomen of color, who he told in tweets to “go back” to their own countries.
“My view is that the congresswomen who the president referred to are American citizens, they are elected officials. It is inappropriate to suggest they go home to any place – they are home,” Moran told the group at Louisburg City Hall.
The senator added that while he disagrees with the Congresswomen over policy, “there’s nothing to be gained by personal attack” on elected officials and Americans.
While Democrats and some Republicans pushed back against Trump’s racist remarks, many GOP lawmakers were silent. Requests for comment Monday from Republican members of the region’s Kansas and Missouri delegations went unanswered, except for Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of the GOP leadership team.
In a statement, Blunt stopped short of calling the tweets racist and also criticized the Democratic congresswomen.
“Just because the so-called squad constantly insults and attacks the president isn’t a reason to adopt their unacceptable tactics. There is plenty to say about how destructive House Democrats’ policies would be for our economy, our health care system, and our security,” Blunt said. “I think that’s where the focus should be.”
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the Democratic congresswomen – Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan and Ayanna Pressley, D-Massachussetts – were originally from corrupt and inept countries. Omar is the only one born outside the United States.
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump said.
On Monday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced plans for the House to vote on a resolution condemning the statements. Moran criticized the idea.
“That is just one more step in not solving the problem,” he said.
The four congresswomen held a Monday evening news conference in Washington, where they condemned Trump’s comments but also warned against letting them become a distraction in efforts to hold the administration accountable.
“The first note that I want to tell children across this country is that no matter what this president says this country belongs to you. It belongs to everyone,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
In Louisburg, Trump, and the tone he sets for the country, was a recurring theme.
“Our students are watching on Twitter, on all social media, on TV. And if you think for a second that they are not mirroring those behaviors, you are wrong,” Kimberly Hanson, a teacher at Olathe Northwest High School, told Moran.
Some called for Moran to denounce the president more forcefully. “Go on Fox and call out Trump,” one man shouted.
“Call out the Democrats who have called every Republican a racist. I’m sick of that,” another man said in response.
When Moran said he had not been on national television in several months, one woman said constituents want to see Moran disapproving of Trump’s actions “on a worldwide stage.”
At one point, Moran told the crowd lawmakers can attract attention by “throwing bombs” but that he wasn’t interested in that.
“My goal is to have a result,” the senator said. “My goal is not to pick a fight.”
Bryan Lowry contributed reporting from Washington.