Politics & Government

Federal shutdown will soon sting aircraft, agriculture, but no end in sight, Moran says

As Johnson Controls executive Liz Haggerty and Sen. Jerry Moran look on, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell, right, plays with a snowball he made in a cold room at the company’s factory in north Wichita. The room is used to test heating and air conditioning components in simulated severe weather conditions.
As Johnson Controls executive Liz Haggerty and Sen. Jerry Moran look on, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell, right, plays with a snowball he made in a cold room at the company’s factory in north Wichita. The room is used to test heating and air conditioning components in simulated severe weather conditions.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran says the federal government shutdown will soon start to sting Kansans from farm fields to aircraft plants and even hospitals.

“I want the shutdown to come to an end; I’m sorry that we’re in a shutdown,” Moran said at the end of a tour of Johnson Controls, one of three Wichita businesses he visited Friday. “There are Kansans from time to time who will say, ‘Shut her down, it doesn’t matter,’ and I understand the dissatisfaction with government generally, but the things that government does are important to many people.”

He said the hurt starts with federal employees themselves. “Not having a paycheck, that would be a problem with every American family,” he said.

And as the shutdown lengthens, impacts will spread to more Kansans, Moran said. Some examples:

Aircraft manufacturers are unable to deliver planes because the Federal Aviation Administration office in Oklahoma City that issues aircraft titles to complete the sales transactions is closed. “That means we’ve got airplanes sitting on pavement in Wichita waiting for that government office to be open,” he said.

Farmers who were hurt financially by the trade and tariff battle with China will have to wait for federal aid to relieve their losses. “Those payments are now sitting on somebody’s desk and can’t be delivered,” he said.

During previous government shutdowns, some Kansans have faced delays in cancer treatment because federal health laboratory workers were furloughed and couldn’t process their medical tests, Moran said.

Also in a previous shutdown, military death benefits were delayed, meaning a Kansas widow couldn’t go to Washington to meet the plane bringing home the remains of her husband who was killed in action in the Middle East, Moran said.

The current shutdown is the result of an impasse between Congress and the president over a border wall.

President Trump has so far refused to agree to any plan to end the shutdown unless it includes $5 billion toward building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border to deter illegal immigration — a signature campaign promise he made in the 2016 election.

Before the shutdown, the Senate and House passed stopgap measures that could have averted it until next month and given more time for negotiations. But neither plan got approval from both houses and Trump announced that he wouldn’t sign the bills anyway.

The two sides grew further apart after Thursday, when the Democrats took over control of the House and promptly passed a spending bill with no funding for Trump’s wall.

Moran said he doesn’t yet see the endgame for the standoff between the President and Congressional Democrats.

“My hope is that it’s shorter, not longer, but it doesn’t seem to me that that’s the case,” he said. “There is conversation I’ve had today with folks in Washington, D.C., about maybe broader immigration legislation that deals with lots of immigration issues, plus border security, the wall. That may be a way to get the parties together.”

Moran was in Wichita to tour three of the city’s most prominent businesses: Cargill’s new headquarters on Douglas, Johnson Controls and Coleman.

Cargill recently completed construction of their new protein headquarters in downtown Wichita. Take a brief tour of the new building.

Johnson, Wichita’s fourth-biggest manufacturing company with 1,600 employees, sought Moran’s help with trade policy.

Working in the shadow of Wichita’s aircraft industry, Johnson has become a force in the HVAC market. Its north Wichita plant manufactures all the residential heating and air equipment sold under the York, Coleman and Luxaire brands, among others.

But the company has faced three increases in the price it pays for metal since March, when Trump instituted tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, said Liz Haggerty, the vice president and general manager of the company’s ducted systems division.

Johnson has used domestic steel for its products for years, said Chris Forth, a lobbyist for the company. But the increased cost of imported steel forced companies that had been using it to buy American metal instead, reducing the available supply and raising prices, he said.

Those increase have led to higher prices for homeowners, Haggerty said.

“If you’ve ever replaced the air conditioning system in your home, they’re not inexpensive systems,” she said. “So as we get compounded with price increases, it does have a big impact on consumers.”

Moran said he’d do what he can to help.

“This is an issue that you do not have to convince me about,” he said. “We’re outspoken critics of the tariffs. We think there’s a different way of dealing with China than we impose tariffs and they impose retaliatory tariffs.”

Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.


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