The mud has been mopped up. The losers are exploring their options. The winners are refilling their coffers and reloading their rhetorical guns.
But there are some important questions that still deserve answers in the next phase of the congressional election of 2010. Among them:
-- If the GOP retakes control of Congress and somehow overrides a presidential veto to repeal “Obamacare” — as Senate candidate Jerry Moran and 4th District candidate Mike Pompeo and 1st District candidate Tim Huelskamp all want to do — then what? How would the Republicans go about covering the uninsured and, until now, uninsurable with pre-existing conditions? Pompeo and Huelskamp even opposed the recent expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. It’s easy to advocate more personal responsibility and buy-in and free-market reforms, as the Republicans do, not so easy to see how they would improve access and reduce the number of uninsured. And if the Democrats prevail in November and hang onto Congress, how would Raj Goyle, the 4th District’s Democratic candidate, “improve the bill by reducing costs”?
-- Wouldn’t banning congressional earmarks leave Kansas out of luck? Pompeo told The Eagle editorial board he’d “be an advocate for a project that makes sense” but wants proposals considered in a formal process in the light of day. The reality is that Rep. Todd Tiahrt, as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, made dollars flow and good things happen for south-central Kansas. Without the power to earmark, would Pompeo or any new congressman be powerless?
And as a state senator, Huelskamp voted against the comprehensive transportation plans passed this year and in 1999 because he opposed their tax increases; he even speaks with disdain about federal highway spending. But Kansas needs roads. If not through motor-fuels taxes or sales taxes or federal earmarks, then where will Kansas get the money to build them? And how does Huelskamp’s demonization of government square with the reality that, according to census data, federal spending represents more than 50 percent of personal income in parts of his district?
-- Exactly what would the candidates eliminate in order to close the budget deficit and reduce the national debt without raising taxes? If the problem is out-of-control spending, what would disappear as the Senate and House “downsize most areas of the federal government,” as Huelskamp put it; “eliminate agencies whose tasks overlap and cause confusion,” as Pompeo advocated; and “impose fiscal discipline,” as Goyle said? What would they do when the cost-cutting homed in on defense spending, including aviation contracts, and farm subsidies?
-- How do Goyle and 1st District Democratic candidate Alan Jilka propose to “stop exporting jobs and instead create incentives to lure American corporations that have moved offshore back to American soil,” as the latter put it? Would acting to “immediately repeal tax cuts for companies that ship jobs overseas,” as Goyle proposed, create new problems?
These and many more pressing questions will define the campaign ahead, in Kansas and nationally. For a while at least, our state’s voters can switch on the TV or fetch the mail without fear of being caught in the crossfire. And they can only hope that in the next round, the candidates will be more civil and the debate more constructive.