Moran rolls with rhetoric on listening tour

LYNDON—Most of the area’s political representatives and I are on a first name basis. I’ve been in the area a while, and I’ve been in meetings with most of them several times.

As they go up the hierarchy, frequency of visits and familiarity decreases. Congressional House members come around every month or two, and the last one’s listening tour drew three people, myself included.

Senators are a more rare bird, so I wasn’t surprised when a couple dozen residents and a few lobbyists attended U.S. Senator Jerry Moran’s visit Saturday morning at the Lyndon Community Center.

Moran spent just under an hour in Lyndon, his self-reported 1,117th town hall meeting, before moving on to the next stop in Garnett. He opened with remarks on the administration, and the status quo in Washington, D.C., which he’s been a part of as a congressman and senator since 1997.

“We can’t continue to do what we’re doing,” said Moran. “We need to make certain we’re on a different path than the one we’ve been on for a long time.”

He opened the floor to questions and comments after a few minutes, and the conversation waivered between local and national issues. He fielded early questions about the budget and Supreme Court justices’ life terms.

“Balance of power doesn’t seem to be working in D.C.,” Moran said. “But the closest thing you have to deterring outcomes in D.C. is me and my colleagues.”

He acknowledged people might be frustrated with them from time to time.

Moran responded to a call to defund Planned Parenthood, a bill he recently co-sponsored, which fell short of the 60 votes needed to pass without debate.

“We have voted on a bill to take the money that goes into Planned Parenthood and use it at community health departments,” Moran said.

The National Association of Community Health Centers received just over $5 billion in federal appropriations this year, around 10 times the federal dollars that reach Planned Parenthood.

“Planned Parenthood is difficult,” Moran said. “There is no appropriation that says this amount of money goes to Planned Parenthood.”

The organizations federal funds come through grants and Medicaid. Federal law already mandates the money can only be used for the organization’s other functions, which include family planning, birth control and screenings. Moran’s intent was clearly to punish Planned Parenthood for their association with termination.

“You’re just taking them away from an organization that is involved in abortion,” he said.

Moran later agreed with an audience statement that Planned Parenthood only refers women’s health issues to other clinics.

The crowd focused much of the conversation on veterans’ issues, which Moran championed as well.

“I called for the resignation of the last secretary of Veterans Affairs,” Moran said, admitting that probably was not why he resigned.

Several audience members cited road blocks in receiving services from the organization, particularly from the Topeka office.

“The VA has had problems for as long as I’ve been paying attention,” Moran said. “Until recently, I thought they were trying to solve their problems.”

Moran indicated he would like for services to be provided locally, asking residents where they would like to go.

The lobbyist at the back of the room entered the conversation later in the meeting, allowing Moran to address reductions in highway funding and the need for replacing No Child Left Behind.

“Because of No Child Left Behind, we underemphasize arts,” Moran said, arguing against teaching for tests.

He took an unpopular stance on the 18.2-cent federal highway tax, which he said was insufficient.

“Cost of construction has gone up, automoiles have become more efficient, surprisingly, we buy less gas,” Moran said. “It doesn’t generate enough money anymore to take care of the highways.”

He spoke out against moving prisoners from the military base at Guantanamo Bay to Leavenworth. He said the issue was related to the training of foreign commanders at Fort Leavenworth, and issues with housing prisoners down the road from where we attempt to create allies.

“Why don’t you just shoot them,” shouted one member of the crowd. “Nobody’s got the guts to do anything anymore.”

He said Moran was exempt from the blame, but most of Washington was guilty.

“There’s a lot of political correctness up there,” Moran replied.

“And what is political correctness?” the man asked.

“It’s not doing the right thing,” responded another audience member.

“Correct,” Moran agreed.

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