U.S. Senator Jerry Moran walked Thursday into the basement of Doyle Creek Mercantile in Florence to a room of people anxiously awaiting his arrival.
Moran wasted no time in engaging the crowd, immediately introducing himself and his views to 28 people in attendance. It was the last of Moran’s 60 planned Kansas town hall meetings.
“I never know what to expect at these,” he said.
If there was apprehension in Moran, the crowd did not notice as he moved to the middle of the crowd, not to a podium set up in the middle of the room. The move kept the meeting informal; along with a joke here and there.
“I’m here to take complaints, suggestions, marching orders,” Moran said.
While unsure of the people asking the questions, the senator was prepared to address the major worries of the crowd: health care, the national deficit and budget, education, and agriculture.
Much of the hour-long meeting was a discussion devoted to health care. Constituents were primarily troubled by possible cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.
“My personal approach is to preserve Medicare the way it is,” Moran said.
Moran did not vote for the health care bill sponsored by New York Democrat Rep. Charles Rangel, and even voted to repeal the law signed by President Barack Obama. However, Moran does not support Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s counter health care plan because it does not adequately address Medicare and Medicaid.
“There are unintended consequences of pretending like we did something to solve the problem,” Moran said addressing both health care plans.
The first-term senator also said Americans need to be encouraged to take more preventative measures toward protecting their health. He said the fact that mammograms have just recently been covered by Medicaid and Medicare is ridiculous.
“People need to have ownership in their health,” Moran said. “The biggest bang for our buck is prevention.”
Moran took time to address constituent concerns about the national debt.
“Thirteen times we’ve voted to raise the debt ceiling; I’ve voted against it 11 times,” Moran said. “We need a constitutional amendment to balance the budget; it’s our responsibility to pay our debts.”
In the discussion of national budget, Moran cited a consistent theme of the meeting, addressing the partisan nature of congressional politics.
“We can limp along playing politics in good times,” Moran said, “but we can’t do it now.”
He said the divide between Democrats and Republicans is visible in special interests.
Moran said he voted against a Republican-backed bill to increase government-provided prescription drug benefits. He said the maneuver was a ploy to appeal to older voters in the legislators’ bases without regard to the raise in entitlements the bill would cause.
He also said he voted against No Child Left Behind as a representative.
“We need to get rid of the mandates that make no sense,” Moran said of education.
However, Moran is also wary of urban legislators pushing cuts that could affect rural areas.
“I have a great fear that there will be huge cuts in the agriculture budget,” Moran said.
With the mountain of issues piling on the desk of legislators, Moran said he recently contemplated retirement. Responding to the urging of his wife Robba, Moran decided to stay with his calling in politics to help fix national problems.
“This does affect the way I vote. I take this responsibility seriously,” Moran said of the town hall meetings.
Facts about Moran
In 83 votes as a senator, Moran has voted with the Republican majority 95 percent of the time.
As a former U.S. Representative, Moran sponsored 106 bills since Jan 7, 1997. Nine were successfully enacted. Moran has co-sponsored 1,162 bills during that same period.
Moran is part of 13 committees: Senate Committee on Appropriations; Financial Service and General Government; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Department of Homeland Security; Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education; Transportation and Housing and Urban Development; Banking Housing, and Urban Affairs; Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection; Housing, Transportation, and Community Development; Securities, Insurance, and Investment; Small Business and Entrepreneurship; veterans’ affairs; and Special Committee on Aging.
According to www.openscrects.org web site, Moran’s top campaign contributors in 2009-10 were: Koch industries — $41,050; CME Group — $24,600; Hallmark Cards — $24,400; Watco Companies — $20,700; and American Farm Bureau — $20,249.