GIRARD — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran visited Girard as part of his listening tour Monday, and he left with a lot of feedback from residents.
Moran faced questions about his Independence Day trip to Russia, his stance on recent tariffs, the supreme court nomination, immigration troubles at the border, and questions about veteran affairs among others.
Moran opened his town hall praising two local students who were appointed military academies, and dove right into the concerns he has with the recent tariffs and how they affect Kansas producers.
“I’ve met with the Trump administration taking a message about the importance of trade,” Moran said “Ag is facing serious times right now. The tariff issues are ongoing.
“They need to be resolved in a way that increases the opportunity to sell overseas.”
Moran also took a question from a local business owner concerned about the tariff on paper from Canada. He expressed his frustration with the tariffs, explaining that the paper was not even manufactured in the United States.
Moran also voiced his concern about the pending farm bill, saying that he expected issues to come with work requirements and SNAP benefits.
Moran hit the issue of veteran healthcare hard, saying that his priority has been with service members since he was young.
“I remember how veterans were treated following Vietnam, and I made a commitment when I was young to make up for that any way I could,” Moran said. That commitment continued two years ago when Moran helped pass The Choice Act allowing veterans more than 40 miles away from a Veterans Affairs Hospital to go to their local doctors.
Moran said the VA made the program hard for veterans to take advantage of, and that he’s working hard to make it more accessible to vets. He informed the crowd about a recent change to the program which would allow hospitals to receive compensation for veterans which is closer to their average costs instead of at Medicare levels of reimbursement.
“The VA says veterans don’t need this program, I don’t think that’s the case,” Moran said “I think veterans want to be able to see their hometown doctor, and go to their hometown hospital.”
Moran also emphasized how dedicated he was to ensuring Kansas infrastructure is a priority, noting he would not have placed the repeal of the Affordable Care Act above roads and bridges.
“We expected to consider infrastructure first, instead Congress decided to take on the Affordable Care Act,” Moran said “I’m now on every committee possible that involves infrastructure.”
Moran that he often asks constituents if they are willing to pay more fuel taxes to get better roads and bridges. He said he finds people are, as long as the money only goes to infrastructure. Moran continued, saying he supports a bill which provides federal money to local entities.
The Senator faced pointed questions from the crowd about the removal of children from their parents at the border. Moran responded the situation does not represent American values, and was causing more problems for people than we need to.
“I do not believe we should be separating children from their parents.” Moran said. He explained he and other senators sent Jeff Sessions a letter cementing that stance.
He also broke with some Republicans on the possible change requiring a simple majority to pass bills through the senate, instead of the current 60 votes. He said that removing the required 60 votes puts senators from rural areas at a disadvantage, as it requires the party not in power to reach across the aisle.
“I always consider myself from the minority because I come from rural America. The current system gives me more power to represent you,” Moran said. “With 60 votes, when the administration needs something they have to come knocking at my door. With simple majority they don’t.”
Moran said the current state of politics concerns him, with everyone looking for a victory, and very concerned with party.
“We are to the point where what team we’re on matters too much,” Moran said. “No member of the U.S. Senate should make their decisions based on who the president is.”
Moran also quickly denied any suggestion that his recent trip to Russia was an overly friendly one.
“I remember getting under my desk as a child during the Cold War,” Moran said. “My message to Russian officials was if you want a different relationship with the U.S., get out of our elections.” Moran also spoke with concern over Russia “harassing embassy staff like crazy,” and Russia’s involvement with Crimea.
He informed the crowd he was clear with Russian officials that the sanctions put in place were enacted by Congress, would have to be removed by Congress, and would remain until the country changes its behavior
He went on to praise staff at the U.S. embassy, saying watching Marines bring in the flag was especially meaningful. He said that he has hopes for the future since the relationship has come so far since the Cold War.
However, he was cautious in regards to Russia.
“Russia with Putin in charge will do everything he can to disrupt our way of life… Russia is not a friend,” he said, adding the recent indictments of 12 people by the FBI proves sanctions are still needed.
He spoke with confidence about the federal investigation lead by FBI agent Mueller, saying he had indicated “over and over that the investigation is important” and Mueller is an agent with “integrity.”
“The investigation needs to run its course, and not be meddled with by the government or the administration,” he said.
He added that he hopes the investigation is completed in a manner that leaves no doubt about the findings to avoid more dissension.
When pressed by a resident about the possible outcome of the current FBI investigation in relation to the Trump administration, Moran was quick to point out that this reason was why he wished to hold hearings on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
“I want to ask about his writings to the law review,” Moran said. “I’m not out to get anyone, but no one is above the law.”