Tim Unruh Kansas Agland

After schmoozing, listening and responding in yet another town hall meeting Thursday afternoon, Sen. Jerry Moran noticed rumblings of angst from the crowd of about 100.

Some of it was directed at him.

The Hays Republican accused the Democrat-controlled Senate of dragging its feet.

"People are tired of Washington, D.C., not getting things done," Moran said. "The efficiency of the federal government is lousy. The solution to the deficit is a growing economy, getting people working and paying taxes."

As a member of the GOP, he said, "We are a minority (in the Senate). We can't do it by ourselves."

A woman in the crowd reminded Moran that Congress's approval rating is 5 to 7 percent.

"That's you," a man remarked.

Jim Opat, 73, a retired school administrator, advocated putting pressure on Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader.

"You're making me be more partisan," Moran said.

To that, Opat responded, "Maybe you should, sir."

After the meeting, Opat said his point was "that somebody needs to rattle Harry Reid's cage to get some of the bills passed by the House over to the Senate. He's not doing our country any good."

Frustration shared

After the gathering in the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce Annex, Moran said he understood.

"I share their frustration. They're angry with congressmen and senators. They want results. People are tired of Washington not getting things done," he said.

"Sometimes, they're mad at me, but we've always had a good conversation. Kansans disagree in a respectful way."

Opat wouldn't mind some anger coming from Kansas' delegation in Washington, and he was encouraged that Moran showed some emotion Thursday about the Affordable Care Act.

Kathy Scharplaz, of Minneapolis, said lawsuits against the federal Department of Health and Human Services and its secretary, former Kansas Gov. Kathleeen Sebelius, involving forced distribution of contraceptives and health care providers having to perform abortions are working their way through the court system. Some find those aspects of the Affordable Care Act "morally objectionable."

"We all know it's going to end up in the Supreme Court," Scharplaz said. Some "weird decisions" have been coming out of the high court lately, she said.

"This shouldn't be subject to the arbitrary whims of the various courts," she said.

"You and I are compatible in our positions," Moran said. "I'm clearly on the side that we do not ask people to violate their beliefs. Washington, D.C., ought not be the place where we decide how everything works."

He amended that subject to include worry that rural America will be a big loser in the health care law.

Access to health care in small towns will be made more difficult, putting more burden on taxpayers, he said.

"The consequences mean that you're less likely to keep your hospital doors open," he said.

Moran told of a conversation he had with the owner of a grocery store in a small eastern Kansas town. The owner wanted to invest in a grocery store in a nearby community, but ramifications from the Affordable Care Act changed his mind.

Salinan Don Timmel asked about an official with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fining a Nebraska farmer for violating safety regulations. Moran likened that story to the labor department telling farmers' kids they couldn't work on the farm.

"We're trying to rein in OSHA," Moran said.

A man in the front row chimed in, "Maybe we can cut their budget."

Congress doesn't know much about rural America, Moran said.

"There is no understanding about what farmers do," he said.

Greg Stephens, a teacher at Kansas State University at Salina, advocated leaving the food stamp program in the federal farm bill (see story on Page A1).

Moran said he figures food stamps will be hinged to the farm bill, and he hopes the bill will pass in the next few weeks.

Stephens, who also is part of a farming partnership in western Kansas, wanted to know why some were attacking Country of Origin Labeling when 90 percent of Americans support it.

It's difficult to identify preserved meat when it's ground into hamburger, Moran said, and some players are concerned that United States trading partners want to impose retaliatory sanctions.

"I supported what we put in place (in 2008)," he said, but warned that "we need to be careful" about damaging the Kansas economy.

 

Tim Unruh is a reporter at the Salina Journal. To reach Tim, email him at tunruh@salina.com