BALDWIN CITY — Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran grappled with a vocal town hall audience eager for a single-payer national health system and to share their frustration with leadership skills of President Donald Trump.
Moran, who has served in the Senate since 2011 and represented Kansas in Washington, D.C., since 1997, said spreading federal health care dollars over an expanded population could result in diminished access to care in rural areas of the nation. He said investment in other reforms, including lowering pharmaceutical costs through greater reliance on generic medicines, shrinking the bureaucracy of medical billing and advancing treatment of chronic or deadly illnesses, had to be explored before plunging into a nationalized model like that of Canada.
"I'm not ready to sign up for Medicare for all," he said. "There are some of my colleagues would say this can all be handled by the free market."
He said the Affordable Care Act adopted in 2010 under President Barack Obama and the general Republican response to Obamacare were both deficient. The politics of health care has enabled policymakers to avoid the central question of why health care in the United States is so expensive, he said.
He said convincing enough members of Congress to set aside partisan positions and thread the needle with compromise has proven elusive.
In response, the crowd at Baldwin City Public Library shouted their remedy: "Single payer."
Several begged Moran to aggressively oppose Trump administration policy, while others asked the senator if there were a way to force his resignation or trigger impeachment. Moran said he had shared views contrary to those of the president on U.S. trade conflicts, Russia election meddling and the value of NATO.
He didn't volunteer tips on how to oust Trump before the 2020 election.
"The voters chose the president," Moran said. "My point is, elections matter and they should be respected."
The senator said he remained a fan of federal tax reductions signed by Trump, expressed concern the president's approach to tariffs didn't focus enough on nefarious conduct by China and affirmed a desire to leave in place special counsel Robert Mueller to complete the Russia inquiry. He said there was no doubt Russians meddled in the 2016 elections and that not enough was being done to deter repetition of the intrusion.
Moran said he hadn't made up his mind about Trump's nomination of U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I've not met with Mr. Kavanaugh. I will do that," Moran said. "I've reached no conclusion as to what my vote would be. My guess is your assumption would be that I'm more likely to vote to confirm him than not. I recognize the audience and the stereotyping that goes on."
On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh, noting the judge would be "impartial and fair," and asked Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to put aside their opinions about the president when voting on the nominee.