U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) updated Garden City residents on negotiations regarding the government shutdown, and the latest news on Amtrak and veteran affairs Friday morning as part of a quick trip across western Kansas counties, including stops in Colby, Lakin and Ulysses.
“I don’t think a shutdown makes sense. I don’t think this one made sense," Moran said. "My experience when this has happened before is it doesn’t ever have the desirable outcome, and ... lots of people who, through no fault of their own, are damaged in the process."
Moran said the government was still, as it had been before the shutdown, locked in a standoff between President Donald Trump and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one that Moran said could be solved with “an appropriate give and take,” but could possibly drag on.
He said he believed the bipartisan committee charged with finding a new plan for border security funding will be able to reach an agreement, and he thought the government “should work very hard to make certain that we don’t end up in a shutdown again.”
“The question will become ‘Is it something that’s acceptable to get a presidential signature?’ and I don’t have an answer to that question at this point,” Moran said.
Moran said he and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) discussed possibly adding immigration legislation to a border security plan in an attempt to compromise, specifically a “fix” to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that would go beyond what Trump proposed during the shutdown.
Many aspects of immigration reform lack the votes to proceed, Moran said, but there may be enough votes for extending DACA.
“I started to say ‘I’m hopeful.’ I would say it differently. I’m hoping that there is a fix that avoids the mess that we’ve had for the last 35 days,” Moran said.
The Senate has seen some progress with its long-standing issues with Amtrak regarding the Southwest Chief rail line, which runs from Los Angelos to Chicago and has six stops in Kansas, including Hutchinson, Dodge City and Garden City, but still had a ways to go, Moran said.
The company no longer plans to shut down train service from Dodge City to Albuquerque, N.M., in exchange for a bus line, but has not agreed to contribute $4 million for track upgrades between Garden City and New Mexico, Moran said. He said the company is more interested in providing profitable rail service than providing long-distance passenger service across the country, and that he did not “trust what they’re going to do” in the future.
“We’re still paying a lot of attention to them and trying to hold them to what they promised to do in regard to transportation across our state,” Moran said.
Moran said the Department of Veterans Affairs is finalizing new regulations for the McCain, or VA, Mission Act, which Congress passed in June. The law allows veterans to use VA benefits at private doctors and medical facilities under certain conditions, which Moran said would especially help veterans in rural communities who live far from VA centers and clinics. He said the law also would help rural hospitals financially by bringing in more patients.
Moran addressed his support for the expansion of broadband in western Kansas and federal efforts to offer subsidies to improve service in the area. He said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who recently finished his confirmation hearing, had appeared in conversations committed to allowing farmers to sell E15 year-round.
He said maintaining trade with Mexico and Canada, major export customers for Kansas, through the Trans-Pacific Partnership was vital to the state’s economy, and that his pitch to the current administration would be not to withdraw from NAFTA until the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is in place and to reengage in the TPP.
“Maybe they’re right and the president’s on a plan that works, but I don’t know that. So, in the meantime, I’m going to make the case at every opportunity to tell administration officials, my colleagues in Congress, that we earn a living by what we export. We need to get this tariff battle to a conclusion as quickly as possible, and we need to keep our trade agreements in place,” Moran said.
Moran said he had only visited with new Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly briefly and did not know much about her stances but would be glad to meet with state officials to see how he could be of help with state issues.
“As I would I say in Washington D.C., I want the Congress and the president to work together. I want the Legislature and the governor to work together...” Moran said. “We worked that (way) with our previous governors, and we’ll be cooperative with this governor.”
Contact Amber Friend at firstname.lastname@example.org.