The behavior of Kansas Senate Republicans during a caucus meeting Thursday is beyond disappointing.
It’s cynical. It’s mendacious. And it should be disqualifying for some who hope to lead the people of Kansas in the future.
To recap, senators grilled Majority Leader Jim Denning over his advocacy for a Medicaid expansion compromise he reached with Gov. Laura Kelly. He and Kelly appeared together in Wichita this week to stump for the legislation. His peers all but accused him of working with the enemy and damaging their election prospects.
What’s more, these Republicans made it known what they have skirted stating publicly: that their ultimate goal was not to pass a Medicaid expansion bill but instead to stop or delay it by all means possible.
“We had a conversation at the beginning of the session,” Denning told the group, according to Topeka Capital-Journal reporter Sherman Smith, “and she (Senate President Susan Wagle) said: ‘My leadership position as Senate president will be to kill Medicaid. Your position as Senate majority leader will be to do anything you can to pass it.’ ”
This is unacceptable.
Repeated polling has shown the vast majority of Kansas support expanding the insurance program that covers those with low incomes. Repeated studies show that such coverage improves health outcomes across the board. Some 150,000 Kansans would benefit.
This is not, and has never been a political issue. Health insurance literally saves people’s lives. The Kansas Legislature has dragged its feet on this issue for years — finally passing a bill in 2017 that was vetoed by the then-Gov. Sam Brownback and narrowly failing an override attempt.
Now that a Democratic governor actually wants to sign such a bill, making it happen should not be this difficult.
Bipartisanship is not a dirty word. Indeed, it is what the people of Kansas deserve and expect. Working across the aisle shouldn’t be a rare exception. It should be the rule in making a state that does the best for all of its residents, not just voters in the Republican primary.
The compromise reached by Denning and Kelly has a majority of senators signed on as co-sponsors. If brought up for a fair vote in the Senate, it will pass.
Further delays, further cynicism, further attempts to paint Denning as a villain will get us nowhere. And indeed, they may prove a self-fulfilling prophecy for Republicans worried about electoral damage.
If they do not pass Medicaid expansion, they will wholly deserve the judgment of voters this fall.