U.S. Representative Tracey Mann holds Garden City town hall event to discuss legislation, party divides

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
US Rep. Tracey Mann talks about how he sees the legislative session going so far in Washington D.C. Thursday during a town hall meeting at St. Catherine Hospital.

U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann, R-Kansas, held a town hall event at St. Catherine Hospital Thursday evening. 

At the meeting, Mann gave an update on what he's done so far this session, saying he's authored 12 pieces of legislation, co-sponsoring about 125 bills and cast 220 votes. 

The country is divided politically right now, Mann said, which can be seen in the Senate and House of Representatives. The Senate is split 50-50 and the House only has a four vote margin out of it's 435 members. 

This makes it hard to pass things, Mann said, as members have moved further left or right rather than towards the center. 

"You would think knowing that that the party control at this time, maybe Democrats would maybe moderate and move to the center to protect kind of their more vulnerable members, but we've actually seen the opposite, we've seen them take a hard left turn and really push through some policies that are very unpopular here in the district that an overwhelming number of Kansans would not agree with," he said. 

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One piece of legislation that passed the house is HR-1, which seeks to federalize elections, Mann said. He disagrees with it.

"I don't think Finney County needs Washington D.C. to tell them how to run an election," he said.

Mann also said efforts to defund the police and efforts to decreased the second amendment have passed the House but are stuck in the Senate. He is not in favor of any of them.

"I've opposed all those things and things are passing the House by very thin margins, but they're still passing," he said. "So far though they are all locked in with the Senate, because in the Senate although it's 50-50, to really pass much of anything because of their filibuster rules you really need 60 votes not 50, and there's not 60 votes in the Senate. Those things all so far are stuck in the Senate."

The biggest piece of legislation that has passed the House and Senate and was signed into law in March was the American Rescue Plan, which has a cost of $1.9 trillion, Mann said. 

Included in that legislation is Federal Unemployment Benefits, and a lot of people are talking about it, Mann said. 

"It's where the federal government is paying people $300 a week to stay at home instead of returning back to work," he said. "I hear repeatedly all over the district the challenges of our small business owners, hospitals, schools, our employers getting people to go back to work. Those Federal Unemployment Benefits going away won't solve the problem certainly, but it will help."

Debt concerns

Mann also expressed concern over the national debt which is approaching $30 trillion. 

The numbers are mind blowing and $6 trillion was added in 2020, Mann said. He was concerned 10 years ago when it passed $13 trillion, but is more concerned now when the proposed budget would add an additional $6 trillion.

"We cannot afford to spend money like this and not think there's going to be impacts in our economy and not just for future generations but for all of us to continue to, for the federal government to continue to doing the services and the things that they (need to)," he said. " We're really concerned about that right now, so we've been pushing back there." 

Mann also discussed $2 trillion infrastructure bill and how $100 billion, or about 5% of it goes towards roads and bridges, what he considers traditional infrastructure. 

"There's $86 billion for climate change research, there's $180 billion for electric vehicle charging stations and I think there's $300 billion to retrofit people's houses and commercial buildings to make them more environmentally friendly," he said. "Basically it's taking the tenets of the Great New Deal, call it infrastructure and trying to push it through. That's what we're seeing there."

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It's disconcerting, Mann said, because there's bi-partisan support for a lot of things, such as roads and bridges, but the other infrastructure things are not something that would pass in a bi-partisan nature. 

He's concerned with how the bill will be paid as it will raise the corporate tax rate by 7% or 8%, raise capital gains by about 41% and would do away with the Stepped-up Basis, which adjusts the value of an inherited asset. 

That's a big deal to small businesses and agriculture, Mann said. 

"We have a lot of generational family farms that transfer land from one generation to the next without having to pay estate taxes ... so a lot of people have asked me about the Stepped Up Basis, well that's all part of this infrastructure bill right now," he said. 

Mann is optimistic that the Stepped-up Basis can be removed as a letter has been signed by a dozen House democrats that they do not agree to make changes to the Stepped-up Basis. 

Suppport from the community

Community member Mark Hinde said he attended the meeting to hear what Mann said and to get the perspective of someone who's in Washington, D.C. and what's going on there. 

He was impressed with what Mann has done so far and where everything is headed.

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"I liked some of his thoughts that he had on what's happening in Congress as far as trying to come to gather rather than the divisiveness we have right now, which there's a lot of that unfortunately," he said. "We seem to be on the left and the right and then nobody wants to come in the middle to compromise and just sit down and have a discussion about things."

Lara Bors, who is a member of the Government Affairs committee with the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce said the meeting was very informative and she also enjoyed hearing about the federal side of things. 

"Normally we just hear from our local representatives and senator, so it was nice to hear at the federal level what's going one," she said.