Tariff issues affecting Kansas, senator says

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, today talked with residents in a town hall meeting held at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame, Bonner Springs. (Staff photo)

by Mary Rupert

Trade and tariffs are important to Kansas, and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said he has voiced his concern to the president about tariffs harming the Kansas economy.

Questions about trade and tariffs are coming up at his town hall meetings, Sen. Moran said this morning after his town hall meeting at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs. Sen. Moran tries to hold a town hall meeting in each county in Kansas. At the meeting this morning were people from Wyandotte County as well as Douglas, Leavenworth and Johnson counties.

“The way we earn a living in Kansas is by exports,” Sen. Moran said today, mentioning airplanes, vehicles, wheat, cattle and corn.

“If a farmer tells me he just wants to take care of our own country, the question becomes which 48 acres of land in Kansas do you no longer want to farm or harvest? We can produce more than we can consume, and that’s how we generate income for our families,” he said during the town hall meeting.

Sen. Moran said the administration’s proposed $12 billion in disaster relief for agriculture was only a short-term fix. After the $12 billion to farmers is exhausted, in the future there will still be a lost market, which they have not replaced, according to Sen. Moran. Some of the customers of Kansas farmers, including markets in Brazil and Argentina, are already finding new sources in other countries to purchase agricultural products, he said. Mexico is also finding other sources to buy food, he added.

“We will never have the money that replaces trade,” he said.

According to Sen. Moran, a trade war also could raise the price of goods for consumers in America. There are other ways to hold countries accountable, he believes.

Even in Wyandotte County, Sen. Moran said he is hearing about trade and tariffs as an important issue.

International markets for goods made in Kansas are available to businesses and therefore to employees, based on trade, he said. The topic of trade and tariffs has been raised at every town hall meeting he has held for months, he added.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, today answered questions at a town hall meeting at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame, Bonner Springs. (Staff photo)

Alleged foreign hacking attempts

Asked about the alleged Russian hacking attempts into the American election process, Sen. Moran said, “I take the interference seriously.” He said Germany and France also have been targets of election hacking.

He said he is a sponsor of legislation that would assist states with better voting information. Part of the legislation would allow states to return to paper ballots, he said.

Moran said he made a trip to Russia and told them it needs to stop. “If you want the lifting of sanctions, this has to come to an end,” he said.

There are further Senate meetings scheduled on tools that may be available to penalize those who have interfered with elections, he said.

Holding the president accountable

Some of the audience asked Sen. Moran to stand up and fight against some of the president’s policies.

“How are you holding the president responsible?” an audience member asked.

Sen. Moran said he had meetings with the administration and president on several issues, including election tampering. While there’s nothing wrong with having a conversation with Russian leadership, the problem is what one might commit to in that conversation, he said.

“The president should have his meetings with President Putin with other people in the room,” Sen. Moran said. He added he believes there should be a conversation with Russia, and Sen. Moran’s message to Russia was, “You intruded on our elections, stop it. Get out of Crimea. Honor people’s borders. If you want a better relationship with the United States, if you want the sanctions to go away, do these things.”

Besides speaking out about trade and tariffs, Sen. Moran also said he has spoken on the Senate floor about his support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Also asked about special counsel Robert Mueller, Sen. Moran said Mueller was doing his job in the best way he could and they ought to let him do his job.

What is needed is an honest investigation, not biased, that will not pull the country apart once it is over, he said. While he is in favor of Mueller being allowed to stay in place and do his job, Sen. Moran also said he feels that people who are elected ought to have the opportunity to govern, and the voters’ decision to elect them should be respected.

“A lot of people are losing hope and faith because Congress is not standing up to him,” one audience member said.

Sen. Moran said the Electoral College voted and there is a legal determination of who is president. He said just because he may not agree with everything other people believe does not mean that those people don’t have the right to govern.

“I believe God created all of us, who am I to disrespect someone who God created because of their views?” he asked.

“There used to be a lot more respect and commonality even in diversity and disagreement,” he said.

Immigration and children detained at the border

When asked what he’s doing about children from other countries being detained at the border, Sen. Moran said he learned about it on a weekend, and that next Monday he spoke in Washington in opposition to a policy that would remove children from their parents.

“Since then, we’ve been encouraging administration officials to quickly reunite children and their families,” he said.

Hearing that some children’s parents had already been deported was troublesome to him, he said. He added he does not know if it is true that there is a danger to the children from people claiming to be their parents.

“I want all these kids back with their parents,” Sen. Moran said. “It was a mistake – a moral mistake, a values mistake – to separate them. I believe in enforcing our values at the border, but this is not the route that Americans should do.”

There are tremendous challenges that occur when children are separated from their parents, he added.

Sen. Moran said he believes a compromise on border security could be reached in the Senate, and possibly in the House.

It would be more likely to happen if the president would weigh in and support that compromise, he added. The question remains if there is something acceptable to the president that also would be acceptable to Congress, he said. Congress and the president will have to work together to find a solution, he said, and it takes cooperation.

Supreme Court nominee

Sen. Moran earlier released a statement about the president’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, who is awaiting Senate confirmation. Kavanaugh is widely expected to be confirmed. Moran’s earlier positive statement said that Kavanaugh was a “well-qualified” nominee with “extensive experience in the legal field.” He also stated he wanted to review the nominee’s legal writings and meet with him.

Monday, in answer to a question from the audience, Sen. Moran said that he would like to explore issues with Kavanaugh, including whether anyone can be above the law. Sen. Moran also thinks hearings should be held, and said he regrets the rules have changed, requiring fewer votes to pass issues.

“I wish that all aspects of nomination were still under the 60-vote rule,” he said.

Lori Slettehaugh, left, asked U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran about health care policy and Medicaid expansion today. (Staff photo)

Health care

Before the forum started, a teacher talked with Sen. Moran in the hallway about health care. Lori Slettehaugh of Lenexa, who teaches physical therapy in Kansas City, Kansas, was interested in health care policy and Medicaid expansion.

During the forum, Sen. Moran said he was the only Congressman holding town hall meetings during the health care debate, and his earlier meetings in Kansas received national attention.

At that time, he announced his opposition to the House plan on health care reform, because of what it would do to Medicaid. The House GOP had proposed to essentially gut the Obama health care plan. The GOP bill failed, and they moved on, he said.

Sen. Moran said they were successful in an issue that was significant to many Kansans, especially those with disabilities. He added that the issues of Medicare, Medicaid and health care were complicated in how they interact.

Karen Siebert, public policy and advocacy adviser at Harvesters, a community food bank, thanked Sen. Jerry Moran today for his help with legislation. (Staff photo)

The farm bill and SNAP

Karen Siebert, public policy and advocacy adviser at Harvesters, a community food bank, thanked Sen. Moran for his support of the farm bill. She said she appreciated his opposition to harmful amendments to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program, which provides food assistance to lower-income residents, and his support to the Emergency Food Assistance Program.

Farmers who are facing the effects of tariffs need the kind of support that the farm bill provides, she said, and lower-income people also need the stability the bill would provide.

Sen. Moran said he is working hard to get the farm bill completed. Something that ties rural communities to urban communities is the lack of grocery stores in some areas, he noted.

An administrative proposal for boxed food commodities delivered to lower-income people would have diminished the chances of keeping a grocery store open in some areas that already are challenged, he added. A vote is expected soon in a conference committee on this bill.

Cathi Hahner, director of volunteer services with the United Way of Wyandotte County, and a former executive director of the Ag Hall, thanked Sen. Moran for his support for federal grants that fund AmeriCorps and Vista volunteers in Wyandotte County. Grants fund more than 500 volunteers in Wyandotte County, she said.

Veterans benefits

Sen. Moran encouraged veterans to call his office about any questions with their health care benefits.

A new ruling is supposed to make it easier for veterans to receive health care benefits, but it doesn’t always work. Sen. Moran asked any veterans having difficulty receiving their health care benefits to call his office.

He cited an example of Veterans Affairs wanting to send a Wyandotte County veteran who needed a transplant to Indianapolis. His office was able to step in and arrange an agreement for medical treatment at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas.

Note: Sen. Moran’s name was inadvertently incorrect in the health care section of an earlier version of this story.

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