U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran told members and guests at the Hillsboro Kiwanis Club luncheon meeting Thursday that if Congress is going to accomplish anything of significance for the longterm future of the country, members of both parties need to get to know each other as people rather than adversaries.
?Republicans and Demo?crats have to figure out how to have some common language about things we care about,? the state?s first-term Republican senator told the 30 or so people who gathered at the Hillsboro Civic Center.
?I think there?s way too much focus on party labels, and I don?t think there?s much focus on trying to get this country on the right path,? Moran said. ?I don?t think either party has the sole understanding of what?s best.?
Moran made those remarks in response to a question about changing the political polarity that has paralyzed the nation?s capital.
Moran said his office experiences that polarity almost every day.
?Half of the people who call my office say to my staff who answer the phone, ?Tell Moran not to budge one inch,?? he said. ?The other half calls and says, ?Why can?t Sen. Moran work with his colleagues and get something done???
Moran said he believes both responses are rooted in concern for the direction the country?s heading under the policies of President Obama.
Moran said both callers are right?depending on the issue.
?There are a few things in which there is no room to budge?core principles, those things I so strongly believe and campaigned on,? he said. ?But that set of issues, in my view, is kind of narrow.
?There?s a much broader set of issues for which there is an opportunity for there to be a conversation.?
Building a bridge
As an example, Moran cited his experience with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a liberal Democrat from urban Connecticut who called him after being named chair of the Agriculture Appro?pria?tions Committee when both were serving in the U.S. House.
Instead of details about farm policy, DeLauro had asked Moran, ?What does a farmer do??
In response, Moran accompanied DeLauro on a two-day tour of Kansas farm country. The experience built a bridge between the two politicians that exists to this day.
?Rosa DeLauro is still a liberal Democrat member of the House of Representa?tives, and I?m now a pretty conservative Republican member of the United States Senate,? he said. ?But we still have something in common.?
Moran said politicians have to look beyond their differences.
?This is a very diverse country,? he said. ?There are many members of Congress who have no ability to get elected in Kansas, and a Kansan would have no chance of getting elected where they come from.
?People have different points of view?all of which is worthy of respect,? Moran added. ?My job is to try and figure out what?s good for our country, and in the proces try to work with people to get it going in the direction it should go.?
Moran said former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole figured out years ago how to do that in regard to farm legislation.
?Bob Dole figured out that with the absence of nutrition programs in the farm bill to bring in some urban and suburban folks, you?d never pass a farm bill,? he said. ?Farm policy is of interest only to a handful of us in Washington, D.C.?and it?s more that way today than when Bob Dole was there.?
In response to another question, Moran said raising the minimum wage to over $10 an hour is an example of Washington seeing one solution to many problems.
?I don?t anticipate voting to increase the minimum wage,? he said. ?If you have a minimum wage, then I think it ought to be more local than a national minimum wage. We (in Kansas) are significantly different from what the minimum wage would be in New York City.?
He quoted a university economist in Texas that estimated a $10 minimum wage could result in the loss of 27,000 jobs in Kansas.
?If you?re going to have a minimum wage, you need to take into account the young people just entering the workforce,? he said.
?We better be careful. If we?re going to try to instill in the next generation a work ethic, we better make certain they have the opportunity for jobs.?
Moran said Washington politics isn?t helping that situation.
?I don?t think this Con?gress and this president have done one thing to increase the chances that jobs will be created,? he said. ?We need to expand the economy instead of extending unemployment benefits and raising the minium wage.?
Asked about his perspective on school funding issues in Kansas, Moran tied his response to the state?s economic future.
?I absolutely agree that we need a tax code that encourages businesses to invest in?Kansas or remain in Kansas,? he said. ?But I?ve also always believed that for a business looking for a location, one of the primary criteria will always be whether there is a highly education, trained workforce.
?I would say we ought not walk away from what Kan?sans have always considered to be very important to our state?and that?s a high quality education system that provides us with thinking people for the good of our civic well being.
?But it also provides Kansas with a workforce that has a work ethic, and the skill set and common knowledge that education provides.
?Like many things, you have to find the balance. But I would put education as a high priority.?