U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) told a crowd of nearly 100 people in the Manhattan Public Library Friday evening that he hates the sort of politics that seem to have taken hold in the country.
Moran, who has a home in Manhattan and made his 90th stop for his town hall tour across the state so far, told the crowd he grew up as a rural Plainville kid engrossing himself in politics, but admitted it’s been difficult to hold that same youthful enthusiasm.
When one member of the audience asked Moran his thoughts on his party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, he walked around the question and ultimately announced he’d support the next president, no matter who it is.
When it came to any questions concerning political dysfunction, he said the problem is that opposing views are not listened to. He said there’s a lack of dialogue when it comes to different ideas. He threw some blame at President Obama for that lack of constructive communication and even more at Congress.
And it was that sentiment that shocked his own party in March when he was one of the few Republicans in Washington to call for the Senate to take up Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
“I would rather have you (constituents) complaining to me that I voted wrong on nominating somebody than saying I’m not doing my job,” Moran told constituents at a March 21 town hall in Cimarron, according to an article by the Garden City Telegram.
“I can’t imagine the president has or will nominate somebody that meets my criteria, but I have my job to do,” Moran also said. “I think the process ought to go forward.”
In Manhattan Friday night, a Moran supporter — a Democrat — told the senator she was disappointed in his reversal on the president’s nomination a few weeks later and the obstruction of the clear constitutional process when it comes to filling Supreme Court vacancies.
After the town hall, Moran told KMAN it was more or less out of his hands.
“The decision had been made that there would be no hearings,” he said. “There’s only one person — really two — who would make that decision: the chairman of the judiciary committee and the majority of the United States Senate, and that decision had been made.”
When Moran was asked to clarify earlier statements he made in March calling for a hearing, he said his mind was made up anyway and didn’t personally need a hearing.
“What I ended up saying was that no hearing was necessary to require me to figure out whether I was for or against Garland,” Moran said. ” I opposed the nomination of Garland — wouldn’t vote for him.
“I don’t know if I have anything to add to that.”
During the town hall, Moran said his Manhattan stops often show a more diverse constituency than others in the state and that the difficulty of being a senator is there is always one side of his constituency telling him to “not budge one inch” on an issue and another side urging him to be more open minded — often on the same issue.
Moran, who again faces primary challenger D.J. Smith from Osawatomie on Aug. 2, said this election cycle shows an electorate more zoomed out than zoomed in.
“I’ve been doing town hall meetings, listening stops across Kansas for awhile,” said Moran, who was first elected to the Senate in 2011 before being in the House of Representatives since 1997. “And over time those issues seemed to have changed. It used to be much more about local things, specifics.
“There will still be a request for help by a veteran, but broader than it used to be. People are concerned about the future of their country. They’re worried about the direction the nation is going — I think that’s particularly true of Kansans. So the issues, the conversations, are really more, in a sense, patriotic — what are we going to do to make sure our country is a great place for our kids and our grand kids?
“So a very unselfish thing. It’s broader than the farmer coming to talk about crop insurance or the school superintendent coming to talk about education policy. It’s a more genuine fear about the direction of our nation.”
Moran also said he’s still focused on the the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility in Manhattan, which is under construction and slated to open by 2022.
“NBAF is important to Manhattan and so important to our state,” he said. “I want to make certain that students who are interested in science, mathematics, research have opportunities for employment.
“We care about Kansas’ economy. We want to see jobs created, we want to see people more secure in their jobs.”
Manhattan resident Jim Hund, who is the president of Vanguard Home Designs in Manhattan, said he was happy to speak with Moran.
“I was reading up today about how he visits every county, every year, which is impressive,” Hund told KMAN after the meeting. “You hear a lot about senators who are really disconnected from their state, and from what I’ve seen this week he just seems like he really actually cares about being involved in the community.”
Hund asked Moran during the meeting if anyone in Washington cares about deficits and budgets.
“We’re 29 years old,” Hund said, referencing himself and his wife. “Looking ahead, is this going to be our generation’s problem? Do they care? Are we working to fix this or is this going to be thrown on the next generation?”
Hund was content with Moran’s response to that question.
“I thought he answered well,” Hund said. “He spoke honestly about how it was low on senators’ priority list. So basically, no, they don’t seem to care anymore. Not saying Jerry Moran doesn’t care, I’m just saying overall, for the senators, it’s low on their priority list.”
While Hund is correct that debt has been rising, the U.S. budget deficit has actually shrank since its 2009 peak of $1.4 trillion.
A CBS News report Friday said the White House is predicting a deficit of $600 billion for this fiscal year, which is a $162 billion increase over last year’s deficit.