Kansas Congressional Town Hall: Delegates talk COVID-19, stimulus, reopening and more

May 21, 2020
In The News

Kansas’ Congressional members came together, virtually, Thursday night to talk about the coronavirus and the federal government’s response.

It was all part of FOX4’s Kansas Congressional Town Hall, hosted by anchor John Holt. You can rewatch the entire show in the video player above.

The hour-long special was broadcast to more than 99% of constituents in Kansas, through a partnership with TV stations across the state.

All six US lawmakers representing the Sunflower State – Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran and Reps. Roger Marshall, Steve Watkins, Sharice Davids and Ron Estes – participated.

Another stimulus bill

Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest topics for Kansas’ leaders was the HEROES Act.

The GOP-controlled Senate has deemed the latest stimulus bill dead on arrival, and Roberts and Moran certainly shared those sentiments.

“I just won’t vote for the HEROES Act the way it is right now,” Roberts said.

Moran shared a similar, straight-forward response, saying he will not vote for the act.

 “We also don’t have an unlimited supply of federal taxpayer dollars,” he said. “I try to take federal dollars out of my vocabulary because every dollar we spend comes out of a taxpayer’s pocket or out of a future taxpayer’s pocket because we’re borrowing the money. So the answer is we don’t have all the money to fix every problem.”

But both Senators did note there could be potential for compromise or another bill offering assistance to Americans.

 “There is support for another bill, but we’ve got to figure out what have we done right, how can we improve the bill and how can we really be on target,” Roberts said.

Even some of Kansas’ representatives spoke out the decisive act. 

“What we’ve seen most recently with Nancy Pelosi’s HEROES Act is really a partisan wish list,” Watkins said. 

Davids, who is Kansas’ only Democrat in Congress but still voted against the HEROES Act when it was in the House, said she hopes another stimulus bill focuses on health care and infrastructure.

The House and Senate have come together three times now to pass relief bills, she said.

“It is a completely realistic expectation that we can do that again.”

Kansas outbreaks

Two industries have been hit hard during this coronavirus crisis: meat packing plants and, particularly, nursing homes.

Meat packing plants are plentiful in Kansas, where a large portion of the state is made up of farmland.

Estes said he and his fellow delegates have been working to make sure they get funding, so they can keep the plants running smoothly and keep Kansas farmers in business.

Marshall agreed, noting that when he saw outbreaks at plants in his districts, leaders focused their efforts on getting necessary resources to get them back open.

“We’ve not only flattened the curve out there, we’ve knocked the top off of the curve,” he said. “Those packing plants are still up and rolling, helping that local economy and the nation’s food supply.”

Nursing homes are undoubtedly, though, the biggest target of COVID-19 cases in Kansas. They make up majority of the state’s cases and deaths.

“Without question, that’s where we’ve really been hit,” Moran said.

Both Moran and Davids agreed that Kansas’ nursing homes and assisted living centers need help, largely in the form of more testing and PPE.

Election Day

While Kansas’ delegates seemed to largely agree that nursing homes and meat packing plants need support right now, there was some disagreement over one topic: mail-in voting.

Many Democrats are calling for mail-in voting for the Presidential election in November, allowing those who are concerned about the coronavirus the chance to still vote.

Like many Republicans, Marshall voiced concerns about voter fraud, calling it a “recipe for disaster.” He spoke strongly that Washington DC shouldn’t interfere in how states run their elections.

“We want Kansas to be in control of Kansas elections,” he said.

But Davids said at the end of the day, lawmakers should make sure that people can cast a ballot.

“I just think it’s really important that we don’t put people in a position where they’re trying to decide between their health and wellbeing and their fundamental right to vote,” she said.

Reopening the Sunflower State

Overall, Kansas’ delegates seem optimistic albeit cautious about where the state and nation are headed.

They’re still urging their constituents to follow guidelines from their local and state leaders and health officials, knowing that another peak could be just around the corner if we’re not careful.

“With freedom comes responsibility, and we need to make certain we do distancing, the precautionary measures that are necessary,” Moran said. “Once we’re out, we don’t want this to return.”