Republican Senator Confronted by His Daughters’ Pediatrician over Health Care Bill

Kira Lerner Political Reporter, Think Progress

Last month, as the Senate GOP was crafting its health care bill in secret, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) faced angry constituents at a town hall when he said he would vote for an Obamacare replacement, even if there were no public hearings.

On Thursday, he told constituents in his rural Kansas home county the same thing. But Moran — one of just three Republican senators holding a town hall this recess — received a better reception this time because of his decision to come out against the Republican health care bill last week, after the vote was delayed.

Constituents thanked him for that decision and urged him not to support a plan that would take insurance away from Kansas residents.

One constituent who spoke out was Bob Cox, Moran’s daughters’ pediatrician, who joked that he knew the senator’s daughters before he met Moran.

“The federal government is charged with the protection of its citizens from external threat,” Cox said. “The U.S. military provides this service, and it’s funded appropriately. We as a culture have not accepted the responsibility to protect citizens from internal threat, disease and injury.”

Cox noted that taxes might increase to protect against internal threats of disease, but the benefits would outweigh the costs.

In response, Moran focused on the problems with Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), saying Congress needs to address the underlying causes of rising health care costs.

He told Cox he would support an ACA replacement on four conditions: If it’s affordable and protects people with pre-existing conditions, if it protects rural health care, if Kansas isn’t disadvantaged for not expanding Medicaid, and if the expense of the plan doesn’t inhibit job creation, according to Topeka Capital-Journal reporter Allison Kite.

“These are all things we’ve heard before,” Mark Baum, who represented Indivisible-Kansas City at the event, told ThinkProgress. “He didn’t really say what about the bill caused him to say no before. I wish he had been a little more transparent about that.”

Overall, the event was calmer and quieter than many Republican lawmakers’ recent town halls. At one point, a constituent yelled out: “Thank you for your opposition to the Senate health care bill.” The crowd, which included people standing in overflow areas in the back of the community center, applauded.

Another voter pointed out that Moran was one of the first Republican senators to propose legislation to repeal Obamacare. “It couldn’t have been easy for you to say no last week,” the voter said.

Moran criticized the process the GOP was trying to use to pass the health care bill on partisan lines, without public debate. He claimed that the health care debate is “almost impossible to solve” with just 50 votes in the Senate.

“There are people who tell me there are better off [under Obamacare] and I believe them,” he told constituents.

Even in a county that voted for Trump by 72 points and Moran by 80 points, the senator did face backlash from voters at times, including when one constituent asked whether he would support future Republican health care proposals if they move through Congress without input. “If public hearings are not held in the senate on the next bill, will you withhold your vote?” she wanted to know.

“I will not, necessarily,” the senator said, to audible disagreement.

“I’m waiting to see what the next version of this bill is,” he said later.

At another point, Moran spoke about one issue in health care being the need for people to have a healthy lifestyle. “Stop blaming the victim,” one man yelled out.

Multiple voters asked Moran to consider a Medicare-for-all system. Moran heard his constituents’ concerns, took questions and comments for roughly 80 minutes, and tried to find common ground.

“Who in the room doesn’t have a pre-existing condition?” he asked at one point. “Don’t we all?”

Baum said he appreciated his senator’s willingness to hear from constituents, given that many GOP lawmakers will not, but noted that he expects more from his representatives.

“He’s showing himself to want to have well-reasoned positions on this topic, but it’s a pretty low bar to [praise] your congressman for having thoughtful positions on huge issues like this,” he said. “It’s also a low bar to [praise] your senator for coming back to the state to have meetings like this… It’s something to be expected.”

Kira Lerner is a Political Reporter for ThinkProgress. She previously worked as a reporter covering litigation and policy for the legal newswire Law360. She has also worked as an investigative journalist with the Chicago Innocence Project where she helped develop evidence that led to the exoneration of a wrongfully convicted man from Illinois prison. A native of the Washington, D.C. area, Kira earned her bachelor's degree at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work