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.”
Moran's daughters' pediatrician asks why the U.S. pays to address external threats through military, but not internal threat of disease. pic.twitter.com/CTEZnD5JK0
— Allison Kite (@Allie_Kite) July 6, 2017
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.”