US Sen. Pat Roberts meets with local residents Wednesday at the Rock Island Depot. Roberts discussed transportation, health care and agriculture policies during his visit. L&T photo/Earl Watt
By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
For the second straight year, Congress has yet to approve a budget, and Kansas’ ranking senator in Washington brought a message to Liberal about the inaction in Washington.
“I’m dedicated to find a way, this year, to fix this,” he told a crowd that gathered Wednesday for the legislative discussion sponsored by the Liberal Chamber of Commerce at the Rock Island Depot.
Roberts said that President Barack Obama didn’t take a leading role in balancing the budget, and that let Congress make tough proposals.
“This is a crisis situation,” Roberts said. “We are getting to the point where the debt will not be serviced. That can happen if we don’t do our jobs. People will get upset. We are seeing that in Wisconsin.”
Roberts referred to the budget cuts proposed in the Badger State that included the removal of some collective bargaining on the behalf of unions.
But Roberts said the current levels of spending were unsustainable, and that he has fought by not voting for the bailouts.
“Right now, it’s all in the weeds,” he said. “People want to know, ‘Why can’t they just get the work done?’ We haven’t passed a budget. We haven’t passed an appropriation bill. Nothing.”
Some of the out-of-control spending included $12 million by former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius who, as Health and Human Services secretary, purchased an ad campaign to convince the public that the new health care law was good.
“I asked Kathleen, ‘What are you advertising?’” Roberts said. “Do you want the Ag department to advertise? Do you want other departments to advertise? It is unprecedented and it’s not right. Kathleen tries to make it sound good, but look at all the waivers and who’s getting them. It is misleading.”
One attendee pointed out that there is a misconception for those under the age of 65 that Medicare was a free benefit.
“My premium last year was $4,000,” he said. “My prescription costs doubled, and not from $1 to $2. It was $60 to $120.”
“Medicare is not free,” Roberts said. “I am a critic of the health care bill. I am having a special meeting in Topeka, and I am having them give me their top three concerns on the bill and how to fix it. We need to do a better job of fixing it, it is so messed up with regulations and 700 waivers.”
Funding is the critical issue, and with no one taking a leadership role, and with mounting debt and foreign bailout payments due, Roberts used football to explain the economic picture in Washington.
“(Obama) punted to the 41-yard line, and the Chinese have the ball,” he said.