Kansas delegation to U.S. House takes partisan line on massive social spending bill

GOP lawmakers describe it as either garbage, reckless or irresponsible

By: - November 19, 2021 5:11 pm
U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, a Kansas Republican, voted Friday against a $2 trillion social safety net bill narrowly sent to the U.S. Senate, where it faces an uncertain future. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, a Kansas Republican, voted Friday against a $2 trillion social safety net bill narrowly sent to the U.S. Senate, where it faces an uncertain future. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The four Kansas members of the U.S. House took a partisan approach Friday to the slimmed-down $2 trillion domestic spending bill sought by President Joe Biden to broaden the social safety net, reform health care delivery and address climate change.

U.S. Reps. Jake LaTurner, Ron Estes and Tracey Mann, all Republicans, voted against the legislation they collectively labeled as either irresponsible, garbage or reckless. On the other side of the ledger, Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids said the package sent to the U.S. Senate was “fiscally responsible and paid for by making the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share.”

It narrowly cleared the House on a vote of 220-213, with a lone Democrat voting no. The bill could run aground in a Senate comprised of 50 Republican and 50 Democratic members. U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall, both Kansas Republicans, are expected to oppose the bill.

“Supporters of the reckless spending bill tout that it will change the United States of America, and they’re right,” said Mann, who serves the rural 1st District. “Over the past several months, my Republican colleagues and I worked tirelessly to amend the bill to drive down its cost and include provisions that would responsibly protect working Americans.”

He said the bill adopted by the House was a “threat to the fundamental values that make America the beacon of freedom.”

LaTurner, of the 2nd District in eastern Kansas, said the Build Back Better bill would contribute to inflation, make it harder for companies to be profitable and unleash more spending on Biden’s “far-left policies.” Residents of Kansas, he said, want the federal government to spend less.

“This bill also grants mass amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, allows taxpayer-funded abortions and paves the way for a government takeover of our health care system,” LaTurner said.

Much of the House measure would be paid for with new taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals capable of generating $1.5 trillion over a 10-year period.

Davids, the 3rd District Democrat serving Johnson and Wyandotte counties, said the House package would help control the cost of prescription medicines. It also benefit families by adjusting the cost of health insurance, child care and education, she said.

“It is not perfect, but it is overwhelmingly good, and it delivers on the policies that our community has supported from the start,” Davids said.

About $500 billion would be invested to speed transition of the U.S. economy toward a renewable energy future.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office published an official cost estimate that found the House legislation would add $160 billion to the federal deficit during the next decade.

Estes, the 4th District representative of the Wichita area, said the bill reeked of socialism because it was packed with social spending programs incapable of creating economic growth.

“Democrats point out a few select policies in this bill which they think can be marketed, but it’s disingenuous to say that trillions in more spending won’t lead to even higher prices and more inflation,” he said. “It’s reckless, irresponsible and disastrous for Kansas taxpayers.”

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.