For a public official unaccustomed to the limelight, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran can’t seem to avoid it when it comes to the national healthcare debate.
Moran’s Monday night tweet announcing his opposition to the latest Republican health bill triggered “breaking news” alerts on cable news channels.
And it briefly won him praise from the demonstrators who stage weekly protests outside his Olathe office. They cheered when Leslie Mark, an organizer for Indivisible KC, picked up a bullhorn and shouted “Thank you, Senator Jerry Moran,” to kick off Tuesday’s event.
Several carried makeshift signs thanking Moran for standing firm against the Affordable Care Act replacement bill that Republican leaders were attempting to push through the Senate.
But the celebratory mood evaporated just minutes later when news spread through the crowd that Moran had said he would support McConnell’s effort to move another bill forward, one that would immediately repeal Obamacare but not replace it.
“So, that was the deal he cut with leader McConnell,” Mark said in confirming the news. “You kind of knew there had to be something, right? So, the pressure is important and we’re going to step it up.”
Moran said in a statement released by his office Tuesday that while he doesn’t support either version of the Senate’s Obamacare replacement bill, he continues to favor repealing the law.
“I support the President’s efforts to repeal Obamacare, and I will vote in favor of the motion to proceed," Moran said, referring to McConnell’s plan to force a Senate vote on the repeal bill. "This should be followed by an open legislative process to craft healthcare policy that will provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansans.”
In an earlier statement that accompanied his Monday night tweet, Moran said the GOP Obamacare replacement bill written behind closed doors with the help of select lobbyists didn’t meet any of his stated objectives.
“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” he said.
Mark Read, of the Mainstream Coalition, traveled hundreds of miles to attend all of the town hall meetings that Moran held in western Kansas over Congress’ July 4 recess. At one point, Read said, Moran jokingly referred to him as his “groupie.”
The conversation turned more serious after the final meeting, Read said.
“He [Moran] said you have no idea how much pressure I’m under from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,” Read recounted. “But as you see today there is an opposing force to try to help him stay on a righteous path.”
Read said he believes Moran has taken a principled stand against the GOP health bills, not a political one.
“He’s really stepped out and supported, not just Kansas, but 50 other states and 25 million people,” Read said. On this issue, I think he’s going to do the right thing.”
However, Moran may not be put to the test on a repeal-only bill. Three GOP senators – Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelly More Capito of West Virginia – said Tuesday they were opposed to repealing Obamacare without a plan to replace it.
With no Democratic support for repealing the ACA, McConnell can afford to lose only two Republican votes.
Jim McLean is managing director of KMUW's Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics in Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @jmcleanks.