U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall spent almost an hour answering questions from a crowd of more than 60 people Friday during a public town hall in the basement of Ellsworth’s J. H. Robbins Memorial Library.
The questions covered a variety of topics, everything from his voting record to Ukraine, the southern border, convicted sex offenders, difficulties in getting medical supplies, COVID-19, wind towers and the integrity of elections. Here’s a sample:
COVID-19 policies — Dr. Kurt Williams, Ellsworth dentist, asked what can be done to fight the federal policies regarding COVID-19 that are not working.
“By the time Omnicron is done, 95 percent of Americans will have some level of immunity, maybe 97 percent,” Marshall, a Kansas Republican, said, adding that natural immunity to COVID-19 is better than vaccines.
“It is time for America to move on. It’s time to start applying common sense, focusing on therapeutics.”
Is there any research you are aware of on whether wind turbines affect the weather? — “I’m not aware of any,” Marshall said. “On the one hand, certainly, I want to leave this world cleaner
than I found it. I applaud American ingenuity. We’re at a 25-year low for carbon production, we’re 14 percent less today than we were a decade ago.”
Marshall said he favors the use of clean, new, affordable energy, but he also supports taking traditional energy sources and making them cleaner.
Registered sexual offenders living near schools — Jeff Landon said Ellsworth recently had a lifetime registered sex offender living in an apartment directly across from Ellsworth Elementary School. While that situation has been remedied, Landon has discovered that under the law, drug offenders can’t live within certain distances of schools, but sex offenders can.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Landon said.
“I appreciate bringing it to our attention,” Marshall said. “My first question would be should it be a state law or a federal law.”
Friends across the aisle? — Ellsworth Mayor Dan Finnegan asked Marshall if he has friends across the aisle that he socializes with.
“Absolutely,” Marshall said, adding the Congress has a bipartisan prayer breakfast every Wednesday attended by about 20 people.
“So that’s a good niche of friends,” he said.
Marshall said he is friends with Democrat Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.
Tax burdens, food stamp benefits and Marshall’s voting record on Tax Bill HR-1 — Jerry Marsh of Ellsworth asked Marshall about remarks he had previously said on tax burdens on Kansans, food stamp benefits and his voting record on House Bill HR-1, dating back to 2017.
“I’d like to see you show more consideration for those residing not so comfortably at the bottom,” Marsh said.
Marshall said while he appreciated Marsh’s views, he is opposed to his characterization.
“The tax cut bill, the average Kansan saved $2,000,” Marshall said. “And of course, the bottom folks aren’t paying much taxes to begin with. So I think the tax cuts were huge.”
Difficulties in getting medical supplies/overseeing federal medical mandates — Jim Kirkbride, chief executive officer of the Ellsworth County Medical Center, said the medical supply chain is “a disaster right now.”
“We meet five times a day to basically talk about where we’re getting our masks and where we’re getting our blood,” he added. “It’s getting to a crisis level.”
Kirkbride also said he is concerned there is no credible federal watchdog that is looking out for the rights that are being taken away from medical professionals.
“Hospitals, for decades now, have taken universal precautions,” he said. “We’ve also had confidentiality rights and laws. I am very concerned that as we go through this crisis (COVID-19) that we’re taking away common sense rights and that we’re not going to survive confidentiality and universal precautions going forward to the next crisis.”
“I don’t have a good answer for you,” Marshall said. “Except to acknowledge what you are saying is the gospel truth.”
Marshall said the root of the problem is that medical officials at the federal level want to justify their power.
Leading after a “Red Wave” in Congress — One person asked whether the Republicans were in a position to put America First again, if they were to flip the House and Senate in November.
“I think we are,” Marshall said. “But the challenge is this. No one ever comes to me and says we want the federal government to spend less money on my program. Where are we going to cut, where are we going to trim? Certainly I think we’re going to stand up for constitutional rights, but we’ve not done a good job of balancing the budget, though, in the past.”
Election integrity — “Election integrity is the backbone of our democracy,” Marshall said. “And it has to be a huge priority.”
Marshall said the Constitution clearly says the states shall determine the time, manner and place of elections.
“So my biggest job right now is keeping Nancy Pelosi (U.S. House speaker) from federalizing the elections,” he said. “If she would have her way, she would tell Kansans we cannot use voter ID (identification), and that we would have to send out unsolicited ballots.”
Legislation in the Meat Packing Industry — One person asked about a legislation that would balance the playing field between the consumer and the producer.
“Certainly, this issue has gone up and down and it’s going to keep going up and down,” Marshall said. “The problem is we have more packing plants controlling 85 percent of the beef processing. I’m concerned that whatever legislation we write could make it worse.”
He said the “Product of the U.S.” label is a misnomer.
“They’re taking raw beef from Brazil and mixing it with American beef and calling it a product of the U.S.,” he said. “It’s a lie.”
Marshall said work is ongoing that would allow smaller packing plants to be able to sell beef across state lines.
“But until we are willing to say that one or two packing plants are controlling the industry, I don’t know what legislation I can write that’s going to fix it.”
Marshall ended the session on a personal note.
“I’ve stood up here and told you what I’m against for the most part,” he said. “But I want to tell you what I’m for.”
He said President Joe Biden had a good question — what are Republicans for?
Marshall said he was for good jobs, a strong economy, stopping inflation, secure borders, law and order, personal responsibility and protecting our “God given” constitutional rights.
“I believe the Second Amendment protects the First Amendment,” he said.
Marshall said he also believes in the sanctity of life, a strong military, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility and balancing the budget, faith, family, community, hard work and education.
Marshall said education is a great equalizer.
“It gives us all that opportunity to pursue our own happiness,” he said. “No one promises happiness. We are promised the pursuit of happiness. My job is to pursue it, so these younglings can have their own pursuit of happiness.”