WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two fellow Republicans in the Kansas congressional delegation urged a reluctant Sen. Pat Roberts on Monday to support changing the Senate rules to make it easier for the party to push through its legislative priorities.
The sometimes testy exchange came at the convention of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association, typically a friendly venue for the state's all-Republican delegation.
Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who is not running for re-election, said she is "just about fed up" and doesn't think Congress is doing much of anything now. She got scattered applause when she called for getting rid of the Senate filibuster rule that requires 60 votes to pass legislation.
"I am telling you, we are crippled right now," she said.
Roberts didn't rule out voting to eliminate the filibuster, but he warned that such a move could ultimately benefit Democrats if they are able to win back control of the Senate in 2018 or 2020.
"You do that and if the Senate flips, look out," Roberts said.
Rep. Kevin Yoder said he wished the Senate would at least get rid of the filibuster rule in order to proceed to debate for legislation.
Roberts also got some unexpected pushback on the filibuster rule from a woman in the audience who told him President Donald Trump was elected because people were disgusted with inaction by congressional Republicans. He responded that he was willing to consider such a rules change but that "it would be a tough vote for me."
Yoder came to Roberts' defense, noting that the Senate didn't need 60 votes to repeal the health care law and the repeal effort still failed.
While the Republican-led Senate decided to waive the filibuster rules for the health care bill and to confirm Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned imposing such a policy on spending bills "wound fundamentally change the way the Senate has worked for a very long time."
Roberts told reporters after the panel discussion that he hopes the Senate can pass legislation with bipartisan support without resorting to killing the filibuster rule.
"I hope we don't have to do it," Roberts said. "If we have to do it, why we'll do it. But I think it is bad for the country. I think the Senate then becomes little more than the House and there would be no major difference and that would be counter to what the Founding Fathers wanted. Now, we are in a very troubled time and people want things done. I understand that."
Also on Monday, Roberts said that he had spoken to Trump about agriculture and the President had promised not to cut crop insurance for farmers. Roberts did not elaborate further on the details of his meeting with Trump.
Yoder told the oil and gas producers that tax reform is going to be the centerpiece of work in Congress this fall.
Congress is working closely with the Trump administration on tax reform, in order to "avoid the failure we saw on health care," Jenkins said.