Congress

Lone senator at the Capitol during shutdown: Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts manned the empty Senate chamber by himself Thursday afternoon, while colleagues from both parties remained away during the partial government shutdown.

Roberts and his wife Franki, who joined him on Capitol Hill Thursday, maintain a permanent residence in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside Washington.

The Kansas Republican told McClatchy Thursday that he has yet to make a decision on whether he will seek re-election in 2020.

“I’ve got to get back to Kansas and I’m going to be sitting down with my campaign team and I have to meet with all my family,” Roberts, 82, said in an interview outside the Capitol as he left for the day.

During his 2014 re-election Roberts was attacked by both Republicans and Democrats for not owning a house in Kansas. The senator had rented out his Dodge City house and was registered to vote at a friend’s property.

Roberts purchased a home in Topeka, Kansas, in 2016.

He joked with reporters Thursday about his presence at the Capitol. “I don’t know if I like you describing it like that, ‘I’m the only senator here,’” he said.

“We have not been able to reach agreement with regards to the leadership on both sides,” Roberts reasoned of his missing colleagues.

Lawmakers left the Capitol Saturday after failing to reach on funding for President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall. No votes are expected until at least Wednesday, virtually assuring the shutdown will continue into the new year.

Trump wants $5 billion for the wall, while Democratic senators have offered roughly $1.6 billion for fencing and repairs to current border barriers.

“Hopefully [Minority Leader ]Sen. [Chuck] Schumer, D-New York, and the Democrat leadership can get together with an appropriate number that satisfies the president for border security,” said Roberts, who faced a well-funded primary threat in 2014. “You can call it anything you want to, barrier fence... I won’t say the W word.”

The Senate was in session briefly Thursday afternoon. The House also met briefly but has no votes scheduled this week.

Andrea Drusch is the Washington Correspondent for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She is a Corinth, Texas, native and graduate of the Bob Schieffer School of Journalism at Texas Christian University. She returns home frequently to visit family, get her fix of Fuzzy’s Tacos and cheer on the Horned Frogs.
Emma Dumain works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where her reporting on South Carolina politics appears in The State, The Herald, The Sun News, The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. She was previously the Washington correspondent for the Charleston, South Carolina Post and Courier. Dumain also covered Congress for Roll Call and Congressional Quarterly.
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