Republican Senate could boost clout of Kansas lawmakers in Washington

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. (Pete Marovich/MCT)
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. (Pete Marovich/MCT) MCT

The clout of the Kansas congressional delegation could get a big boost if Republicans seize control of the U.S. Senate in November.

With just weeks to go until Election Day, polls suggest a Republican Senate is looking increasingly likely.

That’s key for Kansas because the party that holds the majority in the Senate determines who heads which committees and when – if ever – legislation comes up for debate or gets a vote.

Kansas’ current pair of senators, Republicans Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, both are poised to benefit in a big way if Republicans recapture the Senate. But so is Roberts’ challenger, independent candidate Greg Orman.

If re-elected, Roberts would be entering his fourth term as senator. His seniority puts him in line for chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee, a vital post for his state.

A victorious Orman also could wield outsized influence in a Republican Senate.

Orman has said he would ally with whichever party is in the majority. But if control of the Senate hinges on his vote, he’d be in a prime position to negotiate with Republican leadership – not only for a seat on the Agriculture Committee, but also for a spot on a more powerful Senate panel such as the Appropriations Committee, which doles out federal funds.

Perhaps the biggest winner, though, would be Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, who is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm that’s tasked with electing Republicans to the Senate.

As a first-term senator, Moran doesn’t have the seniority needed to claim the chairmanship of any committee by default. But his grateful colleagues could tap him for a leadership position as a reward for helping to deliver the Senate to Republicans for the first time since 2007.

“If Republicans can take control of the Senate, considering his position on the NRSC, Jerry Moran can pretty much pick what he would like in terms of committee chairmanships or roles,” said Chapman Rackaway, a political science professor at Fort Hays State University in Kansas.

“This would complete his rise, not just to statewide but national prominence,” Rackaway said.

Moran now is a member of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations Committee, where he is the top Republican on a panel that oversees funding for the Labor Department, Health and Human Services, education and related agencies. That subcommittee might be his best chance for a chairmanship.

The senator said in an interview that he expects to remain on those committees, and he’s open to additional assignments or leadership positions within the committees.

He won’t continue as chairman of the NRSC, however. Senate rules prevent him from running again, and he has no desire to do so anyway. He’s not seeking another party leadership position either, he said.

Moran said he doesn’t see the NRSC job as a stepping stone either to a committee or to any kind of leadership position in the Senate. He said the best reward for his work heading up the NRSC would be the opportunity to offer legislation and amendments with the expectation they would get a vote in a GOP-controlled Senate.

“What I do see is my ability to go to Senate floor and advance issues I believe in,” Moran said. “If we’re successful, if Republicans win the majority, I see this as an opportunity to fulfill the job I’ve already been given.”