The Buzz

Pat Roberts’ pivot away from ag focus may have hurt

The year was 2004, and it was a year of decision for Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts.

He could continue to lead the Senate Intelligence Committee. Or, he could shift back to the committee and the issue where he had devoted most of his congressional career: agriculture.

He picked the Intelligence panel, a choice that put him in the middle of a desperate partisan fight over President George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq. Roberts became one of Bush’s top defenders, fighting often with the Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, John D. Rockefeller.

In 2005, as The Washington Post reports on Wednesday, Democrats forced a rare closed-door session of the Senate and accused Roberts of delaying an investigation into the run-up to the Iraqi war.

“The very independence of the United States Congress as a separate and co-equal branch of the government has been called into question,” Rockefeller told reporters at the time.

In 2011, Roberts returned to the Ag Committee. But these days, despite his long career in Washington and unquestioned GOP pedigree, Kansans are struggling to understand what Roberts has done for them.