Government & Politics

Pat Roberts and Greg Orman see several issues differently in the U.S. Senate race in Kansas

Republican Sen. Pat Roberts (left) and independent candidate Greg Orman spoke in early September after a debate at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson, Kan.
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts (left) and independent candidate Greg Orman spoke in early September after a debate at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson, Kan. The Associated Press

With less than 50 days left to decide, Kansans pondering their choice for the state’s next U.S. senator have started their homework.

Some research may be easy. Voters likely know a lot about Sen. Pat Roberts, a three-term senator and a Republican, especially following his tough primary in August.

Independent Greg Orman may be less familiar to voters. Because he has never held elective office, reviewing his voting record isn’t possible. That makes his claims in speeches, debates and news releases even more important.

Here are six ways the two candidates differ on important issues. Our comparison was made after reviewing statements and votes.

Health insurance/Obamacare

Roberts has been a consistent and vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act, supporting its immediate and complete repeal. He called for the resignation of then-Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a family friend, after problems with the national website for insurance sign-ups.

He has called for health care “reforms” following Obamacare repeal, but he has not said precisely what those reforms would be.

Roberts has supported health care spending at times. He voted for the prescription drug benefit that was added to Medicare in 2003 and has supported federal efforts to expand health care delivery options in rural areas.

Orman has not expressed support for repeal of the entire Affordable Care Act and says the Republican Party’s repeal attempts are futile until President Barack Obama leaves office.

But he has criticized Obamacare as an expansion of a “broken system” and says he would have voted against the measure had he been in the Senate.

Immigration

Orman has criticized Roberts for the growth of the undocumented immigrant population during Roberts’ time in Washington. Orman says he wants to maintain or increase border patrols to reduce the flow of undocumented immigrants into the U.S., a position similar to that of Roberts.

Unlike Roberts, though, Orman supports a path to citizenship for some of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the U.S.

“It’s just not practical to say that we’re going to find and send back, to other countries, 11 million undocumented people,” he says on his website.

“If you are here undocumented, you should register, pay a fine, obey our laws, hold down a job and pay taxes, and then I think you should be able to stay here,” he said at a Kansas State Fair debate earlier this month.

Roberts opposes any path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally — he calls it amnesty.

“Who do we honestly expect to raise their hand, identify themselves as an illegal immigrant, agree to pay years of back taxes, pay an additional fine, get in line for a chance, just a chance, at getting citizenship in about a decade?” he said in a 2013 news release.

He also criticized Obama’s decision, since delayed, to allow some undocumented immigrants to remain in the country through an executive order.

Orman said he also opposes that order, preferring it be approached legislatively.

In 1986, as a member of the House, Roberts voted against an immigration bill backed by President Ronald Reagan. That bill, which became law, granted a limited amnesty to more than 2 million undocumented immigrants while prohibiting employers from knowingly hiring undocumented workers.

In 2007, as a senator, he voted to kill an immigration measure updating the 1986 law, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Gun show background checks

In 1999, Roberts voted against a Senate amendment requiring a federal background check for anyone buying a weapon at a gun show. He has consistently opposed gun control proposals.

This week the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action spent more than $75,000 for campaign materials supporting Roberts’ candidacy.

Orman says he is open to considering a required background check in order to purchase a weapon at gun shows.

“I just do not think it makes sense to make it easy for a convict … or someone who was under a restraining order for domestic abuse to be able to walk into a gun show and easily get a gun,” Orman said at the debate.

Roberts says that position threatens all gun owners.

“Don’t mess with people’s right to bear arms with any restrictions,” he said in the Hutchinson debate.

Abortion/Hobby Lobby/same-sex marriage

Roberts has voted several times for federal restrictions on access to abortion services. He also supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

He endorsed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case in which justices said corporations can decline to cover some medical practices in their employee insurance plans if the corporation believes those practices violate its religious beliefs.

“Every American has a right to the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to our Constitution,” Roberts said in a statement after the decision.

Orman thinks the Hobby Lobby decision was wrong.

“This is a dangerous precedent to set and opens the door to many more court challenges from private employers,” his website says.

Orman says he supports access to abortion services. He also says the government should not prohibit same-sex marriage.

Campaign finance

Orman recently proposed several reforms to campaign financing, including a ban on political action committees formed by congressional leaders and a ban on PAC donations from lobbyists to candidates.

Orman also called for a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which said corporations, labor unions and other groups have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts on elections.

Roberts supports the Citizens United decision and recently tried to block consideration of a Senate proposal allowing Congress to set limits on corporate campaign spending.

In the State Fair debate, Roberts said he supported “transparency” in campaign donations.

“If people know where the money is coming from,” he said, “I think that is the biggest reform we can make.”

Yet current law allows unlimited secret donations to social welfare organizations known by their 501(c)(4) section of the federal tax code. Roberts has not indicated any desire to eliminate those groups or prohibit their secret spending in elections.

In 2012, Roberts voted to kill a bill that would have required public disclosure of some donors to companies and labor unions that engage in political activities.

Term limits

Orman says he will serve no more than 12 years in the Senate if elected twice. He supports a constitutional amendment limiting congressional service to 12 years.

Roberts has been in Congress since 1981. He opposes term limits.

To reach Dave Helling, call 816-234-4656 or send email to dhelling@kcstar.com.

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