Editorial: At town hall, Rep. Kevin Yoder offers facts, but there’s more to the story

We thank Rep. Kevin Yoder for answering constituent questions during a town hall meeting Tuesday at Olathe City Hall. But he should have been more candid on several issues.
We thank Rep. Kevin Yoder for answering constituent questions during a town hall meeting Tuesday at Olathe City Hall. But he should have been more candid on several issues. along@kcstar.com

Rep. Kevin Yoder got an earful Tuesday evening at a town hall hosted by The Star’s editorial board.

We thank him for participating. He should do more town halls.

During the 75-minute session in Olathe, the Republican showed a grasp of issues that puts President Donald Trump to shame. The audience, selected at random, was smart and engaged.

But Yoder was not always candid about the full impact of the measures he has supported and the implication of his positions.

He offered constituents lots of candy but didn’t talk enough about the meat and potatoes.

We’re happy to offer the full meal.

▪ Health care reform. To his credit, Yoder said he opposes attempts to force the end of Obamacare by letting insurance markets collapse.

But he rejected single-payer, government-issued health insurance, derisively calling it “Medicaid for all.”

The congressman’s statement was misleading. No one is talking about universal Medicaid, which is a state-federal program and far from a single-payer system.

They’re talking about Medicare for all. Medicare is single-payer.

▪ Guns. Yoder quickly said “yes” to an audience member who asked if gun violence was a problem in the U.S.

But the Republican quickly fell back to easy talking points, saying he opposes restricting the rights of law-abiding Americans to own firearms. Despite the heated rhetoric, there is no legitimate proposal to yank guns from people’s hands.

What needs to occur is a deeper inquiry into why current gun laws — background checks, mental health restrictions, bans on straw purchases — aren’t working.

▪ Immigration. Yoder clearly understands the unfairness of the current immigration system, calling it “completely backwards.”

Yoder discussed efforts to help eliminate the backlogs for highly skilled workers to enter the country legally, the Fairness for High-Skilled Workers Act. He rightly opposes Sen. Tom Cotton’s RAISE Act, which would cut legal immigration in half over the next decade.

▪ Federal spending. Yoder called Environmental Protection Agency spending “bloated,” an idea that prompted a chorus of deserved boos. He called for revenue-neutral tax cuts, which may surprise some GOP leaders.

He said federal regulations cost too much money. But regulations also save lives, a fact Yoder never mentioned.

▪ LGBT issues. Asked by an audience member about LGBT issues, Yoder stated flatly, “I don’t believe that we should discriminate against anybody.”

He also expressed a willingness to consider new laws assuring equal protection, a welcome statement.

Without prompting, he opposed Trump’s bewildering tweet-ban on transgender military service members but said he doesn’t think taxpayers should fund gender reassignment surgery. That political gambit may not satisfy everyone.

▪ Civility. Yoder made repeated references to bipartisanship and the need to work with all sides to improve government.

But Yoder’s record has been reliably conservative. In 2016, the watchdog website Govtrack judged him the 128th most conservative member of the House out of 439 members tracked.

Yoder was tied with Rep. Jim Jordan, a founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus.

The congressman has worked with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver to encourage more civilized debate. It showed: Tuesday’s town hall was respectful.

We think it was valuable, too. Not only for what Yoder said, but for what he didn’t.