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EDITORIAL: Bad spot [The Hutchinson News, Kan.]

By The Hutchinson News, Kan.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Jan. 10--Members of Kansas' congressional delegation once again have made their tea party fan bases happy at the expense of the general citizenry of the state.

It was, in fact, the entire House delegation from Kansas that voted against the federal relief bill for Hurricane Sandy victims last week. Outside of Montana, which has just one representative to the House, Kansas was the only state from which the entire delegation -- four members -- voted against $9.7 billion for the federal flood insurance program, which handily passed despite the dissenters. Both our state's senators voted in favor of the measure.

Kansas' most outspoken conservative congressman, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Hutchinson and Fowler, said he wanted offsetting cuts from elsewhere in the budget before he would vote for the measure, and Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, likewise cited budgetary reasons for his vote. Reps. Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder were silent on motives, but at least one political scientist speculated that they voted to protect themselves from tea party opposition in the next election.

It was easy enough to vote against this for that reason knowing that it would pass anyway. But it wasn't in the best interests of Kansas, let alone the ravaged hurricane states. It puts Kansas in a bad position the next time we need federal aid for a disaster, such as a damaging tornado or flood. Moreover, Kansas is on the receiving end of federal aid on a routine basis because of its farmers' reliance on the crop insurance program.

Just Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared a drought disaster for all but one of Kansas' 105 counties, which allows farmers and ranchers to seek low-interest emergency loans.

In other words, while Kansas doesn't get tornados, it gets its share of natural disasters -- probably more than New York and New Jersey when you include crop losses. A 2011 list had Kansas ranked No. 8 for the most FEMA disaster declarations.

Besides putting Kansas in a bad spot next time we need federal disaster aid -- which likely will be sooner rather than later -- a vote against last week's measure ignores the nature of the legislation. That was simply to supply the cash for benefits already guaranteed under the federal flood insurance program. Just not paying the claims really wasn't an option.

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No thanks to the Kansas House members, this measure passed, as it should have, and the state ends up with another black eye it doesn't need.

By John D. Montgomery/Hutchinson News editorial board

Editorials represent the institutional opinion of The Hutchinson News. All other opinion content -- individual local and syndicated columnists and letter writers to the "Western Front" -- represents the viewpoints of the individual authors.

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