Moore, Kline vie for House seat
Dennis Moore was not where he wanted to be last weekend.
Locked in what a published poll shows to be a tight race against Phill Kline for the 3rd District congressional seat, the first-term Democrat is spending precious days in Washington, D.C., as Congress tries to finish its business for the year. It is, Moore said, a frustrating time because meaningful legislation -- such as the patients bill of rights bill he supports -- is being delayed by special interests.
"The bad news is that the special interests are winning," the Congressman said.
Special interests may be the key phrase of the campaign. Both Kline and Moore maintain the other candidate is hopelessly compromised by big money contributors.
As might be expected, however, the special interests that the candidates identify with differ. When Moore talks of Kline, he refers to the gun lobby and health insurance companies. Kline charges Moore is owned by labor unions.
At the same time, Moore and Kline claim immunity to the pressure of special interests.
"Principled leadership is the key," Kline said. "There are 70,000 lobbyists in Washington. Unless you have somebody with the integrity to stand up for what`s right, they`ll run right over you."
His career in the Kansas House offers evidence he`ll do what`s right, Kline said. He was stripped of his chairmanship of the House Budget Committee after he delayed final passage of the budget bill in 1999 to assure the state paid a claim to a wronged family, he said.
Moore points to his vote for a measure that would automatically renew most-favorable trade relations with China without the need for an annual review.
But, the vote earned Moore the temporary enmity of labor, and a national union leader threatened to withhold his union`s endorsement and financial aid to Moore.
That is not the only time he bucked House Democratic leadership, Moore said. He voted to end the income tax marriage penalty and to eliminate estate taxes against their wishes and finally, to override a presidential veto, he said.
He is the congressman he said he would be two years ago during his successful campaign to unseat Vince Snowbarger, the congressman said. Then, Moore promised he would vote for Democratic ideas when they were right and Republican views when they were.
"I promised to be a moderate, common-sense congressman," he said. "I think that's what my record shows, and I think that is what voters in the district want."
But, Kline said when Moore`s votes are compared to those of the other three Kansas GOP congressmen, it proves he is out of step with state voters.
"In close votes, he votes with his fellow Kansans less than 10 percent of the time," he said.
Moore is particularly out of step with his fellow Kansas congressmen in the area of tax policy, Kline said.
"I support Bush`s proposal," Kline said of the GOP presidential candidate`s plan to provide $450 billion in tax relief over the next five years by reducing income tax rates, doubling the child credit, ending the death tax, reducing the marriage penalty and expanding education savings accounts.
"Moore says Al Gore`s plan is too much," Kline said. "I believe every American deserves tax relief."
Kline said he established a record as a tax cutter in the Kansas Legislature. He dismisses Moore's recent votes for tax-cuts as election-year expediency, pointing out that the congressman voted against the marriage penalty three times before voting for it.
"I've heard him explain that four times, and I still don't understand it," Kline said. "I don't think we need an instruction book to understand tax relief. I have demonstrated a consistent record for tax relief."
Moore agreed Kline was a tax cutter in the Legislature. But, he said Kline's reputation was one of a reckless tax cutter -- an opinion shared by members of his own party.
"Phill tried to eliminate $500 million in education spending," Moore said. "Even Gov. (Bill) Graves at the time said his numbers didn't add up."
When it comes to the projected budget surpluses, Moore doesn't propose dollar figures. Rather, he suggests a guideline that would dedicate 50 percent of future budget surpluses to the reduction of the national debt, 25 percent to tax cuts and 25 percent to Social Security and Medicare.
"That's balanced," he said. "You're not spending the whole surplus on massive tax cuts and spending programs."
Bush, too, says tax cuts should total 25 percent of the surplus. But Moore maintains Bush's tax cut and Social Security proposals would outstrip the projected budget surpluses over the next 10 years.
"That grand tax scheme would cost $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years," he said. "Partial privatization of Social Security would cost another $1 trillion. That's $300 billion more than the projected surplus over that time, and he hasn't spent one cent on debt reduction, a prescription drug program or special education funding."
A commitment to reducing the national debt is essential and would benefit all Americans through lower interest rates, Moore said. Together with that commitment, Congress should make a priority of protecting Social Security and Medicare, he said.
Rather than enter into a meaningful dialogue on Social Security, Moore is resorting to scare tactics, just as he did two years ago against Snowbarger, Kline said.
"There's not one candidate, not George (W.) Bush or Al Gore, who would propose cutting existing benefits," he said. "I support a system that would give younger workers an opportunity to self direct investments."
CANDIDATES SUPPORT COMPETING PRESCRIPTION DRUG PROGRAMS
Moore supports expanding Medicare to provide a prescription drug program for seniors. He said he doesn't know what the program would cost because the Congressional Budget Office hasn't scored it yet, but he said it should come in between a more ambitious Democratic proposal and a House Republican proposal.
"Phill supports the Republican House proposal," Moore said. "It's a total shame. It was thrown together because they knew they had to do something in an election year. What it does is provide a subsidy to pharmaceutical drug companies. Even the drug companies say it won`t work. If they say it won't work, I guarantee you it won`t work."
Moore's proposal is too expensive, isn't means tested, would raid the Social Security Trust Fund and is overly bureaucratic, Kline maintained.
"I don't think you ought to have a lawyer to get your prescription filled," he said. "I don't think Donald Trump needs help buying prescription drugs. Dennis' program would do that."
Moore's claim that House Republican plan would subsidize drug programs is a "fascinating distortion," Kline said. Using that logic, Moore's plan would subsidize health insurance companies, he said.
Kline's distrust of "one-size-fits-all" governmental programs also informs his educational policy. Parents, teachers and local administrators know what is best for students, he said, and decisions shouldn't be left to Washington.
The challenger opposes linking federal education dollars to mandated uses. Kline suggests the revenue flow to the states in the form of block grants that give local districts flexibility.
"Local school districts could use the money for technology, class-size reduction or whatever they thought was best," he said.
Education is one of his spending priorities, Moore said, and the importance of investing in local schools is one of the reasons he advocates a cautious approach to tax cuts.
"Local control is absolute," he said. "But I think the federal government can assist local school boards in areas such as reducing class sizes."
Both candidates said Congress should live up to the promise it made 25 years ago to fully fund special education.