Moran to vote against bipartisan infrastructure bill after participating in negotiations

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Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran said Monday he will vote against a $1 trillion infrastructure package he earlier helped to negotiate as a bipartisan agreement.

The Senate is expected to pass the measure Tuesday with a cross-party coalition that may include Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, who is retiring. Blunt is likely the only Kansas City-area senator who may vote “yes.”

Moran’s vote — while not needed to advance the measure — had been closely watched because he was among a group of 11 GOP senators who helped negotiate an agreement that ultimately became the legislation the Senate will vote on.

“My priority was that the bill be paid for, and therefore not raise the national debt,” Moran said on the Senate floor. “Half of the new spending in this bill is not offset — is not offset with reduced spending or increases in non-tax revenues.”

The Congressional Budget Office last week said the package would add about $256 billion to the federal deficit over the next decade. Moran also expressed frustration that Democrats plan to pass additional spending priorities that had been dropped from the bipartisan package and that will go through a budgetary process that will allow a party-line vote.

“Unfortunately, to sum up, there is too much spending, too much debt, and therefore there will be too much inflation,” Moran said. “My efforts to reach a compromise were honest and sincere and I regret that we were unable to arrive at a bill I can support.”

The measure would mark one of the largest infrastructure investments in modern times. If passed by the Senate, as expected, the bill will head to the House, where it faces conservative concerns over its size and progressive frustration that it doesn’t go far enough.

Whether Moran would support the final bill had been uncertain. A dark money group founded by former Vice President Mike Pence’s ex-chief of staff had gone as far as launching an ad campaign last month to pressure Moran to drop his support.

Moran’s announcement that he will vote “no” comes as he is up for re-election in 2022 and former President Donald Trump rails against the infrastructure bill. In a statement Sunday, Trump said passage of the bill marks a “big victory” for Democrats that will be used against Republicans in upcoming elections.

“It will be very hard for me to endorse anyone foolish enough to vote in favor of this deal,” Trump said in a Saturday statement.

Trump endorsed Moran for re-election in February. The senator faces little competition from either party at the moment.

Missouri would get $6.5 billion and Kansas $2.6 billion for highways under the proposal, the White House said this week. The federal package also includes $484 million for Missouri and $225 million for Kansas for bridge repair and replacement.

Missouri’s roads, in particular, are in need of repair. The Missouri legislature approved the state’s first gas tax increase in more than 20 years this spring. It adds 2.5 cents to the current 17-cent-per-gallon tax — among the lowest in the nation — beginning in October and gradually rises over the next five years to a 12.5-cent-per-gallon hike..

The legislation also includes $90 million for Missouri and $40 million for Kansas to expand electric vehicle charging stations. Missouri would get $677 million and Kansas $273 million to aid public transit.

Each state would also get at least $100 million to expand broadband access. The lack of high-speed internet has drawn significant attention from Kansas legislators and Gov. Laura Kelly.

Local business and civic leaders have urged senators to back the proposal.

On Friday, Overland Park Chamber of Commerce president Tracey Osborne Oltjen and Topeka Chamber of Commerce president Curtis Sneden said in a joint appearance that the bill would bring about long needed improvements to Kansas’ water infrastructure, broadband, roads and bridges.

“This package represents the exact type of investment we need to be making now,” Sneden said.

The Star’s Katie Bernard contributed reporting

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