RUSSELL -- The 50 or so Kiwianians who turned out to listen to U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran were to serve as his voice of reason for his return to Washington, D.C.
Instead, the exchange between Moran and members of the Russell Kiwanis Club on the last day of 2009 turned into something closer to what could only be described as an essay on "What's the matter with Washington, D.C."
It would be easier to say there's little right, what with the partisanship and selfishness that has resulted in the federal government simply spending too much and borrowing too much, according to the message from Moran.
Moran was especially critical of what's going on in the nation's capital. In a bit of irony, all that came after the group said the Pledge of Allegiance, prayed and sang "God Bless America," all the while Moran was standing behind a sea of flags.
Moran, who grew up in Russell County, received a standing ovation after being introduced as one of the "bright shining lights in that dismal place called Washington, D.C."
"Are you all happy with what's going on in our nation's capital?" Moran asked.
His question was greeted with an outpouring of laughter.
"That's the response I get when I ask that question," he said.
Moran said his recently completed round of town hall meetings showed both promise and despair, in that larger-than-ever-before crowds had turned out for the meetings, reflecting concern about what the federal government is doing along with showing that people are ready to take charge.
What he also found is that people agree the government is spending too much, borrowing too much, growing too big and "becoming too selfish."
"I shouldn't be in D.C. talking about the next election," Moran said of the approach the nation's political leaders take when they head to Washington. "It ought to be about the next generation."
The point, he said, is Congress should do what makes the future brighter for the next generation.
The current health care debate, he said, reflects that.
"I opposed the heath care bill," he stated flatly.
But the prevailing effort is to simply pass a bill.
"The focus in D.C. is to get the president the headline, "President signs health care bill," he said. "It ought not be about the headline, it ought to be about the substance. We're missing substance in Washington, D.C."
He's especially troubled that the bill is chock full of pork, and not just about health care.
On the last day of 2009, Moran said he's hopeful that a new year will mean a new approach.
"I hope in 2010 we get our act together and do what's good for America," he said.
He's apparently not too optimistic.
"We've got to turn this around," he said of the burgeoning spending, "if we are going to have a viable economy."
Moran said he thinks he's been able to remain committed to common sense because he and his family didn't make the move to Washington, instead remaining in Hays where he returns nearly every weekend.
"At some point in time, I'm coming back to live a normal life somewhere in Kansas," he said.
In the meantime, he said he will fight to right problems in Washington.
If the health care bill passes, Moran said, he will introduce legislation to repeal the measure.
Moran said he's not opposed to changes in the health care system, but he said the root of the problem needs resolved, and then insurance costs will follow.
He pointed to health-privacy legislation that has long been law, forcing a crush of paperwork on the industry.
"There is a broad brush that we paint in Washington, D.C., that makes no sense to us in Kansas," he said.
But the push now is to provide insurance for 44 million people, some of whom simply don't want insurance and include illegal aliens.
"When you take them out, you're down to about 12 million people," Moran said. "I'm all in favor of doing something to take care of them."
But the measure should also include prevention, through exercise and diet.
"Insurance costs a lot because health care costs a lot," Moran said. "So if you do something about healthcare, you'll save a lot on insurance."