Friday, March 19, 2010

John Vratil & Tim Owens Effectively Switch Parties

Today, Johnson County "Republicans" John Vratil and Tim Owens, along with their out-state counterparts Jean Schodorf and Dwayne Umbarger, effectively announced they were switching parties when they voted along with Democrat Laura Kelly to kill the Kansas Health Care Freedom Amendment in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

No, they didn't actually switch their registration, but both men, long considered part of the moderate Republican wing of the party, ended any remaining notion that they are Republicans when they voted against this common sense legislation. The Health Care Freedom Amendment is a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would preserve certain existing rights that individuals have regarding health care.

The legislation has two key provisions: first, it protects a person’s right to participate or not participate in any health care system, and prohibits the government from imposing fines or penalties on that person’s decision. Second, it protects the right of individuals to purchase—and the right of doctors to provide—lawful medical services without government fine or penalty.

This seems like legislation that would be able to unify both conservative and moderate Republicans. Unfortunately, this vote reemphasizes the point that the Kansas Senate is not a Republican body and that people like Owens and Vratil are not Republican Senators -- after all, they effectively sided with Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Kathleen Sebelius on the most critical issue of this year -- health care reform -- and more specifically, how it would impact the rights of Kansans.

It seems bizarre that at a time when more people are running away from the Democratic Party than ever before, Vratil, Owens, Schodorf and Umbarger would tun towards it, but that shows you the logic of politics in the Kansas Senate.

An political observer looking at the makeup of the Senate -- 31-9 for Republicans -- might think that it is a relatively conservative body and that passing any kind of common sense legislation like the Health Care Freedom Act would be easy. Even though the legislation requires 2/3 of both houses to send to voters, having 31 Republicans gives you four votes to spare.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the type of Republican in the Kansas Senate, one would need about ten votes to spare When you run the numbers, even coming up with a true Republican majority is tough. Vratil, Owens, Schodorf (who is running for Congress in the 4th, by the way), Umbarger and others like them in the Kansas Senate (folks like Brungardt, Huntington, and others) make it a very difficult body to pass any meaningful legislation through.. It's bad enough trying to squeeze out a majority.

What this also emphasizes is that Republican voters, activists and most of all, potential Republican candidates, should view these Senators not as Republicans, but as Democrats, and not feel they are challenging a member of their own party. Furthermore, the Republican Party, if it is serious about enforcing it's own platform, should withdraw any support from these Senators and in fact, encourage primary challengers.

Moral of this story -- in 2012, when it comes to Owens, Vratil, and others, we should treat the August elections like a November election, because that is exactly what it will be. District 8 (Owens) and 11 (Vratil) are seats well-funded, well-supported conservatives can capture, so conservatives should focus on winning these seats.

While there will be a new map for 2012, it is likely both districts will be relatively similar to what they are now, and no matter what "numbers" Vratil and Owens up with, it needs to be a priority for Johnson County conservatives to defeat these two Democrats.

The freedom of Kansans to determine their own health care stands in the balance.