U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder talked to Head Start staffers about his support for early childhood education. Courtesy of Kevin Yoder’s office
U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder talked to Head Start staffers about his support for early childhood education. Courtesy of Kevin Yoder’s office

Steve Rose

U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas is firmly in step with the GOP party line

By STEVE ROSE

Special to The Star

August 15, 2015 09:00 AM

UPDATED August 15, 2015 05:52 PM

Kevin Yoder would have fit right in with most of the 10 Republicans vying for the nomination for president in their recent debate.

Over a two-hour lunch the day after the debate, the three-term Republican congressman from the 3rd District in Kansas, comprising mostly Johnson and Wyandotte counties, went through a point-by-point response to some of the issues raised during the debate.

His answers mirrored those of many of the candidates, with one glaring exception: Donald Trump, who — we will remind Yoder — is leading in the polls.

Yoder said he believes his views are within the mainstream of his district. He did win re-election in 2014 with 60 percent of the vote. But is he still mainstream in this topsy-turvy year? You decide.

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▪ Yoder is strongly opposed to the nuclear deal with Iran. His four main arguments for opposition: Iran continues to sponsor terrorism; the verification is weak; Iran has not agreed to give up its four American hostages; and as long as Iran declares that Israel has no right to exist, we cannot deal with Iran.

▪ Yoder’s refrain on immigration is very familiar because many Republican politicians say the same thing: Secure the border first. It is premature to talk about what to do with the 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. Yoder says he does not want to “incentivize” illegal immigration by offering a pathway to any sort of legal status.

▪ Yoder believes the U.S. should stop all homeland security funding to communities, such as San Francisco, where “sanctuary” is provided to illegal immigrants. I asked Yoder whether he thought Johnson County was a “sanctuary county” because Johnson County Sheriff Frank Denning will not hold illegal immigrants in jail unless there is a warrant. Yoder said he thinks Denning is following the law, in sharp contrast to San Francisco, which released an illegal immigrant — now an alleged murderer — despite urgent requests from immigration authorities not to do so.

▪  Yoder proposes to de-fund Planned Parenthood because of the recent controversy over whether the organization is selling fetal organs for research. He would give those federal funds to hospitals, medical clinics and other “safety nets” that deal with women’s health. Yoder also supports a bill toughening existing federal law that prohibits the sale of fetal organs by Planned Parenthood or any other organization.

▪  Yoder is strongly opposed to recent military cuts. He called it the “hollowing out” of our military. Yoder said the United States appears weak around the globe, so our adversaries continue to test us.

▪ Yoder opposes National Security Agency surveillance, which he says allows government to abuse the privacy rights of innocent people. He has “deep concerns” over the law that allows police to obtain emails without a warrant.

▪ I asked Yoder about his position on the compelling danger facing the planet — climate change — a topic that astonishingly was not even mentioned in the recent debate of Republican frontrunners.

Yoder had this to say: Global warming is a concern that should be debated, but most proposals require huge amount of American sacrifice with little effect on global temperatures, and we should oppose those at every turn.

And then there are the issues that Yoder calls the “unifiers” in his district, which were not addressed in the debate.

Where Yoder diverges from many in his party is his forceful leadership on issues such as increased federal funding for medical research. “Local control won’t cure cancer or Alzheimer’s,” he said. “Only the federal government can fix that.”

One of Yoder’s other high priorities is increased funding for early childhood education. “We get the biggest bang for the buck with early childhood education,” he said.

Whether Yoder, overall, reflects the mainstream of his district is an open question. What he probably does reflect, at least, are the attitudes of those who come out and vote in an August Republican primary election. After winning that, it is all smooth sailing, with Republican-dominated Johnson County sweeping him to perpetual victory.

To reach Steve Rose, longtime Johnson County columnist, send email to srose@kc.rr.com.