The Hays Daily News from Hays, Kansas on December 12, 1976 · Page 8
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The Hays Daily News from Hays, Kansas · Page 8

Hays, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, December 12, 1976
Page 8
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-HAYS DAILY NEWS Keith Sebelius: a legislative prof lie ByANNCOOPER Capitol Hill News Service WASHINGTON — During the sometimes-tense House-Senate negotiations on grain inspection legislation this fall, Rep. Keith Sebelius, R- Norton, expressed his dislike for a compromise that was being offered by a liberal senator, but said he was willing to vote for it if Kansas Senator Bob Dole thought it was okay. That statement, and Sebelius' subsequent vote for the Dole-supported compromise, reveal much about the congressman from Dole's old Western Kansas district. Sebelius is a party loyalist — a staunch Republican, a staunch conservative, a strong supporter of the outgoing Ford Administration whose loyalties sometimes help him justify a vote, such as the one for the grain inspection 'compromise ( was defeated.) He does not always toe the administration line, ,nor does he always vote with the Republican majority. But that's usually where his sym- .pathies lie, and when they don't Sebelius is often reluctant to cross his conservative colleagues. Re-elected overwhelmingly in the November general election, Sebelius will begin a fifth term in the House next month. And at Hays last weekend for a meeting of the GOP's 1 District' faithful, he vowed he will stand for re-election in 1978, laying to rest speculation he would retire after his next term. AS A LEGISLATOR AND A member of the House Agriculture and Interior Committees, Sebelius is not one of the House leaders, say the lobbyists and congressional aides who watch him. ' In his eight years in Congress, Sebelius has seen only one of his bills passed. And that measure, which would have mandated federal inspection of rabbit meat, was pocket vetoed by President Ford after Congress adjourned in : October. But an aide on the agriculture committee emphasizes that Sebelius is a member of the minority party. Although his rabbit bill-wasn't considered one of the major pieces of legislation the committee worked on this year — Sebelius didn't even mention it when asked to list his accomplishments — it was one of only two written by committee Republicans that actually made it to the White House. ' Although Sebelius is the second-ranking Republican on the committee, it is the senior Democrats who write and decide to bring up the legislation that actually gets through, says the committee's minority counsel Hyde Murray. "The place where minority members score is in .amendments," Murray says. But his friends and foes agree that Sebelius is ! pretty quiet on the agriculture committee — his ;most important assignment, since he represents ; the largest wheat-growing district in the country ':— and probably even quieter on Interior'. • Friend of the Farm Bureau, foe of consumer groups, he is not a leader, not a showhorse, not a crusader.,. He does take an active role, however, as ranking minority member of Interior's parks subcommittee in helping work out compromises between conservationists, who want to protect lands as parks or wilderness, and business interests, who want to leave land open for development. SEBELIUS IS ONE REPUBLICAN who conservationists say they find willing to listen to them. He usually supporte administration positions on parks proposals, which puts him closer to the protections they want than to the minimal government interferente advocated by other subcommittee conservatives. Many of those who have worked with Sebelius find it easier to describe him in terms of what he isn't. He is not a leader, they say. He is not a showhorse. He is not a crusader. Some of those same people are quick to add that the legislative work he does is usually constructive. He doesn't fall back on the parliamentary maneuvering some frustrated minority members use to try to block bills they don't like. When he's not crazy about a bill moving through committee, he's often willing to try to find a compromise he can live with. Though liberals and moderates wish he would consider national interests more often, few on Capital Hill doubt that Sebelius represents the views of his rural agricultural district. "HE DOESN'T HAVE THE MOST liberal district in the world, you know. He is a conservative out of a conservative district," says one lobbyist who almost never sees eye-to-eye with Sebelius on farm issues. Of the major farm groups that lobby here, the conservative Farm Bureau (which rates Sebelius high on issues it cares about) claims 91,460 Kansas members, while the liberal -National Farmers Union (which rates him very low) has only 5,000 members in the state. If the First District voters want someone who's conservative on more than just farm issues, they've got that, too. Sebelius is one of 26 House members who scored 100 per cent on the American Conservative Union's 1976 vote rating covering a broad spectrum of issues, including energy, federal spending and foreign affairs. And 87 per cent of the time, he voted last year with the "conservative coalition," a group of Republicans 'and conservative southern Democrats. SEBELIUS IS NOT A FRIEND of consumer or environmental groups, who consistently rate him low. Consumer Federation of America (CFA) says he didn't vote for the consumer interest on a single issue the group considered important in 1976. It was not the first time CFA gave him a zero. One Congressional aide recalls a Sebelius speech in the agriculture committee, in which the Kansan.said the idea of having consumer representation on a panel set up to promote sales of beef was "ridiculous." Sebelius offered amendments in the agriculture committee, but they got mixed reactions. 'One that succeeded exempted small packing livestock producers. The Farm Bureau supported his amendment, and the liberal farm groups he usually opposes — pleased to see Sebelius' support of the bill — didn't object to the amendment. The bill was written after American Beef Packers, Inc. declared bankruptcy in January, 1975, leaving debts of more than $20 million to midwestern livestock producers. A committee aide said there was little objection to Sebelius' amendment because "the small operations weren't the ones who were causing the problem." Farm groups also give Sebelius credit for helping persuade colleagues to vote for the measure in the face of some administration opposition. But another Sebelius proposal, to lower the net income farm families could have and still be eligible for food stamps, got a dismal reception. The agriculture panel defeated it, 4-29. That was the only amendment Sebelius offered to the food stamp bill, which never made it to the House floor although the committee narrowly voted to report it out. SEBELIUS CONSISTENTLY SUPPORTED other conservative amendments to make cuts in the amount of benefits and the number of people eligible to receive food stamps. Many were defeated on close votes, and Sebelius opposed .the final committee bill because, he said, "I thought it should be more responsive to the needs of the real poor and not so much college students." However, some of the information Sebelius uses to justify his conservative votes on the bill is inaccurate, according to food stamp officials. For example, he recently told Capitol Hill News Service that, "In Madison, Wisconsin, over half of the people in the city on food stamps are students." Figures from a General Accounting Office report and estimates provided by Fred Sleeves, who runs the county food stamp program that ncludes Madison., show that last spring, there were approximately seven times more non- students than students getting food stamps, in Madison. ANOTHER TIME -CONSUMING ISSUE for Sebelius and the agriculture committee this year was the grain inspection bill, which Congress passed in response to misgrading and short- weighing scandals in the country's inspection agencies at export points. Although the House and Senate agreed that private inspection agencies should no longer operate at export points, the House passed a bill allowing federally-supervised state and private SEBELIUS grain inspection agencies to continue checking grain at all inland grain elevators. The Senate, believing there also could be problems inland, passed a measure to federali/.e inspection at the nation's 25 major inland terminals, including five in Kansas. When the two bills went to a conference committee to work out differences, Sebelius' main concern was to retain language that would allow the Kansas state grain inspection system to continue operating. But when Nebraska Rep. Charles Thone and others said they also wanted to protect the- private inspection agencies in their districts, Sebelius said he would stick with them and hold I'AGIO it December 12, 1976 out for the House plnn. An aide says that at one closed meeting on the bill, Sebelius told other members he personally had no problem with n particular compromise being offered but he wouldn't vote for it because Thone and others didn't find it acceptable. "YOU SOMETIMES HAVE TO GIVE some consideration to your colleagues. You have to try to understand their problems. You have to work with them" he says. After a long war of nerves, Sebelius and the other House conferences got what they wanted when the conferees'came up with a compromise that has been described ns "90 per cent the House bill." Rep. Thomas Foley, D-Wash., chairman of the agriculture panel, says Sebelius "was open to examining alternatives on grain inspection." But a Senate aide who worked with those advocating a stronger bill says, "Sebelius certainly did not play a positive role. Throughout the course of most of the legislation, he was definitely an obstacle in getting a strong bill out." Advocates of federali/ation also criticize Sebelius and other House members for putting their parochial concerns first In a bill that reached well beyond their districts. Before he was re-elected, Sebelius said he planned to rcintroduce legislation to compensate farmers for losses they incur any time the federal government embargoes exports of their products. He says his bill — which got some subcommittee hearings this year — would discourage unpopular embargoes like the one President Ford put on grain last year. SEIiELIUS SAYS THE BILL doesn't conflict with the basic conservative farm view that government should let agriculture operate in a free market. "It says that if the government intervenes, it has to pay,"he says. Sebelius returned to that theme last weekend in a speech at Wichita, where he told a gathering of the Kansas Farm Bureau that some sort of export subsidies might be needed and that legislation blocking farm exports should be modified to allow the subsidies. He also said he could support a modest acreage set-aside program as a means to trim the amount of land devoted to grain production. Before president Ford hiked the wheat loan rate recently, Sebelius said he thought Congress should make "substantial" increases In agriculture loan levels when it renews major farm legislation next year. SKBKLIUS' VOTES KOH HIGHER loan rates and target prices for farm commodities marked almost his only deviation from the Farm Bureau's conservative farm policies urged upon the 94th Congress. " Sebelius supported an emergency farm bill raising loan and target price levels, even after President Ford had vetoed it last year. " The Farm Bureau opposed the bill because it said the higher levels could discourage U.S. commodity exports and could have been costly for a federal budget already under severe strain. Court Lets TOPEKA, Kan. (UPI) The Kansas Supreme Court late Friday refused to reverse its censure of Reno County Magistrate Richard Rome. Chief Justice Harold Fatzer did not participate in the ruling because Rome had cited Fatzer's arrest at the DallasFort Worth airport in .supporting documents for his 'motion. Rome, one of the first judges to be disciplined by the Kansas Supreme Court, asked that his censure be overturned '.because state disciplinary procedures discriminate, against lower court judges in 'favor of Supreme Court justices. The Hutchinson judge had asked for a hearing on the motion, saying it was imperative that he explain the importance of the issue. The six remaining justices issued a terse order, denying the entire motion. "Motion by respondent to set aside order," the decision NEW SYSTEM HOUSTON (UPI; — A new ocean-floor, oil-production control system has begun operation in the Gulf of Mexico 100 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The heart of the system, owned by Shell Oil Co. and Lockheed Petroleum Services Inc., is a "manifold center" which gathers) measures and controls well production. said. "Motion denied, Fatzer, C.J., not participating." Rome contended judicial disciplinary procedures violate the U.S. Constitution. He said lower court judges are denied equal protection of the law because they are treated differently from justices. The magistrate said- the decision in his case, issued Nov. 8, 1975, established a double standard for the judicial code of conduct because the justices apparently created their own immunity from disciplinary action except impeachment. Rome contended the Supreme Court created the Judicial Qualifications Commission and gave it authority to consider discipline cases involving judges except in cases that conflict with the Kansas constitution. But in Rome's censure case, the high court apparently concluded all possible discipline cases involving Supreme Court justices would conflict with the constitution. Rome included in his original motion copies of newspaper stories concerning Fatzer being taken from a Braniff International airliner by security officers at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Also included were stories that speculated on who would have jurisdiction to determine whether Fatzer had committed an impropriety. Rome, who wrote a decision in poem form about a convicted prostitute, was censured for failing to be courteous to persons in his court. 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