GOP Senator Roger Marshall, MD—He Pushed to Shut Down the Government to Defund President Biden’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates December 7, 2021
Well, it’s that time of the year again, and I’m not referring to the December holiday season. In Congress, tis the season for the GOP Senate to engage, once again, in its major obsession—trying to shut down the federal government. The “reason” this time? GOP Senators threatened to shut down the government, hurting millions of average Americans, unless they had a vote on an amendment to defund President Biden’s COVID-vaccine mandate, (cnn.com, Reston, 12/03/21). Under Biden’s vaccine mandate, to go into effect on 1/04/2022, businesses that employ more than 100 people must require their workforce to be vaccinated or tested weekly (Desrochers, 12/01/21, kansascity.com). You would think that such an amendment would go down in flames with at least a 90-10 vote. Think again. We live in hyper-partisan times where the GOP will do anything to thwart President Joe Biden just because he has a “D” after his name. The vote to block the use of federal money to enforce Biden’s vaccine requirements narrowly failed by a 48-50 vote on Thursday, 12/02/2021. Had the GOP won a majority on this vote, the U.S. government would have been thrown into chaos on Friday, 12/03/2021, ahead of a midnight funding deadline. Once again, as with the obstructive filibuster, this amendment was another example of how the power of a very few has so often threatened the will of the overwhelming majority during this horrible pandemic. This band of extremist GOPers who cooked up this “defund the COVID-19 vaccine mandate amendment” showed the lengths to which some GOPers will drag their fellow associates with them to cater to the desires of less than 30% of American adults who are not fully vaccinated (Reston, 12/03/21, cnn.com). Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Roger Marshall (R-KS) led the “defund COVID-19” charge. They argued that they were taking a “critical stand” for unvaccinated workers in their states who could lose their jobs over their vaccination objections. Apparently, Lee and Marshall could care less that over 780,000 Americans have already been killed because of COVID-19. As Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) noted, this number constitutes “a higher body count than any war we have ever fought in (cnn.com, Reston, 12/03/21).” Senators Lee and Marshall, again, do not seem to care that since the COVID-19 vaccines have become widely available, the risk of dying from this virus is more than 50% higher in “Red” states that voted for Trump than in “Blue” states that voted for Biden, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Lee’s Utah and Marshall’s Kansas, remember, are ”Red” States (Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac, Reston, cnn.com, 12/03/21). In the 1950’s, few Americans resisted getting polio shots, and there were no political divides over getting those life-saving arm jabs. Today, getting a COVID-19 vaccination has become a hot political issue thanks to Trump, FOX News, and other GOP-propaganda media. People who don’t get the COVID-19 vaccine keep this pandemic going and are responsible for giving others this virus from which they can die. Some 45 million adult Americans haven’t had their shots and the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that the unvaccinated are three times more likely to lean Republican (Reston, cnn.com, 12/03/21). And too many members of the media keep talking up this vaccine opponent minority like they are the ”mainstream” in the U.S., which they certainly are not.
Even though they failed to pass their “defund COVID-19” vaccine amendment, Senator Lee refuses to give up. Sen. Lee told reporters that “this (vaccine mandate issue) isn’t going away. It’s going to come back up again…It’s going to come back every time we get the opportunity (cnn.com, Reston, 12/03/21).” Lee stated that he plans to keep bringing up measures to block Biden’s vaccine mandates on other bills, including before the government’s next funding deadline, 2/18/22. Count on Sen. Marshall to join Sen. Lee’s repeated attempts to block Biden’s vaccine mandates. Who is this Senator Marshall?
Senator Roger Marshall (61) is currently Kansas’ first-term Senator. A native of El Dorado, KS, Marshall worked on his family farm. He received his 1982 B.S. degree in biochemistry from Kansas State University and a 1987 medical degree from the University of Kansas. He became an OB/GYN in Great Bend, KS and delivered more than 5,000 babies. He served in the Army Reserve for seven years, 1984-1991 where he was a captain. He trained in a mobile hospital support unit (Cohen & Cook 2022 Almanac).
Throughout his political career, Marshall, despite his strong conservative beliefs, looked like a “moderate.” Why? Because his opponents were even more far right on the extremist scale and took unpopular stands in KS. In 2016, Marshall challenged three-term KS 1st Congressional District (CD) GOP Cong. Tim Huelskamp. Huelskamp was a leader of the Atilla the Hun far right House Freedom/”Freedumb” Caucus. The “Freedumb” Caucus helped drive House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) out of Congress. In 2012, Huelskamp, was stripped of his chief committee assignments. After Huelskamp lost his Agriculture Committee slot, it was the first time in more than a century that no Kansan sat on that panel, the most vital committee post in this major agricultural state (Cohen & Cook 2022). In 2016, Marshall decided to run against Huelskamp in the GOP primary. Former KS 1st CD local icon, the recently deceased Bob Dole, endorsed Marshall as did the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Many farmers backed Marshall. However, the primary contest was contentious. The far-right Club for Growth and the state Chamber of Commerce backed Huelskamp. Then House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) refused to endorse Huelskamp or promise him a return to his Agriculture Committee post should he win his primary (Cohen & Cook 2022). Huelskamp ran TV ads attacking Marshall for confronting a neighbor in 2008 over a land dispute. The neighbor called 9-1-1 and accused Marshall of attempting to run him over with a vehicle. Marshall pleaded no contest to a reckless driving misdemeanor and settled the neighbor’s civil suit (“Hutchinson News,” Clarkin,6/20/16). Despite this legal controversy, Marshall clobbered Huelskamp by 14 points in the GOP primary. In this heavily GOP district, no Democrat challenged Marshall in the 11/2016 general election (Cohen & Cook 2022, 2016 KS General Election). Marshall’s congressional district, the KS 1st, is nicknamed the “Big First.” It covers all or part of 63 counties in central and western KS, more than half the state’s land mass. It is the seventh-largest district in the nation that did not cover an entire state (See Cohen & Cook 2022, wiki).
In the House, Marshall obtained the key Agriculture Committee post as well as a seat on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. He pushed for stricter requirements for food stamp recipients, poor people, though this provision didn’t make the final bill. MD Marshall joined the “Doc Caucus” and pushed for the repeal of Obamacare. He opposes Medicaid expansion in KS (STAT, 9/09/20). While chairing the health care task force of the influential Republican Study Committee, he faced backlash when he stated, “Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us. There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves (Cohen & Cook 2022).’” Translation: The “moochers” who don’t want to take care of themselves and want the rest of the country to do that. Typical GOP drivel. Huelskamp decided not to challenge Cong. Marshall in a 2018 primary rematch, and Marshall easily won his second House term (Cohen & Cook).
On 10/23/2019, “moderate” Marshall (LOL) was part of a group of 15-30 non-invited House GOPers, led by extremist firebrand Cong. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) who intruded upon that day’s confidential hearing of the House Intelligence Committee. Some GOP and Democratic committee members were meeting in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) to hear testimony about the first impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump. That inquiry involved Donald’s attempt to extort Ukraine to get political dirt on Joe Biden. Marshall followed Gaetz into the hearing room. Marshall called the impeachment inquiry a “sham (kansascity.com, Lowry, 10/23/19).”
After KS Senator Pat Roberts announced his retirement in 1/2019, Marshall entered the race to succeed him. Again, strongly conservative Marshall got lucky and looked like a “moderate.” One of his key primary opponents this time was former KS Sec. of State Kris Kobach. Kobach, a conservative firebrand and strong anti-immigration foe, was also a big believer in voter fraud. His xenophobic and voting fraud nonsense claims sharply divided the KS GOP. As a result, Democrat Laura Kelly won the Governor’s race against Kobach in 2018. The GOP “establishment” got behind Marshall in the 2020 Senate primary. The Kansas Farm Bureau, retiring Pat Roberts, and anti-abortion groups backed Marshall. Even Trump, a big fan of Kobach, remained neutral in this race. Trump listened to then Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who feared a KS Senate loss should Kobach win. Even though Marshall had supported OH GOP Gov. John Kasich in the 2016 White House race, Marshall now hugged Trump as strongly as he could. Marshall won the primary over Kobach by 14 points (Cohen & Cook 2022). In the general election, Marshall, known for lackluster fundraising and not being a strong campaigner, faced another MD, anesthesiologist Barbara Bollier. Bollier, a former Republican state senator who became a Democrat, ran a centrist campaign. She decried political polarization. She had strong Democratic support in the growing suburbs around Kansas City. She attacked Marshall for trying to overturn Obamacare. Running during the COVID-19 pandemic, the two candidates showed how that issue had become politicized. Democrat Dr. Bollier kept socially distanced at outdoor events. Physician Marshall stated he was taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine that Trump touted, even though most medical professionals said it wasn’t effective. Marshall held frequently mask less events outdoors. He told the Washington Post, “If I walk into rural Kansas with a mask on, people look at me like I’ve got three eyes or something, right (Cohen & Cook 2022)?” Even though a poll in 9/2020 showed this race a dead heat, Koch Industries, headquartered in Wichita, KS, came to Marshall’s rescue. A super PAC linked to Koch launched a $5 million digital ad campaign targeting swing voters to support Marshall and other Senate candidates it was backing (cnbc.com, Schwartz, B., 9/02/20). KS, despite the growing Kansas City suburbs, remains heavily rural and tied to conservative agricultural interests. Coming from the largest KS congressional district, the “Big First,” which gave the Sunflower State the late Senator Bob Dole, as well as Senators Pat Roberts and senior KS Senator Jerry Moran, Marshall had name and geographical recognition. In the end, KS reverted to GOP form. It went for Donald over Biden by 14 points and Marshall defeated Boiller by 11 points (Cohen & Cook 2022). Marshall won all but five mostly urban and suburban counties in the northeast corner of the state.
Mr. “Moderate” Senator Marshall voted with Demagogue Donald 98% of the time (McLean & Canon, hppr.org, High Plains Public Radio). OB/GYN Senator Marshall opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. He has called for overturning Roe v. Wade and is, no doubt, thrilled about the oral arguments recently held in the Supreme Court that show a majority hostile to Roe (See cbs19 news.com). Facebook, not one for quickly removing hateful and non-truthful information, removed Marshall’s posts that promoted conspiracy theories. Marshall’s “theories” falsely suggested that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was inflating coronavirus death numbers (AP, Field, 9/02/20). Marshall was one of six GOP Senators to vote against expanding the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. That act would allow the Dept. of Justice to review hate crimes related to COVID-19 and establish an online database (cnn.com, Rogers, A., 4/14/21). Many Asian Americans have been victims of such hate crimes. Sen. Marshall, in line with Koch Industries, has rejected the scientific consensus on climate change. He stated, “I’m not sure that there is even climate change (ksn.com, 6/05/17).” Senator Marshall voted for Trump’s top 1% budget busting tax cut in 2017(nytimes.com, Almukhtar, 12/19/17).
“Moderate” MD Marshall never had any problems defending Demagogue Donald once he won his Senate seat. In 12/2020, as Senator-elect but still in the House, Marshall was one of 126 House GOPers to sign an amicus brief for Supreme Ct. consideration. This document supported the lawsuit “Texas v. Pennsylvania.” This litigation contested the results of the 2020 presidential election which Biden won. The Supreme Ct. of the United States (SCOTUS) rightfully declined to hear this case on the basis that TX lacked standing to challenge the results of an election held by another state (nytimes.com, Liptak, 12/11/20). Any first-year law student would have agreed with SCOTUS’ action. House Speaker Pelosi stated that the Congressmembers who signed this amicus brief had engaged in “election subversion, brought dishonor to the House, and subverted the Constitution (Pelosi Press release, speaker.gov, 12/11/20).” Marshall could have cared less. Once in the Senate, Marshall joined four other GOP Senators in objecting to the Electoral College votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania. His challenge to PA’s electoral votes in favor of Biden came after Trump insurrectionists had stormed the Capitol in the attempted 1/06/2021 coup. Marshall paid no price for his political stunts. GOP Senate leadership gave him seats on the Agriculture, Energy and Natural Resources, and the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committees (Cohen & Cook 2022).
Based on Marshall’s entire hard-right conservative record, we should not at all be surprised that Marshall, even though he is vaccinated himself, made a motion in 12/2021 to shut down the government over Biden’s vaccine mandates (Desrochers, 12/01/21, kansascity.com). This is, in fact, not the first time that Marshall has used a government funding bill to block enforcement of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. In 9/2021, he initially sponsored an amendment that would have prevented the government from enforcing the vaccine mandate. His first attempt failed on a party line vote. In 11/2021, Sen. Marshall spearheaded a letter signed by fourteen other Senate conservatives. This letter declared that they would do “everything within their power to prevent funding for enforcing the mandate (kansascity.com, Desrochers, 12/01/21).” Marshall, as I previously stated, will repeatedly keep joining Senator Lee and other hard-right GOP ideologues to try to abolish President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates, so badly needed to stop this horrible pandemic.
Senator Marshall is not up for re-election until 2026. In “Dripping Bright Red KS,” he will probably be easily re-elected as long as he wants. Again, in order to keep Senator Marshall and his “Red” gang in the minority, Democrats must come out in 2022 in droves plus to save our Senate Majority and add more to it. A 50-50 Senate with VP Kamala Harris as tie-breaker is not enough to push through Senator Biden’s progressive reforms. There are more of us than them. We must not let the Roger Marshalls, led by obstructive Mitch McConnell, push us back to the 19th Century. In 21st Century America, we must continue to move forward.