WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts is working to get a farm bill passed to prove he's still a viable candidate for 2020.
The farm bill is crucial for the 82-year-old chairman of the Senate agriculture committee after he survived a 2014 primary challenge against a political newcomer with less than 50 percent of vote and needed a flood of national money to win the general election. It's unlikely he would be able to avoid another primary challenge or a strong Democratic challenger if he runs for a fifth term, which would keep him in office through his 90th birthday, The Wichita Eagle reports.
"Marines always take the hill," Roberts told McClatchy in September. "You just want to know whether you want to take that next hill down the road. Let's just get this one (the farm bill) done and the rest will take care of itself."
One of the main points of conflict between the House and Senate versions of the farm bill involves proposed changes to food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. House-passed legislation significantly tightens existing work requirements for aid recipients, but the Senate version makes only modest changes.
Negotiations are underway during the congressional break, as Republicans get one last shot as the House majority before Democrats take control in January.
Roberts said the Senate bill includes new oversight measures and encourages states to expand their work training programs. He argued that these measures would ensure the program's integrity and won't cost the bill the Democratic votes it needs to pass the Senate.
Kansas Republican Rep. Roger Marshall, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, is an outspoken supporter of work requirements for food stamp recipients. If Roberts' doesn't run for another term, Kansas Republican leaders say Marshall, who represents Roberts' old House seat, is the most likely candidate for his Senate seat.
Marshall called Roberts a friend and a mentor in a statement when asked whether he would consider running should Roberts retire.
Other possible contenders could include Rep. Kevin Yoder, who lost to Democrat Sharice Davids in this year's election, and outgoing Gov. Jeff Colyer, who lost the Republican gubernatorial primary to Kris Kobach by 343 votes .
"Gov. Colyer has not ruled out the possibility," spokeswoman Kara Zeyer said. "He's open to any opportunity that will allow him to continue to serve the people of Kansas in the future in the best way that he can."
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com