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Editorial: GOP has blame for gap in dialogue

The Editorial Advisory Board
Gov. Laura Kelly

Republicans in the state Legislature aren’t happy with Gov. Laura Kelly.

“In recent weeks and months, GOP lawmakers have been grumbling about how debate over the state’s COVID-19 response has turned into what they perceive as a lack of cooperation from the governor,” wrote The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Titus Wu.

Pardon us for looking slightly askance at this.

Would these be the same Republicans who earlier this year stripped Kelly of emergency powers to manage the pandemic? Would these be the same Republicans who characterized basic public health measures as unacceptable big government overreach? Would these be the same Republicans who refuse to wear masks inside the Statehouse building?

If they are, it’s easy to imagine why Kelly might want to keep her distance. If the opposition political party has devoted itself to the proposition that a governor’s honest attempts to protect the state are one step short of tyranny, why would that governor attempt to engage them in good faith?

What’s more, why should this party get a do-over now that the pandemic has surged? Recent weeks have made it clear that Kelly’s decisions and actions weren’t just correct but prescient. If she had retained her full emergency powers, if a statewide mask mandate had been instituted, then thousands of Kansans would have benefited.

Republicans in the Statehouse have been on the wrong side of this. Not just a time or two, but consistently.

With a challenging winter upon us, legislative leaders are now attempting to change the narrative. Rather than apologizing for their previous obstruction, as seems warranted, they are attacking the governor for a lack of cooperation. Rather than looking at the data and accepting that their actions may have harmed the state, they are going on the offensive.

While some of their complaints may deserve further investigation, Kelly could certainly be forgiven for wondering how genuine they are.

Yes, Kansas needs an effective and efficient testing strategy. Yes, the governor’s office should be transparent in its approach to the pandemic. We won’t argue with these points because they are self-evidently correct. In a more cooperative time, they might be expected as a matter of course.

But Republicans are responsible for poisoning the political environment around the pandemic in Kansas. They can’t now blame the governor for a lack of goodwill.