A U.S. governor who has forged a coalition between Republicans and Democrats says it is time to end the partisan bickering in Washington. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius says that on issues from health care to education, regional leaders are taking action where federal officials are unable to reach a consensus. The Midwestern politician shared her views with a civic group called Town Hall Los Angeles.
Governor Sebelius gave a brief geography lesson to her California listeners, who know Kansas as a place they fly over on their way to New York. She says her state is located in the exact center of the country. Part of the U.S. agricultural heartland, it has more cows than people. But she says the issues facing Kansans are mostly the same ones facing other Americans.
She says the partisan lens through which many Washington politicians view the United States ignores much that Americans have in common. Sebelius is a Democrat elected in a state with a nearly two-to-one Republican majority. Forging a coalition of moderates from both parties, she has worked with legislators to overcome a state deficit of more than one billion dollars and achieve a balanced budget. She says that is an example of the problem-solving approach that is often seen in states like hers, but is lacking at the federal level.
"In government, there is a right way to do things and wrong way to do things, and I think it's a notion that a number of fellow governors and I share, that right now, we are really at a disconnect with what's going on in Washington," she said.
She says states are taking the initiative in areas such health care, ensuring that Americans have access to medicines and doctors. Massachusetts on the East Coast is now implementing a plan to provide health insurance for all its citizens, a move the Midwestern governor calls a leap forward.
She says governors from both parties share the same frustrations. States control the National Guard, made up of part-time citizen soldiers who often help in the aftermath of natural disasters. Many National Guard units are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with their equipment, and she says Washington is slow to reimburse the states for $30 billion worth of missing vehicles and aircraft. In the case of Kansas, that includes Blackhawk helicopters.
"It's a national situation, and we're missing Blackhawks in the western part of the state that you can use to respond to fires," she noted. "We're missing the kinds of equipment we need in the heartland to deal with tornadoes and floods and cleanup. We're missing equipment in the East that responds to hurricanes."
She says federal officials must also do more to resolve the status of millions of immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
Last year, Time magazine named Governor Sebelius one of the nation's five best governors. Asked if she has plans to run for president, she said, maybe some day. She added that she is heartened another woman, New York senator Hillary Clinton, is being discussed as a presidential contender.
"And I think that is very healthy for this country to have that discussion about, 'Are we ready for a woman president?' Absolutely. We're more than ready," she said.
Governor Sebelius said that for now, she is keeping busy doing her own job in Kansas.