Kansas Common Sense
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Demanding Administration Accountability on Obamacare Exchanges
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is egregiously flawed and the problems it is causing are increasingly frustrating. On Thursday, I demanded accountability from the Obama Administration by insisting that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) answer questions about its use of taxpayer dollars in setting up the ACA health insurance Exchange website – healthcare.gov – and the true costs of implementing the Exchanges. I am committed to making certain the Administration is held accountable for its use of taxpayer dollars, especially considering the systemic problems plaguing the ACA website, which have been documented in multiple media reports across the country. Over the past year, $1.7 billion in taxpayer funds have been used by HHS for Exchange implementation. This funding came exclusively from HHS’ internal transfer of funds to the Exchanges – a decision that avoided Congressional approval. The Administration must account for exactly how much money has been spent on developing and implementing healthcare.gov, whether HHS intends to recover payments made to the contractors responsible for the website’s enormous failings, what specific testing was done before the launch, and the timeline and detailed cost breakdown for fixing the problems. I also asked HHS for details of its contingency plans if the technical issues with the Exchanges cannot be fixed in a timely fashion. Click here to read my letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius and click here to read more about this matter.
Additionally, I agreed to be an original sponsor of the “Delay Until Fully Functional Act,” legislation Senator Marco Rubio introduced today. This bill would delay the ACA’s individual mandate until it can be certified that the ACA website and Exchanges are functional. It is unfair for the federal government to punish individuals for not doing something the government is requiring them to do when the Administration’s incompetence has made it impossible for them to comply. I believe the entire law should be repealed and replaced, but until that happens American individuals and families must be protected from the disasters created by the ACA. In July, President Obama acknowledged that a significant component of this law is broken and delayed enforcement of the employer mandate. The following week, I offered amendments in the Senate Appropriations Committee to delay both the employer mandate and individual mandate. Both of these amendments were unfortunately defeated in party-line votes, but I will continue working to effectively dismantle the ACA.
SEC Proposes Crowdfunding Rule
Monday, along with a bipartisan group of seven U.S. Senators, I urged the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to finalize proposed regulations regarding crowdfunding. In April 2012, Congress passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which directed the SEC to publish crowdfunding provisions within 270 days of enactment. Last week, we reached 530 days since the JOBS Act became law without the SEC proposing the rule. On Wednesday, the SEC finally responded by proposing a rule governing crowdfunding activities, and I’m pleased the SEC finally took action. Crowdfunding has the potential to be a powerful tool for growing the economy by helping small and new businesses raise capital online so they can expand and create new jobs. I am reviewing the rule and seeking input from startup businesses and invstors to ensure that entrepreneurs can access the capital they need to create their businesses while providing proper safeguards for investors. Click here to see a copy of the letter sent to the SEC.
Hays Rotary Club
On Monday, I joined fellow Rotarians and guests in Hays. I had the opportunity to give remarks and hear their concerns on a number of issues, including the continuing resolution, debt ceiling, Obamacare, and expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs. I appreciated their frank feedback and will keep it in mind as I return to Washington this week. Thank you to Club President Greg Sund and Kay Werth for the warm welcome, and thank you to Hays Rotary Club for their continued commitment and dedication to the community of Hays and the goodwill of others. Click here to see a photo.
Kansas Serves as Crossroads for Global Aviation Industry
In Kansas, we build world-class airplanes and build them well. Today, roughly 32,000 Kansans support more than 450 aerospace companies and contribute more than $7 billion to our state’s economy each year. In today’s ever-changing global economy, aviation provides a vital link to economic opportunities at home and abroad. The quality of our products and suppliers keeps global aviation manufacturers like Airbus – the largest export customer of the U.S. aerospace industry – coming back to our state.
In Washington, D.C., on Thursday, I had the opportunity to meet with many global suppliers for EADS/Airbus, including several Kansas companies. Aviation is a global enterprise, but in Kansas, we are proud to serve as the crossroads of aviation. Over a decade ago, Airbus built its first U.S.-based engineering center in Wichita because the talent pool of aviation experts is among the brightest in the world. Under the strong leadership of Vice President of Engineering John O’Leary, Wichita is now home to the largest Airbus engineering center outside of Europe with more than 400 employees. Kansas engineers are engaged in the design and development of every member of the Airbus commercial product family – from the 150-seat A320 to the 525-seat A380. In fact, components designed in Wichita are manufactured by members of the Airbus supply chain all across the globe. In January, I was honored to present the third-ever Wichita Aero Club Trophy to John O’Leary and Airbus Americas Engineering in recognition of their efforts to strengthen Wichita’s reputation as the “Air Capital of the World,” and enhance the local community’s quality of life.
Last year, Airbus celebrated its 10th anniversary in Kansas and to commemorate this milestone, I hosted the Airbus Air Capital Supplier Summit with Airbus Americas Chairman Allan McArtor to help facilitate more business for Kansas suppliers. In the last five years, Airbus has spent $300 million with Wichita suppliers and the company is set to double its American investment over the next 10 years. I will continue my efforts to make certain our Kansas suppliers remain strong competitors. Thanks to Chairman McArtor for the invitation to join him at the conference this week. We look forward to continuing a strong relationship with the Airbus team for the next 10 years and beyond. Click here to see a photo.
Learning About Rural Broadband Access
I visited Tri-County Telecom Association (TCT) in Council Grove last week. We discussed a number of concerns regarding Rural Utilities Service loans as well as new telecommunications federal policies and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations. TCT provides infrastructure to make certain businesses, schools and hospitals can compete with urban areas. I will continue to work to ensure the FCC knows the unique challenges rural telecommunications providers face. Thanks to TCT’s Angie Schwerdfeger for the invitation and for coordinating my visit.
Checking on the Business Climate
Last week, I visited businesses in Great Bend, Holton and Atchison to check on the business climate in Kansas. As ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation and Community Development, these conversations will help me as I work to protect jobs, grow the economy and eliminate bureaucratic red tape in Washington.
Monday, I visited the Fuller Industries in Great Bend. The company is a good example of community members working with their local Chamber and coming together to make certain jobs remain in the place that they call home. It was helpful to see the plant and visit with employees to learn more about how government agencies and regulation impact the operation. Thanks to Fuller President and CEO Brady Gros, investors Rick Ball and Norbert Schneider, and Great Bend Chamber of Commerce President Jan Peters for the invitation and tour. Click here to see a photo.
In Holton, I toured downtown and enjoyed visiting with several small business owners and hearing their concerns. Our conversations covered banking regulations, Obamacare, access to quality health care, and the uncertainty caused by the shutdown. Some of the businesses I visited were Hot Spot Coffee Shop, Denison State Bank, Ann’s Home Health, Jhett’s Pizza and Quilting on the Square. Mark and Mary Pfeiler’s quilt shop, Quilting on the Square, opened in April 2005 and proudly represents Holton and the state of Kansas as a 2013 Better Homes and Gardens Top 10 Quilt Shop in North America. Thanks to Jamie Claycamp and Michael Carlson with the Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce for arranging my visit. Click here to see a photo.
I also toured the Bradken Industrial Products in Atchison. For 141 years, production has taken place at the facility which was started by a Civil War veteran who was given $10,000 and free land along the Missouri River. In the foundry, they manufacture engineered steel castings for the rail, transit, mining and construction markets. Thanks to Kevin McDermed, President of the Engineered Products Division, and Mike Funk, Plant Manager, for providing me an informational tour. Click here to see a photo from the stop.
Checking in on Health Care
As Ranking Member of Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over funding for most agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that impact hospitals and other health care providers, meeting with Kansas hospital administrators and other providers gives me insight on the unique challenges they face caring for diverse groups of patients across wide areas.
Tuesday, I stopped at Horton Community Hospital and visited with member of the community, hospital staff and officers from Rural Community Hospitals of America. We discussed the impact of Obamacare on Critical Access Hospitals and rural communities. In addition, I had the opportunity to receive an update from Mayor Tim Lentz and Superintendent Steve Davies. Thanks to Horton Community Hospital CEO Chris Barlow for the invitation to visit. Click here to see a photo.
I also toured Newman Regional Health (NRH) in Emporia and learned about their efforts to achieve designation as a critical-access facility. During my visit, I stopped by the imaging services department, the emergency department, the new heart catheterization lab, and the parenting center. NRH has a great team working to provide quality health care services right here in Lyon County. Thanks to Interim CEO John Rossfeld, Director of Marketing Beth Hammond, Board Treasurer Bill Barnes, Board Member John Kuhn, and State Representative Don Hill for the great visit.
Chase County Elementary School – Strong City
On Wednesday, I visited Chase Co. Elementary School (CCES) in Strong City. Principal David Warner and USD 284 Superintendent Jeff Kohlman explained how they are meeting Kansas Common Core standards – in part through the school’s outdoor learning center. CCES students of all ages are involved in the program, which includes greenhouse activities, rainwater collection, composting and caring for livestock. In addition to the responsibility that comes with these activities, students are learning the hands-on life applications of math skills, science and business training. During my visit, I stopped by Ms. Luder’s Kindergarten class, where students carved pumpkins as part of their “Pumpkin Investigation” lesson.
I was particularly impressed to learn how supportive the community is of the program, and how contributions of both time and materials have been provided to compensate for their limited budget. Thanks to Mr. Warner and Mr. Kohlman for my tour, along with Ms. Matile and Ms. Luder for sharing their time with me. Thank you also to USD 284 Board Chairman Mike Spinden, board members and students who accompanied me and made this visit so welcoming. Here is a picture from my visit.
Now Accepting Applications for Spring 2014 Internships
Congressional internships are a great way for Kansas students to learn about Congress and gain professional work experience. Having worked as a congressional intern myself, I know what a valuable experience it can be. Interns will gain a better understanding of the legislative process in the U.S. Congress, and develop knowledge and professional skills valuable to future career pursuits. I encourage anyone with an interest in government and public service to apply.
My office is now accepting applications for the spring semester. Completed applications must include a resume, cover letter, academic transcript and two letters of recommendation, and all parts must be submitted for consideration by November 1, 2013. Please visit the internship page on my website to apply or email email@example.com if you have any questions.
In the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
AUSA Delegation Manhattan
John Matta of Manhattan
Rich Jankovich of Manhattan
Lyle Butler of Manhattan
Ron Fehr of Manhattan
Art DeGroat of Manhattan
Janet Nichols of Manhattan
Christine Benue of Manhattan
Robert Boyd of Manhattan
Fred Willick of Manhattan
Richard Crowley of Manhattan
AUSA Delegation Junction City
Tom Brunsandy of Milford
Cecil Aska of Junction City
Mike Ryan of Junction City
Rick Duksta of Junction City
Tom Weigard of Junction City
Cheryl Beatty of Junction City
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Jeannie Davis of Andover
Timothy Johnson of Wichita
Kurtis Holtz of Augusta
Andi Rae Petersen of Derby
Andrew Rameriz of Wichita
Richard Greene of Wichita
Tallgrass Legacy Alliance
Bill Sproul of Sedan
Jim Grocholski of Wichita
Marty Dernier of Topeka
American Pharmacists Association
C. Dean Benton of Hutchinson
Nikki Schwantze of Kansas City
American Health Care Association
Cindy Luxem of Topeka
Don and Gayle Bartel of Potwin
Teri Shaughnessy of Humboldt
Terry Meadows of Humboldt
Staci Wiatrak of St. Paul
Roger Eisentrager of Lenexa
Julie Eisentrager of Lenexa
Zach Eisentrager of Lenexa
Haylee Eisentrager of Lenexa
John Cecil of Leawood
Mark Paul of Overland Park
Janelle Paul of Overland Park
Carson Paul of Overland Park
Sidney Paul of Overland Park
James Novak of Overland Park
Nicole Novak of Overland Park
Mallory Novak of Overland Park
Charlotte Novak of Overland Park
Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,
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