Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. Please feel free to forward it on to your family and friends if it would interest them.
Voting “No” on Obamacare Funding
With implementation of Obamacare just one day away, many Kansans have been focused on the specific provision within the House-passed Continuing Resolution (CR) to defund this misguided law which is jeopardizing health care for millions of Americans. On Friday, I voted “no” on the motion to invoke cloture on the CR in order to prevent Majority Leader Harry Reid from restoring funding for Obamacare. I also voted against Majority Leader Reid’s amendment to strip the provision that would defund the Affordable Care Act from the House-passed CR. Unfortunately, the effort was unsuccessful.
While the President and the law’s supporters promised Obamacare would lower health care costs and strengthen our health care system, the reality is such promises have been repeatedly broken. This law is increasing health insurance premiums for individuals and families, forcing Americans off of their current coverage, threatening the survival of hospitals and other providers in Kansas and across the country, and hindering economic growth through onerous new taxes and regulations. This law is causing real harm to real people. It is well past time for its supporters to admit their mistake. I will continue to work to defund and dismantle this law, as well as pursue common sense solutions to replace it and to improve the cost and availability of health care.
Facing a Government Shutdown
Early Sunday morning, the House voted to keep the government running with a continuing resolution that included amendments to delay the Affordable Care Act and repeal the tax on medical devices, as well as legislation to make certain members of our military get paid in the event of a government shutdown. Today, however, Majority Leader Reid successfully tabled the amendments with a 54-46 vote sending the continuing resolution back to the House.
It is Congress’ responsibility to pass a budget each year and set common-sense spending priorities through the appropriations process. Yet, here we are at the end of another fiscal year, and not one of the 13 appropriations bills has been passed by the Senate. In fact, the last time all of the appropriations bills were passed before the September 30th deadline was in 1994. If we had a functioning Senate we wouldn’t be facing a possible shutdown. It is past time for Congress and the President to act responsibly. I oppose a shutdown, and believe Republicans and Democrats should work to reach an agreement and keep the government open.
Bill to Protect Military Pay, Disaster Relief in Event of Government Shutdown
This week, I introduced common-sense legislation with Senator Mark Udall of Colorado to make certain the nation’s military families, including National Guard units assisting in disaster relief and recovery, would not have delayed paychecks in the event of a government shutdown. The Military Pay Protection Act would make certain the financial well-being and readiness of those serving our country is not at risk during gridlock on Capitol Hill. This legislation could give our military members, critical civilian workers and National Guard assisting in disaster relief the certainty they deserve. Click here to read more.
SEC Implementation of the JOBS Act
In recent days, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and I reached out to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Mary Jo White to voice our concerns related to the “rulemaking” and implementation of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. This pro-growth legislation was passed in early 2012 with the hope of helping American businesses and startups access the capital necessary for expansion. Unfortunately, my conversations with angel investors and entrepreneurs suggest that the SEC’s rules may actually reduce funding for job-creating small businesses and increase costs for all involved.
As this implementation process continues at the SEC, I will continue to encourage Chairman White to keep in mind the JOBS Act’s goal: to enhance capital access for entrepreneurs. Click here to read my letter to the SEC about my specific concerns with their JOBS Act rulemaking.
Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel
Last month, I sent a letter to Commissioner Werfel questioning potential IRS audits of veteran service organizations. I had significant concerns when I learned that an American Legion Post in Round Rock, Texas, had been fined $12,000 by the IRS for presumably failing to supply military service documents to satisfy IRS auditor requirements. The military service of veterans is already verified upon application and admittance to an American Legion post, and it appears the IRS may be trying to solve a problem that does not exist. After never receiving a written response from the Commissioner, I requested a face-to-face meeting.
On Thursday, I sat down with Commissioner Werfel to discuss this important issue. Mr. Werfel assured me the IRS is not making a concerted effort to target veteran service organizations. However, the IRS must provide greater clarification to these organizations about the proof of military service requirements necessary to maintain their tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(19) organization under the tax code. Mr. Werfel agreed that the discrepancy between the 2011 Internal Revenue Manual and the 2013 Treasury Tax Guide for Veterans’ Organizations is confusing and needs to be resolved. I asked Mr. Werfel to make certain the IRS does a better job of communicating with the American Legion and other veteran service organizations to explain ground truth with IRS audit requirements.
Commissioner Werfel indicated that the IRS will renew their outreach and technical assistance with veteran service organizations, and that conversation must continue. It is my hope that for the sake of our veterans these legitimate concerns can be alleviated quickly and fears of IRS audits put at ease. I will continue to pursue this issue to make certain the IRS is not overstepping its bounds of privacy and respect for America’s veterans.
Suicide Awareness Month
As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and in recognition of the support veterans deserve, I sponsored a Senate resolution promoting Suicide Prevention Awareness Month for the month of September, which passed the Senate Thursday night. The resolution supports the goals and efforts of National Suicide Prevention Month and encourages Americans to learn more about warning signs to help prevent suicide and promote mental health. This resolution is an opportunity to raise awareness and promote discussion among our military force and veterans. Twenty-two veterans commit suicide each day in our country, and we should do everything in our power to support individuals who are at risk and suffering. Click here to learn more.
Meeting with CFPB’s Richard Cordray
Along with several of my Senate Colleagues, I met with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Cordray to discuss the CFPB’s mission, budget and potential areas of focus. The meeting was held as a result of an amendment that was adopted to the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill. As a member of that subcommittee as well as the Senate Banking Committee, I have significant interests in the operation and administration of the CFPB. While I agree with Director Cordray that discrimination has no place in our society, I continue to have concerns with the size and scope of the CFPB. The CFPB is a growing presence in the lives of both consumers and the financial institutions they utilize. As the newest government entity with a tremendous amount of authority in the lives of consumers, the CFPB should be subject to the same government oversight through appropriations and mission reviews that most other federal agencies adhere to. I will continue to push for these much-needed reforms to the CFPB’s structure, but I appreciate the opportunity to maintain an open dialogue and look forward to ensuring that the federal government pursues pro-growth policies.
Sponsoring the Adoption Information Act
This week, I joined several of my colleagues in introducing legislation to make certain family planning services and programs effectively promote information about adoption. The Adoption Information Act (S.1539) would require federal grant recipients to provide assurances to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding their plan to issue adoption promotion literature. Every child deserves the opportunity to be part of a permanent and loving family. Individuals using federal family planning programs should be educated about adoption to ensure they are making fully informed decisions. The Adoption Information Act makes certain adoption is promoted as a viable option. Click here to learn more.
Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act
This week, I introduced S. 1507, the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act with Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Currently, benefits provided through tribal governmental programs are counted as taxable income for individual Native American recipients. However, similar state and federal programs are tax-exempt. S. 1507 amends the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to clarify treatment of general welfare benefits provided by Indian tribes and gives, tribes, as sovereign nations under reserved powers of tribal self-government, the right to provide tax-exempt government programs and services to their tribal citizens. Through this clarification, tribal sovereignty will be respected, while making certain tribal citizens are not unfairly taxed, enhancing economic development and the quality of life in Indian Country. Click here to learn more.
Visiting Flint Hills Stone and Perry Ranch in Northeast Kansas
Before returning to Washington, D.C., last week, I traveled to rural Alma, the city of native stone, to visit the Gnadt Rock Quarry. Their business consists of mining the native Kansas limestone and cutting it to match customer needs. Much of the limestone they sell is used for retaining walls and as decorative patio settings. Alex Gnadt was kind enough to show me around the mine and explain some of the issues and problems they face and work to overcome as a small family business—it is always great to see young people adding value to our Kansas economy.
After Gnadt’s, I traveled to Oskaloosa to meet Phil Perry at the Perry Ranch. Both Phil and his wife, Rhonda, shared with me insights about how they run their business and how backgrounding fits into the beef industry. I hear their concerns many times over as I travel across the state and meet with small business owners. Thanks to the Perry’s for the warm welcome and good conversation. Click here to see a photo.
Becoming an Alpha Tau Omega Brother
This week, I was honored as an Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) Fraternity special initiate, as well as gave remarks at ATO’s new chapter house at K-State. The founders of ATO had a vision nearly 150 years ago to create a brotherhood not based on differences, but similarities – one that would be unified by instructing men to “contend for the supremacy of good over evil; to teach, not politics, but morals; to foster, not partisanship, but the recognition of true merit wherever found.”
In the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
Jason Klumb of Kansas City
Mark Holecek of Kansas City
Stacey Forshee of Delphos
American College of Cardiology
Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy of Overland Park
Lambert Wu of Topeka
Ryan Maybrook of Overland Park
National Association of Federally Impacted Schools
Keith Mispagel of Fort Leavenworth
Janet Christian of Junction City
Ron Walker of Junction City
Association of Energy Service Companies
Tom Casey of Victoria
City of Ottawa
Mayor Sara Caylor of Ottawa
Wynndee Lee of Ottawa
Fonda Rose of Ottawa
Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas (ESSDACK)
Mike Cook of Hutchinson
Michelle Shirling of Circleville
Angie Gamber of Topeka
Kansas National education Association
Kim Howard of Wichita
Bob Thesman of Kansas City
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen/Teamsters
Tyler Jones of Sawyer
Health Impact Project
Tatiana Lin of Topeka
Sheena Smith of Topeka
March of Dimes
Diane Daldrup of Overland Park
Sue Hall of Topeka
Ken Jackson of Overland Park
American Moving and Storage Association
Larry Fry of Overland Park
Burton Pianalto of Goodland
Jack Shearer of Prairie Village
Scott Peterson of Prairie Village
Herb Hodes of Overland Park
Michelle Schierling of Circleville
Angela Gamber of Topeka
Leonard Lowland of Leawood
Scott Collins of Lenexa
Nancy Collins of Lenexa
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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