Kansas Common Sense

Dear Friend,

Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” I hope you and your family have a happy Thanksgiving.

Today I am hosting a town-hall meeting from 11:30am-1:00pm at Marion Community Center Ballroom - 203 North Third Street in Marion. This will be my 1,000th town hall meeting and will be serving pancakes to attendees. I encourage you to join

 

Concerned About Nuclear Deal with Iran
On Saturday, President Obama announced that the United States and our international negotiating partners reached a six-month agreement with Iran in which Iran gets sanctions relief in exchange for halting the advancement of its nuclear program. Troublingly, Iran made no commitment to dismantle its nuclear program, or even aspects of it. Iran's track record of deception and refusal to abide by past international demands make me gravely concerned about this deal. Now is not the time to ease up on the pressure and turn the other way, allowing Iran to make further progress in achieving its goal. The agreement reached with Iran also gives the Iranians access to billions of dollars that can be used to fund terrorist activities and support Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad, all the while allowing Iran to continue committing serious human rights abuses--including the imprisonment of American pastor Saeed Abedini.

Congress should pass additional sanctions so that if Iran breaks the agreement, President Obama can not only reverse the sanctions relief granted by this deal but immediately impose more sanctions. We must do everything we can to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.

Senate Democrats Alter Senate Rules for More Control
On Thursday, Majority leader Harry Reid breaking the rules of the Senate to force through executive nominations. In my view, this looks like an attempt to divert Americans’ attention away from the chaos and broken promises of Obamacare. Senate Democrats continue to use the same procedural tactics they used when Obamacare was forced through Congress without a single Republican vote. If health care reform had been passed with careful deliberation and input from all those elected to represent the American people, Democrats might not be watching their flagship “achievement” and the healthcare security of their constituents unravel before their eyes today.

 

We Can Do Better Than Obamacare
The failure of the HealthCare.gov website has captured a lot of attention this past month, but the the real cost and consequence of Obamacare is much greater. I wish the problems with Obamacare could be solved by simply fixing this website, but that is not the case. The troubles of this law run much deeper. On Thursday, I spoke on the Senate floor about these problems as well as the things we can do to actually improve health care in this country and reduce costs.

The fact that millions of Americans are losing their health coverage is not an unintended consequence of Obamacare or even an unfortunate accident—it is the result of the law working just as its authors expected. Obamacare takes the freedom to make health care decisions for you and your family and gives it to the federal government. And despite the headaches, frustration and anger the American people are experiencing right now, the Obama Administration is unlikely to offer any real relief, because doing so would risk the entire scheme Obamacare was designed to put in place. This is why I believe Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced.

In my speech, I outline a series of practical health care reforms that embrace freedom and empower individuals without trampling freedoms, increasing costs, or expanding the reach and power of the federal government. Click here to view this speech.
 

Introducing Amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act

This week, the Senate took up the National Defense Authorization Act. I submitted a number of amendments to the bill, including:

Protecting National Guard Role in Cyber Missions: This amendment would support the Kansas National Guard and Department of Defense (DoD) Reserve Components by protecting their ability to carry our cyber missions in support of DoD and safeguarding our nation. As part of the DoD strategy requirement in Section 945 of the Senate version of the NDAA, passage of this amendment would halt, and likely prevent cuts to the 177th Information Aggressor Squadron (IAS) based at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita. The 177th is critical not only to Kansas National Guardsman, but also as a national security asset for the DoD and other organizations that require cyber mission support.

Click here to read more about what my amendment would accomplish.

 

Funding POW/MIA Recovery Efforts: As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Appropriations Committees, I introduced an amendment expressing the sense of the Senate that recovering and identifying personnel who are prisoners of war or missing in action (POW/MIA) should not be subject to the annual appropriations process. During the lapse in appropriations and government shutdown in October 2013, several POW/MIA cases, including one for a Kansan, previously scheduled to occur through the Joint POW/MIA Accountability Command this fall were postponed due to the lack of funding from an annual appropriations bill. This unfortunate circumstance led to my decision to offer this amendment. We must make certain any lapse in appropriations due to a government shutdown does not delay the excavations of our nation’s heroes who have been waiting decades to be welcomed home. My amendment strives to prevent such scenarios from happening again. Click here to read the full text of Amendment.

I also sponsored an amendment to require the submission of a report by the Department of Defense in order to maintain their responsibility and accountability for bringing home Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who is currently a POW/MIA in Afghanistan. POW/MIA service members deserve a hero’s welcome home to a grateful nation and their recovery should never be delayed or postponed.

 

Protect Military Technicians: The government shutdown impacted our National Guard serving our state and this nation. This week I introduced an amendment that would protect the pay of dual-status military technicians (MILTECH) in the Kansas National Guard and across the country by treating them the same as Active Duty personnel in the case of a lapse in appropriations. The financial well-being and readiness of those serving our country must not suffer due to gridlock on Capitol Hill. This amendment would provide the Department of Defense the authority and latitude to maintain pay and benefits for all military technicians.

This amendment is consistent with my previous effort of bringing together a bipartisan group of 49 U.S. Senators who sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging that the National Guard and Reserves, and the civilians who support our troops, receive pay during the government shutdown.

 

Promoting Federal IT Savings, Accountability and Transparency: I introduced the Federal Information Technology Savings, Accountability, and Transparency Amendment to improve the way the government purchases and builds technology. The systemically-flawed rollout of Healthcare.gov is one high-profile example of IT procurement failures, but sadly, this is the norm for big-government technology spending. The federal government spends roughly $80 billion annually on information technology, but a recent study from IT researcher Standish Group shows that 94 percent of all Federal IT projects result in cost overruns, project delays, or are abandoned altogether, wasting billions of dollars annually. This is unacceptable.

My amendment, introduced with Senator Johanns and Senator Tom Udall, would improve the IT procurement process by empowering federal Chief Information Officers (CIOs), elevating their role in civilian agency budget planning processes, and increasing their ability to optimize how agencies use information technology. This increased accountability and transparency will make certain your tax-dollars are spent more effectively. Click here to read more about this amendment.

 

Calling for Assessment of Al Shabab Threat: I also introduced an amendment which requests a classified, joint intelligence assessment from the Departments of State and Defense and the Director of National Intelligence to evaluate the threat of Al Shabab to the United States and U.S. citizens in east Afruca.

As Al Shabab attempts to seek resources and recruits within the United States and successfully carried out an attack on civilians in Kenya, it’s imperative that we adequately assess the risk this U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization poses both domestically and to Americans serving in the region. Soldiers from Kansas’ Fort Riley deployed in the Horn of Africa are the first Regionally Aligned Brigade (RAB) in the Army with a specialized mission set of operations and theater security cooperation. Recent studies or reports on Al Shabab are currently lacking, necessitating the need for an assessment. Click here to learn more.



Nomination of Janet Yellen to Lead the Federal Reserve
On Thursday, the Senate Banking Committee met in executive session to consider the nomination of Dr. Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve. Her nomination was advanced for consideration by the full Senate following a 14-8 vote in the committee. During a conversation with Dr. Yellen in my office as well as in questions submitted for the committee record, I asked Dr. Yellen about her views on a variety topics including monetary policy, unemployment numbers, bank supervision, regulatory standards for insurance companies, and Dodd-Frank implementation. In my estimation, the Federal Reserve is putting our economy at risk with its monthly bond buying regime known as quantitative easing. The threat of inflation is real. Having discussed this issue with Dr. Yellen, I became convinced that she, if confirmed, intended to continue with the quantitative easing program further exposing our nation to future economic harm. I also have concerns about her views on the regulation of smaller banks. For these reasons, among others, I could not support Dr. Yellen’s nomination. With the nomination advancing, I will continue asking questions so that Dr. Yellen and her Federal Reserve colleagues understand the concerns of Kansans.

Evaluating Bitcoin and Virtual Currency
On Tuesday, I attended a joint hearing of Senate Banking Subcommittees on Economic Policy and National Security, International Trade and Finance on The Present and Future Impact of Virtual Currency. Prior to the hearing, I posted on the website Reddit, asking Bitcoin interested individuals what they thought Congress should know about the virtual currency. The volume of responses was overwhelming. Nearly 900 people answered with a variety of opinions, suggested questions and advice. I used these comments to formulate questions for the hearing panelists. I look forward to continuing to educate myself about virtual currency as Congress evaluates this increasingly popular technology. Click here to watch a YouTube clip of my questions from the hearing.

 

Visiting with Air Mobility Command
On Tuesday, I met with the Commander for Air Mobility Command, General Paul Selva, whom I first met in February after he took command. General Selva and I discussed the success of the November 12th Environmental Impact Study (EIS) hearing in Wichita for McConnell Air Force Base, which the General told me remains in excellent standing. We also talked about budget constraints on the Air Force because it was recently revealed that the KC-46A program could have been in jeopardy due to the government shutdown and a lapse in appropriations. I conveyed my continued support and commitment to making certain we’re basing tankers at McConnell in 2016.
 

 

Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Visit
On Friday morning, I had the opportunity to visit with about 100 members of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce at the Carnegie Building. We discussed many issues facing our nation including the fiscal crisis and the need to make real changes in Washington D.C. I always enjoy the opportunity to have these discussions with Kansans. Thanks to Hugh Carter, Brad Finkeldei and Ron Gaches for the invitation and to everyone who took the time to attend. I also appreciate Riley Scott with Parallel Strategies, John Brown with Hy-Vee, as well as Gene Meyer and Kathy Clausing-Willis with Lawrence Memorial Hospital for sponsoring the event for the Chamber.

 

Celebrating the Contributions of Entrepreneurs
Since 2008, people around the world have marked one week in November as Global Entrepreneurship Week. Started by the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Global Entrepreneurship Week honors the entrepreneurs and innovators whose creative ideas, willingness to take risks, and hard work benefit all of us through the creation of new jobs and products. This year, I kicked off Global Entrepreneurship Week in Hays by joining students at Startup Weekend and concluded the week by participating in an event at the University of Kansas where teams of students developed entrepreneurial plans to improve the economy in Kansas City, Kansas. Congratulations to the winners and everyone who participated.

 

K-State Wildcats v. Oklahoma
On Saturday, I had the pleasure of joining tens of thousands of Kansas State football fans at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan to cheer on the Wildcats as they took on the nationally ranked Oklahoma Sooners. K-State put up a great fight but ended up losing 41-31. It was nonetheless a fun game. I thank K-State President Kirk Schultz for his hospitality. Click here to see a photo.

 

 

In the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:

Doug Brownlee of Olathe
Karin Brownlee of Olathe 

Association of University Centers on Disabilities
Andrea Courtemanche of Lawrence
Liesl Edwards of Kansas City 

Air Mobility Command
Major Jeff Rowlison of Osborne 

Rowe Neurology Institute
Vernon Rowe of Shawnee
Elizabeth Rowe of Shawnee 

TouchNet
Dan Toughey of Lenexa

Kansas Soybean Commission National Biodiesel Board
Dennis Gruenbacher of Andale
Suzanne Gruenbacher of Andale
Lance Rezac of Onega
Dennis Hupe of Topeka

Adjutant General of Kansas
Major General Lee Tafanelli

Northwestern Mutual
Phillip Sarnecki of Bucyrus
John Goodwin of Mission Hills
Joe Jones of Lawrence

Native American Code Talkers
Scott Wilkerson of Reading
Tony Wilkerson of Reading

Society for Human Resource Management
Teresa Bergtson of Wichita
Cindy Fry of Hutchinson
Catherine McMillen of Garden City
Pam Pierce of Benington
Tracy Clark of Hutchinson
Rumi Pipes of Manhattan
Jackie Bond of Louisburg
Teddi Canellos of Manhattan

National Society of Land Surveyors
Valeri Peltier of Wichita

NTCA The Rural Broadband Association
Archie Macias of Udall
Brian Boisvere of Wilson

Capitol Tours
Reverend Rick Smith of Pomona
Jaime Smith of Pomona
Rob Conway of Ottawa
Delores Mobley of Ottawa
Phyllis Cunningham of Ottawa
Susan Zentz of Parker
Roger Sims of Parker
Jennifer Taylor of Olathe
Kaitlin McCormick of Overland Park
Katie Vogliardo of Overland Park
Mary Martha Schmidt of Overland Park
Kevin Suther of Chapman
Conni Suther of Chapman
Daniel Sell of Chapman
Lacee Sell of Chapman
Ricky Erickson of Chapman
Collette Erickson of Chapman
Rodney Anderson of Abilene
Tammy Anderson of Abilene
John Clark of Ness City

 

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.

 

Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.

 

Very truly yours,

Jerry

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