Kansas Common Sense


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Senate Passes Moran VA Amendment on 40-Mile Eligibility
In a rare 100-to-0 vote on the Senate Floor, on Thursday the entire U.S. Senate passed my amendment (#356) to the Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res. 11) to make clear the Senate’s overwhelming support to require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to implement the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (the Choice Act) as Congress intended. By passing Amendment #356, the entire United States Senate has joined me in calling on the VA to provide veterans access to non-VA health care when the nearest VA medical facility within 40 miles drive time from a veteran’s home is incapable of offering the care sought by the veteran.

By currently refusing to consider whether the VA facility within 40 miles of where a veteran lives actually offers the care a veteran needs, the VA is forcing thousands of veterans to choose between traveling hours to a VA medical facility, paying out of pocket, or going without care altogether. This is of particular concern to rural veterans in Kansas may not live near a VA medical facility that is capable of offering the care they need. For example, if you are a rural veteran and there is a VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) within  40 miles of your home, the VA states you are not eligible and don't qualify for the Choice Act even though that CBOC doesn't provide the service that you need. 

This is a significant problem and instance where the VA continues to lack common sense by not putting veterans first. When the Senate and House came together to pass the bipartisan Choice Act last August, we told veterans they would now have a choice when it came to their health care. Now we need to make certain those who are entitled to benefits are receiving them. This is not a Republican issue, this is not a Democrat issue. This is an American issue that mostly calls for common sense.

The amendment passed by the Senate mirrors bipartisan legislation I’ve introduced, the Veterans Access to Community Care Act of 2015 (S. 207), which is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 19 Senators. The bill has been endorsed by numerous veterans’ organizations including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, Vietnam Veterans of America and the National Guard Association of the United States as well as the National Rural Health Association.

I am hopeful that the strong support conveyed by the Senate’s passage of Amendment #356 this week will encourage a passage of S. 207 out of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a vote on the Senate Floor in the very near future. I spoke on the Senate floor prior to the vote on Amendment #356, describing the ongoing problem veterans’ face accessing the care they were promised through the Choice Act. Click here to watch my speech. 

Senate Passes Balanced Budget
Early Friday morning, following 15 hours of amendment votes, the Senate passed S. Con. Res. 11, the budget blueprint for Fiscal Year 2016. In all, the Senate voted on 49 amendments offered by both Republicans and Democrats to the budget resolution, related to wide-ranging issues such as defense spending, Iran sanctions, estate taxes and Obamacare. The budget passage sets the stage for conference negotiations with the House of Representatives, which passed its own budget resolution on Thursday. Congress has not successfully adopted a budget conference report since 2009, an important duty of governing which the new Republican Senate majority is eager to restore.

Having offered several amendments to the budget resolution, I am pleased that two of them were ultimately passed. By a roll call vote of 100-0, the Senate passed my amendment #356 calling on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide veterans access to non-VA health care when the nearest VA medical facility within 40 miles drive time from a veteran’s home is incapable of offering the treatment needed. Later in the evening, my amendment #1099 to support biomedical research and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was passed by voice vote.

The Senate budget resolution balances the Federal budget within 10 years and creates a surplus by FY 2025, no easy task given the $7.6 trillion currently projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to be added to our national deficit during that timeframe. While President Obama’s FY 2016 budget request raises taxes by $1.8 trillion to finance new spending, the Senate budget protects Americans from new taxes and institutes several budget process reforms to reduce wasteful spending and increase transparency. By CBO estimates, the balanced budget and reduced regulatory burdens of the Senate budget will stimulate economic growth and result in as many as one million new jobs over the next decade. It is my hope that the House and Senate can resolve budget differences in a timely fashion, and produce a fiscally responsible budget to finally get our country’s finances back under control.

Supporting Life-Saving Medical Research
During the debate this week of the Senate Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2016 (S. Con. Res. 11), I offered an amendment to support biomedical research and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – the focal point of our nation’s medical research. The Senate passed this amendment, which stresses the benefits of investment in biomedical research, in an effort to keep up with the rate of biomedical inflation. It prioritizes medical research funding without adding a penny to the nation’s annual deficit. 

Medical research supported by NIH has changed the lives of millions of Americans and has the potential to impact millions more – offering them hope for the future. Now is not the time to waiver on America’s commitment to advancing disease cures and treatments. Without consistent, strong support of NIH, our nation is at risk of jeopardizing patient treatment advancements, losing our position as a global medical research leader, and squandering the opportunity to drive economic growth and reduce health care costs. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, I remain committed to working in a bipartisan manner to support the critical federal investment in NIH.

By harnessing decades of research, the life expectancy of the average American increased by eight years between 1970 and 2013. Deaths from heart disease have fallen by more than 60 percent since 1970. Cancer mortality rates have steadily declined since 1990 and today more than 12 million Americans are cancer survivors. Despite significant advances in research, much work still remains. Nearly every family has been touched by disease. Around 600,000 Americans will die of cancer this year, and half of all men and a third of all women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. An American is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every minute. Without NIH support, critical research to cure diseases and save lives will stall. Click here to read more about the importance of biomedical research.

Budget Amendment to Protect Second Amendment Rights
I sponsored an amendment (#385) this week to the Senate Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2016 (S. Con. Res. 11) to help protect and preserve the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. The amendment would prevent taxpayer funding toward the implementation of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (U.N. ATT) – or any other international organization established to implement the U.N. ATT – before Senate ratification and the implementation of legislation from both the House and Senate.

The U.N. ATT is now in force since more than 50 countries have ratified the treaty. A secretariat of the U.N. Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty oversees the practical and logistical arrangements related to the work of the Conference. In discussions of providing funding to the Secretariat, many nations supported the idea that all signatory countries contribute, of which the United States is one. This would require the United States to contribute 22 percent of the funding – in line with their contribution level to the U.N. as a whole. 

Despite the Obama Administration formally signing the ATT in September 2013, the Senate opposition to this Treaty in the 114th Congress remains strong and continues to grow. I will continue to fight to uphold the fundamental individual rights of Americans by reiterating our rejection of the ATT.

Permanent Medicare Payment Reform
On Thursday, the House of Representatives approved legislation to repeal the broken Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula by a bipartisan vote of 392-37. This measure has been sent to the Senate for consideration. Medicare reimbursement to physicians is currently calculated through the SGR. This formula, which I did not support when it was created, was introduced as a way to contain the growth in health spending, but more than a decade of short-term “SGR patches” have frustrated health care providers, threatened access for Medicare beneficiaries, and created budgetary dilemmas for Congress. During this time, Congress has spent nearly $150 billion on these temporary patches. I spoke on the Senate floor Thursday morning about the urgent need to permanently repeal and replace the SGR formula. Click here to view my remarks.

To preserve medical access for Kansans, physicians and other health care providers must receive appropriate reimbursement for the care they provide. The reality is patient care suffers when providers are forced to endure an exasperating wait-and-see game every few months to find out what amount they will be reimbursed for the care they provide. Rather than continually punting responsibility for this issue to a later date, Congress can – and must – do better. We can end this piecemeal approach to legislating and come together to permanently repeal the SGR in a fiscally responsible manner. I urge the Senate to take up this SGR repeal legislation without delay.

Questioning Bill Gates on Polio Eradication Efforts
On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs held a hearing to discuss health and development issues in Africa. Those testifying included Bill Gates, former NATO Commander Admiral James Stavridis, and Oscar-winning director Ben Affleck. I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Gates about polio eradication efforts and get the panel’s insight on how the American response to the Ebola crisis will help prevent the next pandemic. I was pleased to hear progress that is being made against infectious diseases and economic growth. The health, security and economic challenges facing so many African nations may impact our country in the coming years, and the assistance of generous individuals and the U.S. government can ensure a safe, prosperous future.

USDA: Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision Ready for Wheat & Commodity Program Sign-up Deadline Extended
This week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will extend the deadline for farmers to sign up for the new Farm Bill commodity programs – Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) – until Tuesday, April 7. The Agriculture Department will also extend the deadline for producers to reallocate base acres and update yields to the same date. Producers who have not signed up yet should visit their county FSA offices for more information.

USDA also confirmed the Actual Production History (APH) Yield Exclusion, a new crop insurance provision created in the 2014 Farm Bill, will be available for producers who plant winter wheat this coming fall. The provision was implemented by USDA in time for crops planted this spring, but not for wheat planted in the fall of 2014. It is intended to assist producers in drought stricken areas who have seen diminishing insurable yields on crop insurance policies. The provision allows farmers to exclude yields from their individual APH when the average yield in a county or surrounding county is 50 percent below the county’s 10-year average. At a recent Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, I pressed Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to make certain the provision was ready in time so that Kansas wheat producers may see its potential benefits on their next crop.

I will continue to work with Secretary Vilsack on Farm Bill implementation as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. It’s important that producers have the risk management tools available to effectively operate their farm and ranch, including the Farm Bill commodity and crop insurance provisions. Click here to learn more.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Legislative Conference
This week, I had the opportunity to speak to cattle producers from across Kansas and the nation at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Legislative Conference. When you come from a state that has twice as many cows as people, you feel pretty comfortable among that crowd. We discussed a number of important issues impacting cattle producers, including regulatory overreach by the federal government and the misguided Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report that was recently released. As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, I will continue to work to keep the government out of the way so this important Kansas industry can thrive. I enjoyed the conversations I had at the conference and look forward to continuing to advocate on behalf of Kansas beef in the Senate.

Salina Farm Show
I hosted a booth at the 50th Annual Mid America Farm Exposition in Salina this week. The three-day event featured more than 325 exhibitors who highlighted the latest in farming technology and practices. The Expo has grown to become one of the largest spring farm shows in the Midwest, attracting more than 10,000 people each year. Topics of conversation at my booth ranged from the Farm Bill and crop insurance, to the FAA to rural Kansas. Thanks again to everyone who shared their thoughts and concerns with my staff this week.

Visiting Ceva Animal Health
Before returning to Washington, D.C., on Monday, I visited Ceva Animal Health in Lenexa. Ceva is one of the world's top 10 animal health companies with 3,750 employees globally. They have expanded several times in Lenexa to increase vaccine production capacity, and are currently completing construction of a new building and starting construction on another. Thanks to CEO Daryl Pint for the tour and informative visit, and thanks also to Lenexa Mayor Mike Boehm and Lenexa Chamber of Commerce President Blake Schreck for joining me.

Now Accepting 2015 Service Academy Applications
Even as students are beginning their summer breaks, I want to remind them of the opportunity to apply to a United States Service Academy. Appointing Kansans to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.; the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo; and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., is one of my favorite duties as a U.S. Senator. 

To find out the requirements and apply, please download an application from my website or contact my Olathe office. All application materials are due to my Olathe office by September 4, 2015. After applications have been reviewed, applicants will be notified of interviews with my Service Academy Selection Board, which will take place on Saturday, September 26, 2015, at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.

Kansas College Basketball on National Stage
I was proud to see two of our Kansas teams in the NCAA March Madness Men’s Basketball Tournament this year. Both the University of Kansas and Wichita State University had fantastic seasons and their spots in the tournament were well deserved.  KU won their 11th straight conference championship in the Big 12, while Wichita State’s regular season record was strong enough to win an at-large bid coming out of the Missouri Valley conference. Their winning seasons resulted both teams having to play each other in the second round of the tournament, with Wichita State knocking KU out and moving on to play Notre Dame in the Sweet Sixteen. I was hoping to see Wichita State defeat Notre Dame, taking to the Senate floor in my black and gold tie Thursday to support the team, but unfortunately they lost later that night. Congratulations to both University of Kansas and Wichita State University on their success this year in men’s basketball and I hope this success is continued in future years.

Kansans in the Office
Rick Blumhorst of Paola 
Ron Dover of Overland Park
Brad Rayl of Buhler
Jolie Price of Hutchinson 

Kansas Electric Cooperatives
Bruce Graham of Topeka 

Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Stephen Samuels of Kansas City
Ian Anderson of Kansas City 

University of Kansas School of Nursing
Courtney Hill of Kansas City 

American Psychopathological Society
Kevin McCluskey of Manhattan 

Arthritis Foundation
James Jarvi of Overland Park
Laniese Penner of Newton
Staci Penner of Newton
Michele Guadalupe of Wichita 

National Tuberculosis Controllers Association
Phil Griffin of Topeka 

Ft. Leavenworth School District
Keith Mispagel of Leavenworth 

Kansas Alliance for the Arts in Education
Barbara Warady of Overland Park
Jennifer Morgan-Beuchat of Valley Falls 

Coalition for Efficient and Responsible Trucking
Ernie Arnote of Kansas City 

AHCA ID/DD Advisory Council and Special Olympics
John Lair of Pittsburg 

CHS Board Members
Steve Riegel of Dodge City 

City of Leavenworth
Mark Preisinger of Leavenworth
Paul Kramer of Leavenworth
Dick Gibson of Leavenworth
Scott Miller of Leavenworth 

John Paul McDonald of Wichita 

Mid-America Lumbermen’s Association
Robert Uhler of Fort Scott
Jim Bishop of Bonner Springs 

American Podiatric Medical Association
Corin Wilde of Pittsburg
Jeffery Hogge of Independence 

American Health Information Management Association
Ann Nowlin of Salina
Janae Morton of Wakeeney
Jennifer Manahan of Wichita
Jaime Richling of Junction City
Julie Hatesohl Manhattan
Claudia Ellerman of Wichita 

American Coalition for Ethanol
Jeff Oestmann 

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Kerri Lindsay of Olathe 

Kansas Bankers Association
Kelly Mason of Pratt
Bob Leftwich of Wellington
Frank Carason of Mulvavne
Gary Yager of Topeka
Mark Larabee Kansas City
Kyle Campbell of Abilene
Tim Smith of Hays
Pat Harbert of Wichita
Brad Elliott of Wichita
Leonard Woke of Marysville 

Kansas Home Care Association
Ed Schulte of Topeka
Jane Kelly of Topeka 

Kansas State Department of Education
Brad Neuenswander of Topeka
Ken Willard of Hutchinson
Jim McNiece of Wichita 

Professional Compounding Centers of America
Eric Everett of Mission 

Northwest Baptist Church
Bryan Shaffer of Leavenworth
Daniel Schiffbauer of Leavenworth
Chadd Lemaster of Garnett 

Endocrine Society
Rajendra Kumar of Kansas City
Randall Hrabe of Plainville 

Kansas Humanities Council
Tracy Quillin of Topeka
Julie Mulvihill of Topeka
Aaron Otto of Overland Park 

Brewers Association
Steve Bradt of Lawrence 

Alzheimer’s Association
Marcia Gilbert of Pittsburg
Debbie Holroyd of Topeka
Elizabeth Hodges of Lake Quivira 

Kansas Head Start Association
Victoria Lauseng of Salina
Rachel Luke of Pittsburg
Emily Ebaben of Olathe
Erick Vaughn of Lawrence 

Lockheed Martin
David McClure of Wichita
Hannu Multala of Kansas City 

Ryan Panos of Wichita
Rob Barden of Wichita 

American Society of Civil Engineers
Aaron Frits of Lawrence
Jennifer Jacka-Taylor of Overland Park
Ernesto Longoria of Prairie Village 

Kansas Livestock Association
Matt Teagarden of Topeka
Jaret Moyer of Emporia
John Adams of Plains
Lisa Adams of Plains
TJ Curtis of Cimarron
Lee Reeve of Garden City
Jeff Sternberger of Garden City
Tracy Brunner of Ramona
Dave Sjeklocha of Satanta
Jessica Laurin of Marion
Ken Grecian of Palco 

LPC Conservation, LLC
Chaston Hocme of Scott City 

Playa Lakes Joint Venture
Barth Crouch of Salina 

People for Bikes
Jeff Koenig of Manhattan
Aaron Apel of Manhattan 

Scott Burgett of Overland Park 

US Travel Association
Suzan Barnes of Cottonwood Falls
Natalie Bright of Topeka
Kevin Fern of Shawnee
Donna Price of Goodland
Jan Stevens of Dodge City
Bridgette Jobe of Kansas City 

Swift Fuels
Ashleigh De La Torre of Topeka 

Global Trade Compliance for The Coleman Company
Jennifer Kissner of Wichita 

Disability Rights Center of Kansas
Rocky Nichols of Topeka 

Flint Hills Writing Project
Roger Caswell of Emporia
Heather Caswell of Emporia 

Professional Insurance Agents
Sue Peachey of Pratt
Trina Ceballos of Topeka
Bob Shields of Oswego 

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City
Carlos Gomez of Topeka
Angie Rodriquez Gunion of Overland Park
Gabe Munoz of Shawnee

Capitol Tour
Douglas Musick of Manhattan
Cathy Musick of Manhattan
Tava Musick of Manhattan
Dalen Musick of Manhattan
Devin Musick of Manhattan
Beth Wolf of Burns
Greg Hands of Holcomb
Alexia Hands of Holcomb
Koby Hands of Holcomb
Amanda Beckley of Holcomb
Taylor Beckley of Holcomb
Edward Schulte of Baldwin City
Ronda Schulte of Baldwin City
Jennifer Kruse of Hanover
Warren Hixson of Hutchinson
Sharon Hixson of Hutchinson
Morgan Hixson of Hutchinson
Sue Peachey of Pratt
Larry Walburn of Hays
Melissa Hunsicker Walburn of Hays
Grayson Walburn of Hays
Kennedy Walburn of Hays

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,


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