Kansas Common Sense
Jul 27 2015
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Senate Consideration of the Highway Trust Fund
On August 1, 2015, pending Congressional action, the federal Highway Trust Fund will run dry and the Department of Transportation will be unable to reimburse states for projects eligible for federal aid. While the U.S. House of Representatives passed a five-month, $8 billion extension on July 15, the Senate continues to work toward passage of a longer term highway reauthorization bill.
The Senate legislation authorizes federal surface transportation programs for six years, while including approximately $47 billion in spending offsets to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent for three years. With the Highway Trust Fund facing a shortfall of $168 billion over the next decade, it is critical that Congress pass a multi-year extension to provide state and local governments some certainty in planning badly needed infrastructure projects.
On Sunday, the Senate considered amendments to the highway package repealing the Affordable Care Act and reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. The Senate will consider additional amendments before ultimately voting on final passage of the highway bill later this week.
Introducing Legislation to Safeguard Service Members' Second Amendment Rights
On July 16, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez attacked two military recruitment centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killing five and wounding several others. The four U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy Officer who lost their lives were unable to defend themselves because of Department of Defense regulations prohibiting military personnel from carrying firearms in the recruitment center. If these fallen service members at the Chattanooga military recruitment centers had been allowed to exercise their Second Amendment Rights, the outcome of the attacks could have been very different.
In light of this tragic event, I introduced legislation this past week to address “Gun-Free Zones” at American military installations – including military recruitment centers as well as other duty station site – and restore the Second Amendment rights of service members. The Safeguarding Service Members’ Second Amendment Rights Act would repeal bans on military personnel carrying firearms on U.S. military installations and Department of Defense (DoD) sites and prohibit the president, secretary of defense and secretaries of military departments from enacting similar restrictions or prohibitions in the future.
Members of our military are targets for those who wish to threaten our way of life and do not share our values. I believe we must empower service members to defend themselves and others from hostile attacks and acts of domestic terrorism. They defend our freedoms and should be allowed to defend themselves and use their Constitutional right to bear arms. To learn more about this legislation, click here.
President Seeks U.N. Approval Before Congressional Consideration
On Monday, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution endorsing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and setting the stage for implementation. The immediate move by the Obama administration to pass a resolution at the U.N. was a not-so-subtle slight to the American people. The May 2015 passage of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which passed the Senate by a nearly-unanimous 98-1 vote, made explicitly clear the American public’s interest in reviewing and voting on the terms of any potential nuclear agreement.
The president’s rejection of American law and the voice of the American people should not derail our resolve. We must follow through with a serious assessment of this nuclear agreement and make an informed decision on whether to approve or disapprove of this proposed deal. After reviewing the details of the agreement and hearing the testimony of three Obama administration cabinet secretaries, I oppose this deal and with argue against it. This deal simply provides too much relief from the P5+1 in return for too little compliance from Iran. I intend to support a resolution of disapproval and will utilize the Congressional review period to urge fellow Senators to join me.
Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FSGG Bill
This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee completed the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016. During markup of the FSGG Appropriations Bill, I offered an amendment to lift the travel ban on U.S. citizens to Cuba. It passed with a bipartisan 18 to 12 vote. The current travel restrictions are enforced through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) within the Department of Treasury, which falls under the jurisdiction of the FSGG Appropriations bill. During my time in Congress, most of my focus has been on the agricultural part of the Cuba debate, but I also believe allowing U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba and engage with Cubans would enhance Cuba’s prospect for freedom, liberty and economic opportunity.
Completion of the FSGG Appropriations bill signaled the first time in six years that the committee has written and passed the 12 individual spending bills under its jurisdiction. As a member of both the subcommittee and the full committee, I am encouraged that this bill reduces spending while providing some much needed regulatory changes in our financial system. Among the regulatory changes, much of the relief I previously supported in the Banking Committee’s regulatory relief bill were in this week’s FSGG bill as well. This bill also moved the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an immensely powerful yet wholly unaccountable regulator created in the Dodd-Frank bill five years ago, into the appropriations process rather than their current system of simply drawing as much money as they request from the Federal Reserve. The CFPB would also be changed to a five-member bipartisan governing commission rather than the current single director.
These regulatory changes would better allow Kansans to open or expand businesses, buy or sell a home, and send their children to college. I will continue to push measures like this appropriations bill so that we can cut spending and reduce the role of government in the lives of Kansans.
Formation of the Kansas Water Resources Subcabinet
I had the opportunity to visit with representatives of the Kansas Water Resources Subcabinet this week, which is comprised of the Kansas Director of the Water Office and the Secretaries of the Kansas Departments of Agriculture, Health and Environment, and Wildlife Parks and Tourism. The subcabinet is tasked with developing and implementing a long-term vision for our state’s water supply, one of the most critical issues we face in Kansas. How we approach water issues will have both immediate impacts on our state as well as ramifications on generations to come. My discussion with the subcabinet focused on ways to encourage water conservation, regulatory overreach by the federal government, and lack of consultation by federal regulatory agencies with their on-the-ground state comparts.
I look forward to continuing to work with the subcabinet on water solutions – the task at hand to conserve our water supply and ensure it is safe and clean for people to drink is a challenge we need to meet head on. It’s my hope that our children and grandchildren look back with approval at the decisions we make today regarding our water.
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Markup
On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a legislation meeting to debate pending legislation relating to VA healthcare. I’m pleased the Committee unanimously passed the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery and Other Improvements Act (S.1203), which is a bill I sponsor to reform the VA healthcare claims process to diminish the backlog and make certain veterans are receiving the benefits they have earned.
This same bill included another piece of legislation I have led to expand access to chiropractic care at VA hospitals, the Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act (S. 398). Nearly 200,000 veterans since 2002 have been diagnosed with musculoskeletal and connective system conditions, which could be treated by chiropractors; however, less than a third of VA medical centers offer chiropractic care. This critical legislation would require the VA to provide chiropractic care at all of their medical centers, which will ease the burden veterans face in accessing this specialized care they need. I am proud these legislative initiatives that I sponsor passed the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee, and I am hopeful they will soon be brought to the Senate floor for debate.
Expressing Concern with $3 Billion VA Shortfall
During the committee meeting, I also had the opportunity to share my concerns about the $3 billion budget shortfall the VA has requested of Congress with little explanation only two weeks ago. According to the VA, there were indications in January that a budget shortfall to provide healthcare services outside the VA was imminent, yet they failed to inform Congress of the magnitude of the problem until mid-July. I am frustrated with the financial mismanagement that has occurred at the VA. VA management of this issue of a shortfall is woefully inadequate, and I am concerned that there is no plan in place to ensure shortfalls such as this do not occur in the future. Our nation’s heroes deserve quality and timely healthcare, and they deserve a department that can manage their finances in order to provide that care.
Raising Concerns with Planned Parenthood Practices
Recently released videos of senior Planned Parenthood officials discussing harvesting the tissue remains of aborted babies are truly appalling. This callous disregard for human life reduces unborn children to a commodity. I have long opposed taxpayer funding for abortion providers, and now it has become even more obvious why our tax dollars should not be permitted to facilitate these disgusting practices. I am concerned that this reflects behavior that is not only immoral but illegal, as well. I have joined with senators from across the country in asking Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell to cooperate fully as Congress investigates this organization that receives hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Click here to read the full letter.
Meeting with LTG Brown
I had a productive meeting this week with Lieutenant General Robert Brown about the incredible developments he is overseeing at Fort Leavenworth. Lt. Gen. Brown is the commanding general of the Fort and Combined Arms Center, which was recently tasked with managing the new professional military education construct known as Army University.
It is fitting that Fort Leavenworth – the Intellectual Center of the Army – will oversee the education and training of our future military and civilian leaders across the country. The Army University will revitalize the Army’s professional military education system, and I am proud that Fort Leavenworth will work to transform the way the Army prepares our nation’s leaders. I appreciate the efforts of Lt. Gen. Brown and all who serve at Fort Leavenworth as they embark on this new endeavor to strengthen professional military education through the new Army University. I am hopeful the restructured Army University will build upon our nation’s already first-rate education and training, and make certain we are preparing our soldiers to handle the evolving threats facing our country.
Kansas Listening Tour Stops Continue
I continued my Kansas Listening Tour this week with a stop in Clay County. On Monday, I stopped in Wakefield where nearly 40 town hall attendees shared concerns on a number of topics including illegal immigration, the videos released about Planned Parenthood and the Iran Deal. Thanks to Sandy Bieker for coordinating my visit.
On Saturday morning, I continued my Kansas Listening Tour in Ellsworth County. Nearly 50 area residents turned out to the Wilson Senior Center to share feedback and concerns on a wide array of topics including serious concerns with the Iran nuclear agreement, getting our nation's irresponsible spending under control, the safety of our men and women in uniform, education, overregulation, and how to keep Main Street alive and well. Thank you to Wilson Telephone President Brian Boisvert for organizing the legislative coffee. Thanks also to State Senator Rick Wilborn and State Representative Steven Johnson for participating in the event.
Wilson After Harvest Czech Festival
Beginning in the 1870s, Czech immigrants from Bohemia migrated to Wilson to work on the railroad, establishing the community’s culture and eventual designation as the “Czech Capital of Kansas.” Following the legislative coffee, I was pleased to join Wilson residents in celebration of their heritage at the community’s 55th Annual After Harvest Czech Festival.
The grand marshals of the parade were Steve and Jeanine Eschbaugh. Steve owns and manages Wilson’s largest employer Eschbaugh Advertising. They produce high-quality custom graphics applications. Jeanine is a registered nurse at the local Golden Living skilled nursing facility. I appreciate Dr. Dennis and Jennifer Kepka driving me through the parade in their 1965 Mustang Convertible.
Kansans in the Office
Jeff Koenig of Manhattan
Stephen Benson of Wichita
Rick Ambrosier of Abilene
Bret Ambrosier of Abilene
Morgan Ambrosier of Abilene
Denise Ambrosier of Abilene
Mike Oxford of Topeka
Jodi Perry of Carbondale
Tim Medeau of Scranton
Nancy Southard of Topeka
Greg Burgett of Carbondale
Mary Vauter Burgett of Carbondale
Bailey Peterson of Buhler
Dennis Reilly of Stilwell
Maddie Reilly of Stilwell
Lisa Reilly of Stilwell
Gary Reilly of Stilwell
Cindy Reilly of Stilwell
Austin Reilly of Stilwell
Jeff Thompson of Olathe
Lisa Thompson of Olathe
Grant Thompson of Olathe
George Spencer of Lebo
Lachelle Spencer of Lebo
Hunter Spencer of Lebo
Jackson Spencer of Lebo
Camden Spencer of Lebo
Ashton Spencer of Lebo
Joshua Russell of Hesston
Corissa Russell of Hesston
Makaiya Russell of Hesston
Ashlynn Russell of Hesston
Curtis Goodwin of Goodland
Tina Goodwin of Goodland
Alexander Goodwin of Goodland
Steven Cooper of Manhattan
Janet Cooper of Manhattan
Brian Rempel of Overland Park
Amy Rempel of Overland Park
Max Rempel of Overland Park
Jeffrey Jerwick of Kansas City
Erika Jerwick of Kansas City
Nick Hermann of Holcomb
Roberta Grange of Abilene
Charles Grange of Abilene
Rachael Lillich of Abilene
Olivia Lillich of Abilene
Matthew Lillich of Abilene
Dr. Mary Gooch of Clay Center
Ian Schulz of Tecumseh
Kimberly Trigg of Salina
Garrett Wilkinson of Hutchinson
Daniel Gremhalgh of Hutchinson
Associated Snow Contractors Association
Michael Jones of Kansas City
Kimberly Trigg of Salina
Tadeo Melean of Kansas City
Kent Wells of Garden City
K-State Truman Scholar
Ross Allen of Soldier
KU College Republicans Club
Eric Pahls of Beloit
National Association of Plan Advisors
Rick Luchinsky of Mission Hills
Vincent Morris of Leawood
Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America
Greg Tyler of Hutchinson
American Nurses Association
Angela Hermann of Olathe
Carla Lee of Wichita
National Automatic Merchandising Association
John Barnes of Overland Park
Paul Butler of Lenexa
Rob Efrus of Lenexa
Governor’s Water Subcabinet
Secretary Jackie McClasky of Manhattan
Secretary Robin Jennison of Topeka
Gary Mason of Topeka
Director Tracy Streeter of Topeka
Rebecca Hodges of Arkansas City
Jeff Hodges of Arkansas City
Kansas Kids at GEAR UP
Cathy Crist of Kansas City
Austin Carter of Lenexa
Jazarae Kelsey of Kansas City
Alex Trobough of Kansas City
Susan B. Anthony List
Dr. David Prentice of Parker
National Federation of Independent Business
Doug Furnell of Louisburg
National Youth Leadership Council
Theron Miller of Herington
U.S. Army Combined Arms Center
Lt. Gen. Robert Brown of Leavenworth
Wichita State University
Peter Perna of Wichita
Capitol Leadership Academy
Zoya Khan of Leawood
Kansas Farm Bureau
Terry Holdren of Manhattan
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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