Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks 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.
Meeting in the Capitol
Having worked alongside these two previously, it was great to catch up with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Capitol Hill this week. Together, there is a lot of work to do in the coming years.
Advocating for Legislation Improving the Well-Being of Millions of Americans
I spoke on the Senate floor this week in support of the 21st Century Cures Act: bipartisan legislation to accelerate the discovery and development of new cures and treatments for rare disorders, cancer, Alzheimer’s and many other diseases impacting millions of American families every year. The bill also includes funding for biomedical research at the National Institute of Health (NIH), assistance for mental health efforts, provisions to accelerate the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval and drug development processes, and funding to fight opioid abuse and suicides. There are also important provisions assisting rural hospitals in Kansas and across the country.
New scientific findings are what yield breakthroughs that enable us to confront the staggering challenges of disease and illness and their increasing financial cost to our country each year. If the United States is to continue to lead the world developing cures and treating diseases, we must commit to significant support for this research. The 21st Century Cures Act helps achieve that.
Congress Votes to Reauthorize Iran Sanctions
By vote of 99 to 0, the Senate voted Wednesday to reauthorize the Iran Sanctions Act. The threat of the Iranian government developing nuclear weapons is a grave concern of the United States and the entire world. The terrible potential consequences demand that all steps are taken to deny Iran that ability.
Economic sanctions remain a valuable tool in deterring Iranian nuclear development and penalizing Iran’s support of international terrorism. This legislation reauthorizes the Iran Sanctions Act and reinforces the President’s ability to swiftly reinstate sanctions should Iran violate the Iran Nuclear Deal. As the Middle East continues to suffer violence and instability, it is critical that Congress not reduce, but reaffirm sanctions authorities as America seeks the right policies to bring about a less dangerous world.
Stopping Fraud to Make Ticket Prices More Affordable
The Senate on Wednesday passed my bill, the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, and I hope to see the House act quickly to get it to the president’s desk. As Chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security Subcommittee, I was proud to lead this bipartisan legislation. Scalpers use “ticket bots” to cut in line, buy up large amounts of tickets before anyone else has a chance and then re-sell them at an artificially inflated markup. This bill helps level the online playing field for consumers and takes aim at those artificially inflated prices. Ticket bots have affected people in Kansas and across the country, and the need to end this growing practice is reflected in the widespread support in the Senate. To read more about BOTS, click here.
Expanding Specialty Care Access in Rural America
I cast my vote Tuesday in support of the ECHO Act, which increases Kansans’ access to specialty health care – particularly those in rural America. This legislation would make further use of tools like telemedicine to help expand our medical capabilities regardless of where you call home. Innovative approaches to rural health care like this one will help make certain rural Kansans can continue getting the care they need at their local health care facility. To read more, click here.
Staying Vigilant to Prevent Lesser Prairie Chicken Re-listing
Following a petition campaign from environmental groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced this week that they have enough support to move forward with a status review of the lesser prairie chicken. In reality, USFWS has already been working on a status review of the species since spring 2015, expected to be completed next summer.
With growing evidence that the federal government will re-list the lesser prairie chicken, we cannot let our guard down. I’ve repeatedly called on USFWS to be transparent about its future intentions regarding the species. It’s clear to me that locally-driven, voluntary conservation plans are a better approach to conserving the species than unnecessary federal mandates. As rainfalls and snow return, we will see the population continue to grow. One good piece of news is that USFWS decided against immediately putting in place emergency protections in parts of the bird’s habitat area – an action that could cause damage to area landowners. My efforts to stop the re-listing of the lesser prairie chicken will continue with the new administration next year.
Sending Legislation to the President’s Desk
I led legislation earlier this month in the Senate to improve the quality and safety of mobility equipment for disabled veterans and to make hearing aid services at VA health care facilities more accessible for Kansans. To the benefit of these veterans, the House passed the bill (H.R. 3471) this week and it’s now headed to the president’s desk. This commonsense bill will improve hearing aid services and equipment that allows disabled veterans greater mobility and independence. We must uphold our promise to provide quality care to those who sacrificed for our country. I hope to see the president swiftly sign it in to law. To read more, click here.
Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum
I led a group of my Senate colleagues to the Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Joining me were Senators Tim Kaine of Virginia, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Dan Sullivan of Alaska. The forum brings together civilian and uniformed leaders from the Department of Defense, key industry stakeholders, and government officials to discuss how best to address challenges in national defense and promote policies to strengthen our armed forces. I had the opportunity to join former Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman, Army Secretary Eric Fanning, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson on a panel to discuss the administration transition and how the transition process impacts the military.
I have always believed that Congress’ greatest responsibility is to provide for our national defense, and that requires both a strong military and a strong economy. I was pleased to see those two priorities converge this weekend while meeting with both our military leaders and our industry leaders. Over the course of the weekend, I shared conversations with several key national defense leaders.
Discussing General Mattis' Nomination as Secretary of Defense
Foreign adversaries looking to challenge the United States will be rethinking their plans and strategy with retired Marine General James Mattis at the helm of the defense department. With 44 years in the Marine Corps, he is a remarkable leader and has a methodical approach to strategy that is ever mindful of lessons from military history. Kansans and all Americans need this kind of thoughtful military mind working to keep them safe. I discussed his appointment on Fox News over the weekend and encourage you to watch.
Paying Tribute to Richard Rogers
Kansas lost a great citizen with the recent passing of Judge Richard Rogers. From flying combat missions in World War II to serving as a U.S. District Court Judge for more than 40 years, Richard Rogers will be remembered for his integrity and devotion to justice. He was the epitome of the World War II generation and a pillar of the Manhattan and Topeka communities. Robba and I are keeping his wife Cindy and their family in our prayers. You may read my submission to the Congressional Record in his memory here.
Rest in Peace, Nicholas Herren
I was saddened to learn about the fatal car accident involving Nicholas Herren of Alma, a University of Kansas Naval ROTC senior, over Thanksgiving weekend. Nicholas was a young, patriotic Kansan who was looking forward to serving his nation in the U.S. Marine Corps. Tragically, his call to service was cut short. Robba and I are keeping his family and all who knew him in our thoughts during this difficult time.
Tickets for Presidential Inauguration
My office is offering a limited number of tickets to Kansans for the inauguration ceremony of the 45th President of the United States. The ceremony will take place on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, on the west side of the U.S. Capitol Building. Tickets are limited, but we will do our best to accommodate as many requests as possible. Individuals who secure a ticket may pick them up in my Washington, D.C., office Jan. 17-19, 2017. Click here to request tickets. Requests must be completed by Dec. 31, 2016.
Kansans in the Office
Rep. Pete DeGraaf of Mulvane
Karen DeGraaf of Mulvane
Therese Bangert of Kansas City
Riley Scott of Lawrence
Topeka Independent Living Resource Center
Mike Oxford of Topeka
Frontier Farm Credit
Janet Bailey of Manhattan
Kansas Soybean Commission
Matt Jaeger of Minneola
Wesley Orr of Minneola
Dennis Hupe of Topeka
Mike Scott of Lawrence
National Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors
Jim Moore of Lawrence
Combat Military Veterans
Patrick Dewitt of Wichita
Jason Riddle of Wichita
Ramon Klassen of Inman
Lori Klassen of Inman
Larry Thierer of Manhattan
Jodi Thierer of Manhattan
Jakob Thierer of Manhattan
Betty Groves of Salina
Dean Groves of Salina
Julie Hejtmanek of Topeka
Danton Hejtmanek of Topeka
Henry Bendorf of Shawnee
Rep. Bill Sutton of Gardner
Lana Sutton of Gardner
Liam Sutton of Gardner
Sue Carey of Elkhart
Savannah Hartman of Hugoton
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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