Kansas Common Sense


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President Continues Push to Close GITMO
The president this week submitted a plan to Congress to move down the path to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. This move is reckless, especially after numerous Department of Defense officials and his own attorney general confirmed it is against the law. Over the last seven years, this administration has been incapable of presenting a comprehensive, legally justifiable closure and relocation strategy that maintains the safety and security of Americans, and the plan presented to Congress this week did not provide any substantive planning or legal justification.

I remain committed to blocking the transfer of Guantanamo detainees anywhere in the United States, especially Fort Leavenworth. The critical mission of the Command and General Staff College in educating military members from ally nations across the world would be compromised. We must safeguard the missions on Fort Leavenworth, its nearly 14,000 military and civilian personnel and their family members, and the thousands of Kansans who live in the Leavenworth community.

I look forward to visiting the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and speaking with our military leaders to gain a better understanding of facility operations and their difficult mission of safeguarding our nation from those who wish to do us harm.

Click here to watch me discuss this on Fox News.

Questioning Secretary of State Kerry
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, I questioned Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday about a number of issues of importance to Kansans, including bringing home legally adopted children from the Democratic Republic of Congo, blocking future payments to Iran until American victims of Iranian terrorism are compensated, and ISIS’ persecution of individuals based on their religious beliefs. This hearing with our nation’s top diplomat gave me and my colleagues the opportunity to voice our priorities for America’s role in the world, and you can watch my exchange with Secretary Kerry below.

Introducing Legislation Critical to Our National Defense
Last week, I introduced the Protecting Our Security Through Utilizing Right-Sized End-Strength (POSTURE) Act (S. 2563) to reverse ongoing and future force reductions in the Active U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve, U.S. Army National Guard, Active Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve. President Obama’s tenure is marked by across-the-board spending cuts to our military in the face of increasing threats to our national security. Given the volatile, uncertain and dangerous developments over the past several years, the readiness of our Armed Forces — particularly land forces in the Active and Reserve Components of the Army and Marine Corps — must not be not jeopardized. This legislation would help safeguard our nation while global threats demand America’s full vigilance and capabilities. You can read more here.

Questioning the VA on Kansas Construction and Lease Projects
As a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, I had the opportunity to question VA Secretary Bob McDonald on the VA’s fiscal year 2017 budget request last week. I specifically question the secretary on the five-year wait time once authorization for a Major Facility Lease is approved. I am concerned that VA documents indicate it takes this long for a facility to begin treating patients. This is especially important for two Kansas communities where leases for Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC) are authorized or processing: Johnson County and Junction City. The secretary agreed that the process takes far too long and committed to looking in the status of both CBOC projects. I also questioned the secretary about the potential for a public-private partnership to renovate or construct new medical capabilities at the Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center in Leavenworth. Our nation’s veterans deserve timely, quality health care and we should be utilizing all available resources to make certain they have access to that care. Using public-private partnerships and expedited lease processes would allow the VA to start treating veterans sooner, and Secretary McDonald indicated he would further explore these options.

Tragedy in Harvey County
In the wake of the violence in the Hesston community last week, Robba and I feel great sorrow for the lives lost and individuals affected. I am grateful for the fast reaction of Harvey County law enforcement and first responders. I particularly want to laud the heroism of the first police officer on scene, Hesston Police Chief Doug Schroeder — because of him, countless lives were saved.

As Kansans, we must band together to lift up our neighbors in Hesston at a time like this. I ask that you keep the afflicted families in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to learn more about this terrible tragedy.

Examining the Southwest Chief at Commerce Committee Hearing
On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation held a hearing to examine local, state and federal efforts to strengthen the performance of state-supported and long-distance passenger rail routes, which account for the majority of trips taken by Amtrak passengers. 

Included in the subcommittee’s witness panel was Rick Klein, City Manager for La Junta, Colorado, a town which has been an important partner to the Kansas communities of Garden City, Dodge City, Hutchinson, and Newton in their efforts to preserve Amtrak’s Southwest Chief route. The Southwest Chief is a vital link in our state’s transportation system, particularly for rural communities in southwest Kansas who are long distances from major aviation hubs and rely on rail transportation to reach their destinations. 

However, without badly needed infrastructure upgrades to improve speed, safety, on-time performance, and the comfort of passengers, the condition of the line would have continued to deteriorate and potentially forced the Southwest Chief to be rerouted. Fortunately, in 2014, Garden City successfully led an application for a TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for this project and ultimately won, receiving $12.5 million with matching funds from local communities and the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT). 

At the hearing, I discussed with Mr. Klein the successful follow-up application for this project, led by La Junta, which received a winning TIGER grant this fall, and the continued work that must be done going forward to complete the track renovation of the Southwest Chief. Altogether, these funds will go a long way toward preserving the rural way of life for businesses and the traveling public in southwest Kansas who rely on safe and efficient passenger rail transportation in their everyday lives.

Speaking at National Association of Broadcasters Leadership Conference
I was pleased to speak last week at a gathering of radio and TV broadcasters from around the country, the leadership of which includes Kansas’s own Kent Cornish. Broadcasters have always played an important role in our community by providing day-to-day updates on our local news, sports and weather, critical information in the event of an emergency, and, of course, free music and entertainment. In my remarks, I emphasized that a broadcaster is only as strong as the community they serve. As a radio listener myself, I am committed to making certain broadcasting — particularly in rural America — remains a reliable resource to all who depend on it.

Discussing Priorities with Army Leadership
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, I questioned acting Army Secretary Patrick Murphy and Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley at a subcommittee hearing Wednesday morning about a number of issues.

First, I suggested increasing military force end strength levels, and was pleased to hear that General Milley would welcome a larger force to support troop readiness. Next I addressed progress underway for the new Irwin Army Community Hospital at Fort Riley, and General Milley committed to looking into an expedited timeline to open the facility. Finally, I noted my deep concern that General Milley and other Army leaders did not have a voice or opportunity to provide their own analysis regarding the president’s plan to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, particularly because two Army bases including Fort Leavenworth are being considered to house detainees. 

I look forward to continuing to work with General Milley and acting Army Secretary Murphy as our subcommittee deliberates budgetary priorities for the Army for Fiscal Year 2017.

Visiting CivicPlus
I visited CivicPlus in Manhattan, a company that creates and manages technology for local governments such as websites and emergency notifications. I hold CivicPlus in particularly high regard for their commitment to hiring veterans like Katrina Lewison and Jeff Wohlcke, whose skills learned and work ethic gained while serving our country uniquely position them for success in the private sector. I was pleased to hear CivicPlus is hiring hundreds of Kansans and plans for further growth. It is my hope that more businesses like CivicPlus choose to make Kansas their home. Thanks to Tara Greskoviak and Brian Rempe for the informative tour and thanks to Mayor Karen McCulloh and Lyle Butler with the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce for joining me in learning more about this incredible business.

Stopping By KCK Chamber “After Hours”
I also had the opportunity to visit this week with some Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce young entrepreneurs at an “after hours” event hosted by the Wyandotte Economic Development Council. We discussed policies that have an impact on local business and how to clear barriers in order to allow entrepreneurship to thrive. I appreciated hearing their feedback and their taking the time to visit with me.

Attending the K-State Wabash CannonBall
Robba and I had a good time attending the Wabash CannonBall on Saturday with our great friends Marc and Jana Elkins of Leawood. The event, an annual fundraiser that helps students afford to pursue higher education at K-State, has provided scholarships to more than 300 young people to date. It was nice to visit with Annie Presley and her husband Brigadier General Jay Selanders of the Kansas Air National Guard. Thanks again to the Alumni Association for arranging another successful Wabash CannonBall this year.

Kansans in the Office
Joel Bacon of Wellington
Claude Thau of Overland Park
Michael Helm of Norcatur 

DRC Adoption Advocates
Vicki Barton of Shawnee
Rachel Hein of Hillsboro
Becky Hanneman of Wichita 

American Academy of Family Physicians 
Michael Munger of Overland Park 

Ashleigh de la Torre of Topeka 

Friends of HRSA 
Teresa Baker of Leawood 

D.C. Project 
Corinne Mosher of Overland Park 

Zero: An End to Prostate Cancer 
Vivian Avery of Olathe
John Avery of Olathe
Angela Crawford of Kansas City
Korey Hollinshed of Kansas City 

American Association of Cancer Research
Roy Jensen of Gardner 

Eagle Picher Technologies 
Ron Nowlin of Riverton 

Kansas Farm Bureau 
Rich Felts of Liberty
Terry Holdren of Manhattan
Tom Black of Pratt
Steve McCloud of Newton
Jim Schmidt of Manhattan
Stacey Forshee of Delphos
Keith Miller of Great Bend
Joe Jury of Ingalls
Marieta Hauser of Johnson
Jim Sipes of Manter
Sue May of Oberlin 

Kansas State Polytechnic  
Kurt Barnhart of Salina 

James Gentry of Kansas City 

Kansas Chiropractic Association 
Travis Oller of Topeka
Thad Schneider of Manhattan
Tobi Jeurink of Mission
Katie Benson of Overland Park
Jessica Loveless of Overland Park
Leah Hutchison of Overland Park
Leslie Reece of Mission
Dakota Hegi of Shawnee
Taylor Stevens of McPherson
Timothy Bolgac of Topeka 

Kansas Department of Transportation 
Secretary Mike King of Topeka
Adam Nordstrom of Topeka 

American Burn Association 
Dhaval Bhavsar of Kansas City
Jennifer Darks of Kansas City 

Wichita State University 
Andy Schlapp of Wichita
John Tomblin of Wichita
Peter Perma of Wichita 

Kansas State Alliance of YMCAs 
Mary Beth Jarvis of Wichita
John Mikos of Kansas City
Jen Bruning of Kansas City 

Southwestern College 
Brenda Hicks of Winfield
Deb Brewer of Overland Park 

Radiologist Resident 
Amy Patel of Wichita 

National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts 
Dana Anderson of Lawrence 

US Canola Association 
Michael Stamm of Manhattan
Tyson Good of Dodge City 

Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation 
Liana Onnen of Mayetta
Carrie O’Toole of Mayetta 

Geary County Officials 
Larry Hicks of Junction City 

Kansas Association of Broadcasters 
Kent Cornish of Topeka
Mark Trotman of Hutchinson
Ron Thomas of Emporia
Bruce Dierking of Marysville
Mike Cukyne of Kansas City
Gary Exline of St. Joseph 

Johnson County Delegation 
Ed Eilert of Johnson County
Jason Osterhaus of Johnson County
Michael Ashcraft of Olathe
Jim Allen of Shawnee
Ron Shaffer of Prairie Village
Steve Kilka of Overland Park
Hannes Zacharias of Lenexa
Maury Thompson of Olathe
Robert Boyd of Manhattan 

Kansas Public Telecommunications Service 
Tom Zwemke of Wichita 

Bartlett Cattle 
John Gillcrist of Overland Park 

KC Healthy Kids 
Beth Low-Smith of Kansas City 

National Treasury Employee Union 
David Foran of Kansas City 

Kansas Medical Society 
Fadi Joudi of Wichita
Lana Hattar of Wichita
Estephan Zayat of Wichita
Janane Zayat of Wichita
Marisa Zayat of Wichita

Disabled Veterans of American 
Mr. and Mrs. David Thompson of Wichita
Cliff Dillard of Colwich
Ardith Dillard of Colwich
James Price of Salina
Ellen Price of Salina 

National Association of Health Underwriters 
Marcus Hood of Overland Park
Beverly Gossage of Eudora
Dallas Crip of Wichita 

Tom Sack of Kansas City 

American Bankers Association 
Shan Hanes of Elkhart 

National Hemophilia Foundation 
Mark Cox of Leawood
Brooke Connell of Lenexa 

Fort Hays State University 
Paul Phillips of Hays

National Association of RSV Directory 
Melody Gault of Butler County
Leri Bishop of Manhattan 

Kid’s Safe and Healthful Foods 
Amy Droegemeier of De Soto 

New York Life Insurance Company 
Brad Williamson of Wichita 

Civil Air Patrol 
Duane Filkins of Lawrence
Lauri Filkins of Lawrence
Timothy Thornton of Roseville 

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation 
Karey Padding of Andover
Casey Donnell of Wichita 

U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas
Chief Judge Tom Marten of Wichita 

University of Kansas 
Jim Tracy of Lawrence 

The America Legion 
David Warnkev of Hutchinson
Gaylord Sanneman of Newton
Raymond Vail of Arma
Elgin Wahlborg of Arkansas City
Dave Thomas of Leavenworth 

Capitol Tour 
Gary Bell of Pittsburg
Carrol Bell of Pittsburg
Tom Roberts of Manhattan
Karen Roberts of Manhattan
Brian Armstrong of Topeka
Arielle Eiser of Manhattan
Leanna Wylie of Quinter
Travis Hargitt of Quinter
Andrea Hargitt of Quinter
Sydney Ruckman of Quinter
Thad Whalen of Eudora
Heather Whalen of Eudora
Stella Whalen of Eudora
Sophie Whalen of Eudora
Jude Whalen of Eudora
Eric Martinez of Lawrence
Sarah Herman of Overland Park 

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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