Kansas Common Sense


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Senate to Vote on Keystone XL Pipeline
After more than six years since the initial permit application for the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Senate is expecting to have its first binding vote to approve this project this week. On Friday, the House approved legislation, 252-161, for the ninth time to authorize construction.

I suspect this is merely the first of many issues to finally receive the Senate’s attention after years of being denied votes. This vote should have happened years ago, and while I am pleased it will finally be brought to the Senate floor, President Obama will likely veto the measure once it reaches his desk.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is an additional phase to the original Keystone Pipeline that currently moves crude oil from Steele City, Nebraska, through Kansas to the processing facility in Cushing, Oklahoma. Portions of the Keystone XL Pipeline have already been built and are in operation, including a pipeline linking Cushing, Oklahoma, to Port Arthur, Texas. The newest addition to be voted on would link the existing Keystone infrastructure to the oil-rich Bakken granting greater accessibility to domestic natural resources. Unfortunately, the White House has refused to approve the permit application for the remaining 1,200 miles of pipeline to be built despite President Obama’s own State Department’s view that this project can move forward. The Administration’s delays have prevented the creation of new well-paying jobs and economic growth for Americans. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline will help ensure a stable energy supply for our nation, and will also reduce U.S. reliance on oil from the Middle East. I look forward to supporting this legislation.

Monitoring the Ebola Response
On Wednesday, I participated in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the government’s response to the Ebola outbreak. Testifying at this hearing were officials from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, and the State Department. However, the Administration’s Ebola Response Coordinator, Ron Klain, was absent from this hearing. The White House declined the Committee’s request for Mr. Klain to testify even though he is the Administration’s point person on the Ebola response. The Administration is failing to clearly articulate the coordination among the various agencies and departments involved in this response effort and their respective objectives, especially when we have our service men and women on the ground in West Africa. The stakes are high and Americans need confidence that their government is accountable and working in their best interest.

During this hearing, I asked Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci for an update on the progress made in Ebola care, treatments, and protocols since the Committee’s last Ebola hearing in September. Dr. Fauci indicated that progress is being made in testing an Ebola vaccine for effectiveness, and clinical trials in West Africa are expected to begin soon. While the U.S. is currently Ebola free, heightened vigilance and preparedness are required to address this health crisis. Click here to watch my questioning in this hearing.

Choice Act Must Be About Choice
On Friday, several of my Senate colleagues joined me in calling upon the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Bob McDonald for a meeting in-person to make certain the VA upholds the intent of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA) by offering non-VA care to veterans who are unable to receive healthcare services from a VA medical facility within 40 miles of where they reside. The VA must apply the 40-mile eligibility criteria of this law with a common sense approach that gives veterans the choice to access non-VA healthcare services when timeliness and the burden of travel put their health and well-being at risk. Rural Kansas veterans understand this burden all too well and deserve to have access to care in their hometowns, especially when a VA facility cannot provide the care they are seeking.

Secretary McDonald’s response to my questions during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in September demonstrated his willing to apply the law as Congress intended, however, the VA bureaucracy continues to be an obstacle. I am hopeful that a face-to-face meeting will lead to real solutions to this critical problem for rural veterans. Click here to read the letter.

Concordia Junior/Senior High School
Returning from Washington, D.C., Friday, I traveled to Cloud County to visit Concordia Junior/Senior High School and meet with students, school administrators and teachers. My visits to schools throughout the state help me stay informed on the issues impacting the education of Kansas students. Frequently, I encounter a common theme during these visits. Kansas schools have no problem being held accountable – they simply ask that the federal government afford them sufficient flexibility to tailor education plans to the unique needs of their students. Rather than being forced to teach to a standardized test, schools need to have the flexibility to raise the bar and focus on preparing students for careers and additional education. As Kansas ranchers say, “If you want fat cattle, you need to feed them, not just weigh them.” We must prepare students for the challenges of life, not just standardized tests.

During my tour, I visited briefly with a government class and was interviewed by 8th Grader Kennedy Chrisco and her videography class. I was impressed with the students’ questions and their interest in the future of our country. Thanks to Concordia Junior/Senior High School Principal Bryce Wachs for hosting my visit. I also appreciated hearing from Assistant Superintendent Quentin Breese, Junior-Senior High Assistant Principal/AD Brandon Rice and Middle School Principal Derek Holmes.

Flint Hills Breadbasket Tour
Last Monday, I visited Flint Hills Breadbasket to meet with Executive Director Maribeth Kieffer and learn more about their mission of minimizing hunger and poverty in the Manhattan area as a community food network. I co-chair the Senate Hunger Caucus and understand that hunger is so often an invisible tragedy. For 32 years, the Flint Hills Breadbasket has been collecting and distributing food with the help of many volunteers and churches to make certain no one in the community goes hungry. I learned that many of the individuals receiving food are actively trying to find employment and working to change their lives.

The churches in the Manhattan area who partner with the Breadbasket on their respective day are listed below:

Monday—First United Methodist Church

Tuesday—Grace Baptist Church

Wednesday—First Lutheran Church

Thursday—Seven Dolors Catholic Church

Friday—First Presbyterian Church

The organization is preparing for a busy holiday season, which will kick off with the annual Thanksgiving Basket program and the Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Last year, volunteers made and distributed more than 200 Thanksgiving baskets to food-insecure families. Thanks again to the entire team at the Breadbasket for the great work you do helping individuals and families in need. Thanks again to Maribeth Kieffer for coordinating my visit.

Riley County Kansas Listening Tour Stop
I continued my Kansas Listening Tour in Riley on Saturday morning. More than 30 area residents met at the Riley Centre to discuss a number of issues including veterans affairs, Fort Riley, NBAF, and the need to keep jobs and businesses in America. I appreciated the informative discussion and all who attended. Special thanks to Doris Fritz for helping arrange my visit. For a list of upcoming listening tour stops, click here.

In Memoriam
Dr. Dale Dean
On Friday, I attended a service honoring the life of Dr. Dale E. Dean. He was my optometrist during my early years, and was a kind and special person who cared about his patients, friends and neighbors. Dr. Dean provided optometric services to Stockton and the surrounding communities for nearly four decades. He also served in the United States Army during WWII from 1942 to 1945 in the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater. A dedicated family man who loved spending time with his children and grandchildren, he will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his son Greg Dean of Stillwater, daughters Pam Hageman and Ginger Kollman, both of Stockton, and the many other family and friends who are mourning his passing. Robba and I extend our deepest sympathies.

Marianna Kistler Beach
Robba and I were also saddened by the passing of longtime friend and mentor Marianna Kistler Beach earlier this month. On Sunday, we attended her celebration of life in Manhattan.  Along with her husband, Ross Beach, Marianna cared deeply about making a positive difference in the lives of others. Their pivotal role in creating the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art on the Kansas State University campus, the Beach Center for Families and Disabilities at the University of Kansas and the Beach-Schmidt Performing Arts Center at Fort Hays State University are only a few of the examples of their lasting legacy. One can easily understand why Marianna was recognized with the Fort Hays State University Distinguished Service Award, Topeka Daily Capital “Kansas of Distinction” Award, KU Distinguished Service Citation and KSU Alumni Medallion Award, just to name a few. Hers was a life of service to others, and she will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with her daughters Mary McDowell of Pt. Townsend, Washington; Terry Edwards of Hutchinson and Jane Hipp of Jackson, Wyoming, along with her many other family and friends. Our state and world has lost one of its kindest and most generous individuals. It was an honor to know Marianna. 

Kansans in the Office
Children’s Miracle Network
Devin Carpenter of Wichita
Courtney Carpenter of Wichita 

Kansas Cattlemen’s Association
Brandy Santos of White City
Perry Owens of Minneapolis
Bonnie Owens of Minneapolis
Tony Anderson of Girard
DJ Edwards of Hamilton
Bill Ireland of Yates Center
Tyler Dupy of Junction City 

MRI Global
Roger Harris of Overland Park 

National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors of Kansas
Rhonda Knudson of Great Bend
Bob Reynolds of Salina 

Capitol Tour
Kenneth Linn of Wichita
Emily Beckman of Derby
Brad Brightwell of Derby
Myah Coberly of Derby
Alaina Gustafson of Derby
Addison Joyce of Derby
Rheagen King of Derby
Ana Landsverk of Derby
Claire Lathrop of Derby
Grace Linn of Derby
Morgan Malmquist of Derby
Zachary Murrow of Derby
Sara Wallace of Derby
Jasmine Green 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. 

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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