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.

I hope you’ll take a minute to watch a video of my time in Afghanistan with Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. This was my fourth visit to Afghanistan to assess our current Afghanistan strategy and to get answers as to whether we belong there. The visit also was beneficial as this week the Senate has considered the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes our national defense budget to make certain our military is prepared to achieve the missions of today and rise to the challenges of tomorrow.

Debating the National Defense Authorization Act
This week the Senate debated the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that authorizes national defense programs and funding in support of the U.S. armed forces. This legislation is critical to supporting servicemembers, civilians and their families who work hard to keep us safe at home and abroad.

I was on the Senate floor to discuss a proposed amendment to repeal the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force that took us to Afghanistan. While I firmly believe a new authorization of military force is needed, and Congress, on behalf of the American people, must act before a war is declared, repealing the current authorizations before having a new authorization in place will only create uncertainty for those currently serving overseas. Over Labor Day weekend, I met with numerous men and women in uniform at various locations in Afghanistan, and I returned in awe of the effort they are making to help stabilize that nation. I am fully convinced of their need to be there, and we should not put that mission at risk by repealing their authorization without a new one in place

Announcing the VA’s New Veterans Crisis Line at the Topeka VA Medical Center Campus
On Wednesday, as part of Suicide Awareness Week, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced its intention to open a Veterans Crisis Line (VCL) Call Center at the Topeka VA Medical Center campus – an indicator of the ongoing, long-overdue reform at the VA. Secretary Shulkin has made suicide prevention a top priority, and expanding the VCL to additional locations and increasing crisis responders is critical to providing veterans with the support they need, when they need it.

In April, I chaired a hearing on preventing veteran suicide as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies that highlighted the importance of reaching out to veterans in need and communicating through this crisis line. Our committee also approved a $10 million funding increase for the VCL, which passed the full appropriations committee in July. I will continue working with the VA to make certain no veteran feels abandoned by the country they served when they make the brave decision to seek mental health services.

Veterans in crisis can either call (1-800-273-8255) or chat online with VA trained professionals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Visiting the Phoenix VA Health Care System and TriWest Healthcare Alliance
On Saturday I had the opportunity to visit the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and TriWest Healthcare Alliance in Phoenix, Arizona. This medical center was at the center of the VA wait time scandal in 2014 that led to the creation and passage of the VA Choice program, and as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, I felt it was valuable to visit the site to see the progress that has been made in the past three years.

We discussed the Veterans' Distress and suicide hotlines and how the DoD's Peer Support program, BeThere, serves members of the military and their families from Kansas – a conversation that is especially important this month during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

I was encouraged by the unique programs that the medical center leadership has put in place to help assist veterans. Thanks to all who helped to coordinate this visit and for their dedication to serving our nation’s veterans.

Speaking at a Senate Aerospace Caucus Reception
The United States Military relies on a strong aerospace and defense industry to address today’s complex cyber challenges. As co-chair of the Senate Aerospace Caucus, I enjoyed discussing the government’s role in cybersecurity and the need for public-private partnerships in this space at the National Aerospace Week Reception in Washington, D.C.

Thank you to the Aerospace Industries Association for hosting the event, and to my co-chair Senator Mark Warner and U.S. Department of Defense CIO Essye Miller for sharing their insights on the importance of cyber education and awareness. 

Meeting with Advocates from the American Association for Cancer Research
I met this week with advocates from the American Association for Cancer Research who were in Washington for the annual Rally for Medical Research. We discussed the need for continued investment in biomedical research and the benefits the American people experience from new discoveries and treatments that are developed by our nation’s scientists. Last week in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, my colleagues and I approved another $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

This increase will help make certain that our nation’s best and brightest researchers have the support they need to pursue new understandings of disease and find treatments and cures that will lower the overall cost of medical treatments in the future. This innovation is an important part of the path to sustainable medical costs and also provides an enormous financial benefit to the United States’ economy. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to pass a fiscal year 2018 budget to ensure this increase is realized and NIH researchers are able to continue their important work. Funding for the NIH is absolutely essential to investing in the next generation of Americans. The priority we place on this research now has the capacity to save millions of lives long into the future.

Participating in the Global Food Security Act in Action event
I spoke about the importance of our country’s role in the fight against global food insecurity at the Global Food Security Act in Action event this week in Washington, D.C. The briefing focused on the successful partnership between USAID and our own K-State, where over $100 million has been invested in four Feed the Future Innovation Labs that include research in reducing post-harvest loss, improving wheat genomics, sorghum and millet production and sustainable agriculture intensification. Food security is important to national security: countries with hungry citizens become vulnerable to radicalism, and the stability provided by food security plays an important role in our nation’s safety.

The bright minds working at these Feed the Future Labs combine American ingenuity and technological advances to help combat hunger on a global scale. At the same time, the research at these labs often results in developments that benefit our farmers and ranchers here at home. It was great to see Dr. John Floros, Dean of Agriculture, Research and Extension at K-State, and I commend his leadership in spearheading the important work being done by Kansas researchers.

Taking Action to Help Those Impacted by Natural Disasters
Over the past couple of weeks – from Houston and Florida flooding to Montana wildfires – we’ve seen the strength of this nation as people from all four corners of the country have come together to support one another.

Here are just a few ways Kansans have stepped up to assist:

  • Electrical crew members from Pratt, Moundridge, Wellington, Gardner, Baldwin City, Chanute, Clay Center and the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities traveled to Florida to help with Hurricane Irma recovery efforts. Click here to read more.
  • After suffering devastation on their own properties, Clark County farmers and ranchers trekked to Montana to deliver materials to people who lost their own in the raging fires. Click here to read more.

I’m proud of the neighborly care Kansans exhibit to Americans all over the country, and I’m thankful for all of the first responders and volunteers who have worked round-the-clock to get people to safety. Last week, I voted for a clean, targeted emergency disaster relief funding measure that would have immediately provided funds for areas affected by the hurricane. While the measure ultimately did not pass and another funding measure was wrapped up into a bill that also raised the nation’s debt-ceiling, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure these areas have the resources they need to rebuild.

Kansans in the Office

Kansas Association of School Boards
Leah Fliter of Topeka
Terrell Davis of Topeka

American Academy of Dermatology Association
Holly Fritch of Kansas City

Kansas Hospital Association
Tom Bell of Topeka
Randy Peterson of Topeka
Carrie Saia of Holton
Leslie Lacy of St. Francis

Associated Snow Contractors Association
Michael Jones of Lenexa

Livestock Marketing Association
Mark McKee of Parsons
Neil Bouray of Mankato
Brody Peak of Emporia

American College of Cardiology
Steven Owens of Leawood
Devin Bradford of Kansas City

American Cancer Society
Judith Calhoun of Lawrence
Gaybyrne Garrett of Merriam
RaymaSue Jirkovsky-Landers of Tecumseh
Shannel Quarles of Wichita
Jordan Rickabaugh of Lawrence
Jerry Siever of Wichita
Meghan Urwin of Sublette

Senior Corps
Lori Bishop of Manhattan
Melody Gault of Butler County
Jessica Noble of Topeka
Paula Branizor of Topeka

National Air Traffic Controller Association
Greg Metevelis of Overland Park

American Alliance of Orthopaedic Executives
Danielle Aitken of Lawrence

Westar Energy
Laura Lutz of Topeka

Angel Capitol Association
Marianne Hudson of Prairie Village

American Public Works Association
Scott Grayson of Westwood

VFW National Legislative Committee
JT Plummer of Logan

Kansas Municipal Utilities
Colin Hansen of McPherson
Paul Mahlberg of Overland Park
Mark Chesney of Wichita

National Farmers Union
Tom Giessel of Larned
Donn Teske of Wheaton
Kami VanCampero of McPherson
Rosanna Bauman of Garnett
Olivia Taylor-Puckett of Lawrence

Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation
Liana Onnen of Mayetta

Landscape Contractors
Curtis Featherly of Lenexa
Andy Johnson of Gardner
Mark Meyers of Shawnee
Karl Schuttler of Shawnee
Donna McAfee of Overland Park

Kansas Automobile Dealers Association
Don McNeely of Topeka
Mike Carpino of Columbus
Tom Holocombe of Manhattan
Larry Carl of Kansas City

Growth Energy
Michael Chisam of Lyons
Megan Vincent of Lyons
Steve Seabrook of Wichita
Kelly Keeler of Wichita
Derek Peine of Oakley
Joe Kreutzer of Phillipsburg
Monte Abell of Philipsburg
Jeff Scharping of Colwich

Home Instead Senior Care
Peter Shaheed of Lawrence
Gail Shaheed of Lawrence

US Chamber of Commerce Main Street Ambassadors
Alan Sage of Overland Park
Stephanie Sage of Overland Park

Children’s Mercy Hospital
Dallas Pollen of Overland Park

Coalition of Agricultural Mediation Programs
Forrest Buhler of Manhattan

International Franchise Association
Shari Narde of Lenexa
Debbie Sinopoli Lenexa

Southwest Power Pool
Phil Wages of Topeka
Clare Gustin of Hays
Mike Morley of Hays

Rally for Medical Research
Roy Jensen of Gardner

KVC Health Systems
Jason Hooper of Olathe
Chad Anderson of Olathe

Independent Pharmacy Cooperative
Peter Stern of Topeka

Greg Righter of Olathe
Carrier Sherer of Overland Park
Craig Denson of Overland Park
Grant White of Bonner Springs
David Schaefer of Overland Park

Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics
Allen Featherstone of Manhattan

American Gastroenterological Association
Dr. Shri Anant of Overland Park

D.C. Capitol Tours
Jonathan Suckow of Leon
Olivia Suckow of Leon
Cody Bryan of Leon
Jodi Bryan of Leon
Thomas Nunley of Howard
Kelly Nunley of Howard
John Davidson of Prairie Village
Melody Davidson of Prairie Village
Rodney Denholm of Salina
Elizabeth Denholm of Salina
Rebecca Denholm of Benton
Josh Wells of Wichita
Alicia Wells of Wichita
Allison Wells of Wichita
Avery Wells of Wichita
Galen Crable of Topeka
Heather Crable of Topeka
Mathew Warren of Mission
Jackie Warren of Mission
Andrew Humphreys of Lenexa

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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