Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you 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.
Continued Work on Farm Bill in Senate
This week marked the first full week of debate on the Farm Bill in the Senate, which typically occurs every 4-5 years. Farmers and ranchers deserve to have a farm policy that encourages growth, a free market and supports their efforts to feed the world.
A portion of the funding in each farm bill is allocated to help combat world hunger and malnutrition through development projects and emergency food aid. There is an old saying that goes like this: “give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for the rest of his life.” By teaching someone how to grow crops or better irrigate their fields, we will help them provide food for themselves and their families on a long-term basis, rather than just when a crisis hits. So this week, I introduced an amendment to allocate additional support from funds set aside for the farm bill for development aid programs that reduce hunger in poor, crisis-prone communities. Through economic empowerment, improved infrastructure, watershed innovations, these programs in development aid help protect and safeguard against the need for emergency aid. Emergencies will occur and we need to be able to respond quickly. But we also know we need to be able to reduce the incidence of hunger occurring time and time again in certain areas of the world.
As we continue to consider the bill this week, I will work to make sure our country has a sound farm safety net and remains a leader in agriculture. Click here to watch my comments to my colleagues on this topic.
Questioning CEO of JPMorgan Chase at Banking Hearing
This week I participated in a Senate Banking Committee hearing to investigate recent losses at JPMorgan Chase. Because the financial reform bill known as Dodd-Frank failed to end the “Too Big to Fail” problem, losses at our largest banks have the potential to cost taxpayers. While it was critical that the Committee hear the testimony of CEO Jamie Dimon and learn more about the circumstances which led to their loss of as much as $5 billion dollars, it does appear that this loss was manageable and will not result in any disruption to the bank or to the financial system. It is my strong hope that Congress can now return to oversight and consideration of proposals that will ensure that the Dodd-Frank Act does not cripple our financial system and punish community banks across Kansas for the mistakes of Wall Street.
Urging Progress on National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility
On Friday, I joined Senators Pat Roberts, Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt of Missouri in urging Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security to move forward with the construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan. This week, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a report on a risk assessment of NBAF completed by DHS, entitled, Evaluation of the Updated Site-Specific Risk Assessment for the National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kansas. The completion of this evaluation is the final legislative requirement prior to signing the land transfer and releasing previously appropriated funds for the construction of the Central Utilities Plant.
While I did not agree with some aspects of the evaluation, the National Academy of Sciences fittingly recognizes that NBAF would be a critical asset in securing the future health, wealth and security of the nation. So I have urged the Secretary to release funding and begin construction. The risk of not moving forward with NBAF is a risk the American people should not have to accept and I will continue my efforts to ensure NBAF becomes a reality.
Offering Amendment to Support Life-Saving Medical Research
On Thursday, I joined my colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee to consider amendments to the 2013 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill. During the markup, I offered an amendment that would have increased the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to keep up with the rate of biomedical inflation by making small reductions to other programs in the bill. This amendment would have prioritized medical research without adding a penny to the nation’s annual deficit.
Medical research supported by NIH has changed the lives of millions of Americans and has the potential to impact millions more – offering them hope for the future. Now is not the time to waiver on America’s commitment to advancing disease cures and treatments. Without consistent, strong support of NIH, our nation is at risk of jeopardizing patient treatment advancements, losing our position as a global medical research leader, and squandering the opportunity to drive economic growth. Click here to read more.
Preventing IRS From Wasting Taxpayer Dollars
Also on Thursday during the Senate Appropriations Committee markup, I introduced an amendment to prevent the IRS from wasting millions of taxpayer dollars to contract out for public relations services. After spending $17.5 million in taxpayer dollars over the last four years on a marketing contract, the IRS is seeking to continue its PR efforts with a new contract worth up to $15 million over four years. In February, the IRS sent a 49-page solicitation to 12 agencies, seeking a “full service communications and marketing company” to help convey its “corporate vision and goals.”
If the IRS genuinely wants to improve its image with Americans, the Administration needs to work with Congress to develop a simpler, fairer tax code. Taxpayers waste far too much time and money each year filling out their tax returns, and our economy continues to suffer in part due to the uncertainty created by a convoluted, ever-changing tax system.
During the markup, I was pleased to receive an agreement from FSGG Subcommittee Chairman Dick Durbin that language will be included in the appropriations bill to prohibit use of taxpayer dollars to enhance the IRS’ image. Click here to read more.
McConnell AFB Should Be Home to New KC-46A Tankers
Starting in 2016, the Air Force will be transitioning from KC-135 tankers to KC-46A tankers and the Air Force is currently considering where to locate the first round of tankers to best meet the strategic and operational needs of its airmen. On Monday, Senator Roberts, Congressman Pompeo and I urged Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to consider McConnell Air Force Base as the main operating base for the new KC-46A tankers. We strongly believe that Kansas, and specifically McConnell Air Force Base, is the ideal location to support the needs of the Air Force now and in the future. Kansans’ strong support of air power and air mobility is like none other in the United States and the unparalleled experience that resides in our state is unique. Click here to read the letter we sent to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.
Congratulating Cooper Self on Recognition at National History Day Competition
On Wednesday, I visited with the Self family of Topeka who were in Washington for the National History Day 2012 Kenneth E. Behring National Contest held at the University of Maryland at College Park, Maryland. Cooper Self, a junior at Topeka High School, was named a national finalist in the individual exhibit competition for his research on Eisenhower and the Civil Rights Movement. One of several participants from Kansas, this is Cooper’s second year being named a national finalist.
More than half a million students participate in the National History Day competition each year. Participants choose a research topic related to a theme and conduct in-depth historical research on their topic of choosing. The theme for this year’s competition is “Revolution, Reaction, and Reform in History.” The final projects are entered into competition at local, state, and national levels where they are then judged by history and education professionals. I appreciate Gordon, Athena, Cooper, and Erica Self taking the time to visit and share their experience with me. Click here to view a photo from their visit.
Keeping Johnson County Streets Safe
On Monday I met with Johnson County Sheriff Frank Denning and members of the Sheriff Department at the new Criminalistics Laboratory in Olathe, which opened in March of this year. The lab performs forensic examinations in nine scientific disciplines and nineteen individual testing categories. During my visit, we discussed how new forensic science technology and highly trained technicians are aiding criminal investigations in Kansas. The Sheriff also spoke of the importance of funding from several grants, such as the Edwards Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance and Community Oriented Policing Office (COPs). These funds support a broad range of activities and help the team solve crimes and prosecute those responsible. Thanks to Sheriff Denning and the team for showing me around and for working hard to keep the community safe. Click here to view a photo from the visit.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits:
Council for Opportunity in Education
JeRon Betts of Kansas City
Jordan Winston of Kansas City
Kansas CASA Association
Janette Meis of Hays
Judy Frye of Olathe
Kelly Meyer of Leavenworth
Heather Boatright of Atchison
United Nations Association of the USA
Janet Mason Azevado of Olathe
National Council on Independent Living
Lou Ann Kibbee of Hays
Sharron Jones of Wichita
Christina Espinoza of Wichita
Joe Marvil of Olathe
Shawn Walters of Valley Center
Mark Wagoner of Kansas City
Lisa Churchill of Kansas City
Shari Coatney of Parson
Stephanie Sanford of Lawrence
Recreational Vehicle Industry Association
Mel Adams of Wichita
Brian Tillet of Smith Center
Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters
Dan Soliday of Wichita
Michelle Peck of Salina
Heather Murdock of Salina
The Self Family
Gordon Self of Topeka
Athena Self of Topeka
Cooper Self of Topeka
Erica Self of Topeka
Caleb Failes of Olathe
Brandi Samuel of Kansas City
Santiago Heredia of Kansas City
United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation
Tina Latham of Winona
Lisa Hahm of Ottawa
American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians
Dr. Kimber Eubanks of Overland Park
The University of Kansas
Dr. Rick Ginsberg of Lawrence
Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week including:
Dr. Robert Sheverbush
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. To send me an email, click here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
Very truly yours,
Newsletter Sign-up Form
Note: Fields marked with an * are required.