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. This week's headlines are:
- Both Relief and Questions Surround Death of Osama bin Laden
- Visiting with Students 1200 miles from Washington, D.C.
- Message to President Obama: No Accountability, No Confirmation
- Hearing to Review the CFTC and SEC 2012 Budgets
- Working to Prohibit Taxpayer Funding of Abortions
- Urging USDA to Approve Disaster Designations
- Celebrating the Life of Rocky Fund
- Visiting the 3i Show in Garden City
- Visiting the Community of Scott City
- “Coffee with Kansans
- ”Upcoming Listening Tour Stops
- In the Office
We are certain Osama bin Laden is dead. We also know this momentous news was the result of the resolve of our American troops and intelligence officers who worked relentlessly to bring public enemy number one to justice. I received a briefing this week on the operation from CIA Director Leon Panetta, and the questions we are now asking are about Pakistan, and whether they were complicit – or simply incompetent – when it came to bin Laden’s presence in the town of Abbottabad. News accounts indicate that Osama bin Laden was residing in the town, just 30 miles outside the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, for as many as 5 years. Additionally, the compound where U.S. forces killed the al Qaeda leader was less than a mile from a Pakistan Military Academy, raising questions about how much information the Pakistan military may have had about his whereabouts.
One of the takeaways from my recent visit to Afghanistan and the surrounding region is there are real concerns about Pakistan’s influence and whether they are a reliable American ally. Every indication is that they are not, and I am examining whether or not our financial support of Pakistan should be terminated. This being said, Pakistan is a key component to our success in Afghanistan, and their nuclear weapons need to be kept out of the hands of terrorists. My colleagues and I will be able to come to a conclusion about Pakistan’s credibility as more information on the raid becomes available. To hear more of my thoughts on our relationship with Pakistan, click here to listen to a discussion I had with Shanin and Parks on KMBZ radio this week.
I was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday but still had the opportunity to visit with Madison High School students 1200 miles away in Greenwood County, Kansas. Thanks to video teleconference technology, I was able participate in a Question & Answer session with Toby Countryman’s Government class. The students and I visited about U.S. domestic policies including health care, education and immigration as well our nation’s foreign policy objectives in Afghanistan and Libya. This is the fifth time I’ve had the opportunity to do this, and I was very impressed with the great questions asked by the students and enjoyed learning about their careers goals for the future, which include nursing, teaching, physical therapy and farming. Thanks to Mr. Countryman for inviting me to visit with his class and for coordinating all the requirements for the video teleconference.
This week I notified President Obama that I will not consider any nominee – regardless of party affiliation – to be the Director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) without specific reforms to the agency. The three structural changes 43 of my Senate colleagues and I are requesting will make the Bureau accountable to the American people.
While many Kansans may not have heard of this new government bureaucracy, it will have the ability to impact our lives in significant ways. The CFPB could potentially cause the price of financial products to increase and restrict access to credit for families and small businesses. Given this incredible power over Main Street business, Congress should make sure we get the design of the new agency right. To view our letter to President Obama asking for commonsense reforms that will bring a variety of perspectives to the Bureau and give Congress the oversight authority required for such a powerful agency, click here.
I also recently introduced legislation that would enact reforms requested in the letter and make the CFPB more accountable. S. 737, the Responsible Consumer Financial Protection Regulations Act of 2011, would replace the single Director with a five-member board – similar to the leadership structure of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Commodity Futures Trade Commission (CFTC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It would also subject the CFPB to the regular appropriations process like most federal agencies. Click here to learn more about my bill.
On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government held a hearing to review the president’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget request to fund the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). Witnesses at the hearing included CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler and SEC Chairman Mary Shapiro. Despite serious federal budget deficits, both commissions have asked for significant funding increases for the next fiscal year.
As ranking member of the subcommittee, I discussed with the witnesses the fact that all government agencies should be finding ways to reduce staffing levels and spending.
While each commission must determine how best to accomplish its market oversight responsibilities, simply increasing funding does not mean an agency will successfully achieve its mission. I am specifically concerned about the fast pace of new rules coming from the CFTC and the lack of an overall timetable about how best to implement these rules. The lack of a plan could result in unnecessary government expense and place burdensome costs on the financial sector as it tries to implement multiple new rules all at once.
On Thursday, I became a sponsor of S. 906, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would strengthen the ban on the use of federal funds for abortions. S. 906 is the Senate companion bill to H.R. 3, which passed the House by a vote of 251 to 175 on Wednesday. I believe taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund the end of innocent human life through elective abortion. This bill would establish a government-wide statutory prohibition on abortion funding and establish conscience protections for health care providers who object to providing abortions.
This week I urged U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, to declare 21 Kansas counties agricultural disaster areas as a result of production losses caused by drought, wild fires and high winds. As I travel throughout Kansas, I can see clearly the devastating impact of the drought and wild fires. By declaring these counties agricultural disaster areas, farmers and ranchers in the affected counties will become eligible for USDA emergency loans. This assistance will enable agricultural operations to continue across our state, in spite of the exceedingly dry conditions.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, my appeal supports a recent request made by Governor Sam Brownback. The 21 counties included are Finney, Gove, Grant, Greeley, Hamilton, Haskell, Kearny, Lane, Logan, Meade, Morton, Ness, Scott, Seward, Sheridan, Sherman, Stanton, Stevens, Thomas, Wallace and Wichita.
In addition to my request for disaster designations, I notified Sec. Vilsack of the potential need to approve emergency grazing and haying on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in drought stricken areas. I have asked that Secretary Vilsack quickly approve such requests when they arrive to supplement depleted forage sources for livestock producers. Click here to read the text of my letter to Secretary Vilsack.
Last week, I was saddened to hear that Representative Rocky Fund had passed away. Rep. Fund was a great man who served his country, his state and his community. I was able to attend his funeral on Monday in Holton at the Evangel United Methodist Church to celebrate his life and the significant impact he had on his loved ones and the people of Kansas. Pastor Tim O’Byrne of Holton First Baptist Church reminded us that we were celebrating a life well-lived with great faith and love. It was a privilege to know Rocky, and my thoughts and prayers continue to be with his wife Linda and their family.
I was glad to have the opportunity to attend the annual 3i Show in Garden City at the Finney County Fairgrounds on Friday, and hold a public forum with Congressman Tim Huelskamp. The conversation focused on the vital importance of agriculture to our state and the challenges currently facing this critical industry. Folks are concerned about how the Farm Bill will be impacted by our nation’s budget crisis, as well as the production losses caused by the recent drought, wild fires and high winds. Click here to watch video of my remarks at the 3i Show.
In addition to visiting on Friday, members of my staff were available to answer questions at a booth throughout the entire three-day event. I haven’t missed a 3i Show in 15 years and was glad to make it to Garden City to visit with some terrific Kansans.
When I was in western Kansas on Friday I also had the opportunity to visit with Kansans living in the community of Scott City. While I was there, I visited with local residents at several businesses in town including American Implement, Scott City Health Mart, Wheatland Electric, Broilers Restaurant, Scott City Chiropractic Clinic, Spangler Chevrolet, Brantley-Shirley Attorneys at Law, and the U Pump It Convenience Store. Our conversations largely centered on EPA overregulation and its impact on electricity costs, feed yard and farming operations, rural development, health care, wind energy and the need for Congress to develop a comprehensive energy policy to address our nation’s energy needs.
While in Scott City I also had the opportunity to express my condolences to residents over the tragic death of Scott County Commissioner Dylan Spencer and his young family in a plane crash over Easter. I am keeping the community in my thoughts and prayers.
Spending time in rural towns across Kansas reminds me of what I loved about growing up in a rural town – the sense of community. I appreciated the chance to visit with local residents so I could gain a better understanding of their views and the ways I can serve them better in Washington, D.C. Click here to view a couple photos from my visit.
“Coffee with Kansans”
It was a pleasure to once again welcome Kansans at my weekly Wednesday morning coffee in Washington, D.C. Click here to view photos from the event.
My next “Coffee with Kansans” event will be held on May 11th, 2011, in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 188, at 9:15 a.m. If you plan on being in Washington, I would encourage you to RSVP by clicking here. I look forward to visiting with you.
Upcoming Listening Tour Stops
This month and next, I am continuing my statewide listening tour. Please find more information about my upcoming town hall meetings below. If you’re nearby, I encourage you to stop by to share your thoughts.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Coffey County Listening Tour Stop, Lebo
Location: Lebo Public Library
Address: 327 South Ogden Street, 66856
Time: 1:45-2:45 PM
Monday, May 16, 2011
Wyandotte County Listening Tour Stop, Kansas City
Location: West Wyandotte Library
Address: 1737 N. 82nd Street, 66112
Time: 9:00-10:00 AM
Monday, May 30, 2011
Allen County Listening Tour Stop, Iola
Location: American Legion
Address: 712 West Patterson Avenue
Time: 1:30-2:30 PM
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Sedgwick County Listening Tour Stop, Wichita (hosted by Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce)
Location: Hyatt Regency Hotel
Address: 400 W. Waterman
Time: 12:00-1:00 PM
Wednesday, June 1,
Butler County Listening Tour Stop, El Dorado (hosted by El Dorado Rotary Club)
Location: El Dorado Civic Center
Address: 201 East Central Avenue
Time: 12:00-1:00 PM
Chase County Listening Tour Stop, Cottonwood Falls
Location: Prairie Pastimes
Address: 220 1/2 Broadway
Time: 2:15-3:15 PM
Marion County Listening Tour Stop, Florence
Location: Doyle Creek Mercantile
Address: 510 Main Street
Time: 4:00-5:00 PM
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C. office from across the state, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits,
Tom Pitner of Hays
Kansas Interfaith Power & Light
North American Millers' Association
Kansas City Board of Trade
Kansas Electric Cooperative
National Air Transportation Association
Kansas Society of Anesthesiologists
Walton Rural Life Center Charter School
College of American Pathologists
National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians
National Association of Chemical Distributors
Kansas Bioscience Organization
Community Bankers Association of Kansas
Kansas National Education Association
National Association of Secondary School Principals
Employee Owned S Corporation of America
Association for Advanced Life Underwriting
Advanced Life Underwriting
UMKC Executive MBA Program Students
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
Rural Kansas ILEC Telephone Companies
National Student Transportation Association
Overland Limousine Service
Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
Kansas East Conference United Methodists Organization
Many Kansans stopped by this week for a tour of the United State Capitol including Robert Maxson and Susan Cantine of Concordia; Teresa Olds of Lawrence; Scott Palecki and Samuel of Wichita; Stan Andeel of Wichita; Albert, Mary and Tom Chappel of Garden City; Mark McCoy of Fort Scott; John, Jill, Samantha and Nathan Leis of Minneloa; Robert McCreignt of Beloit; Michael Walker of Beloit; Eli Rundle of Logan; Patrick McGee of Beloit; Sarah Hill of Sharon Springs; Thomas Kilmurray of Beloit; Tanner Marston of Abilene; Adam Ackerman of Glen Elder; Wayne Clingman of Beloit; Lucas Simmons of Howard; Jiolet Finney of Beloit; Amber Finney of Beloit; Ryan Schroller of Beloit; and Chris Hayes of Beloit.
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,
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