Kansas Common Sense

Dear Friend,

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

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.

Visiting with Students 1200 miles from Washington, D.C.

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.       

Message to President Obama: No Accountability, No Confirmation

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.

Hearing to Review the CFTC and SEC 2012 Budgets

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.

Working to Prohibit Taxpayer Funding of Abortions

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. 

Urging USDA to Approve Disaster Designations

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.

Celebrating the Life of Rocky Fund

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.

Visiting the 3i Show in Garden City

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.

Visiting the Community of Scott City

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.

Scott County Listening Tour Stop Scott County Listening Tour Stop

“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.

National Assoc of Emergency Medical Technicians Kansas East Conference United Methodists Organization
Kansas Society of Anesthesiologists

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, 2011
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

In the Office

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,

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Tom Pitner of Hays
Community Bankers Association of Kansas

Tom Pitner of Hays

Catherine Moyer of Ulysses

Kansas Interfaith Power & Light               
David Owen of Lawrence
Rabbi Moti Rieber of Kansas City

North American Millers' Association       
John Gillcrest of Kansas City

MetalCasters Alliance   
Diana Kinsley of Coffeyville        
Mary Nolte of Coffeyville            
Ron Pomeroy of Belle Plaine      
Kraig Vondran of Manhattan     
Nate McLain of Wichita

Kansas City Board of Trade         
Jeff Borchardt of Kansas City     
Mike Simmons of Kansas City    

Kansas Electric Cooperative        
Joe Conley of Delia         
Josh Schmidt of Dodge City        
Jack Denton of Denton 
Loren Ochs of Jetmore 
Steve Epperson of Ulysses         
Keith Ross of Long Island             
Earnie Lehman of Hays 
Steve Foss of Basehor  
Stuart Lowry of Topeka
Phil Wages of Topeka    
Alan Henning of Cheney
Earl Watkins of Hays      
Allan Miller of Norton   
Pat Morse of Dodge City              

National Air Transportation Association
Phil Watkins of Wichita

Kansas Society of Anesthesiologists       
Mark Brady of Overland Park     
Jay Nachtigal of Leawood            
Curt Johnson of Overland Park 
Scott Roethle of Leawood

Walton Rural Life Center Charter School
Natise Vogt of Walton

College of American Pathologists
Richard Gomez of Ozawkie

National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians
Connie Meyer of Greeley
Terry David of Lyons
Kerry McCue of Hays
Christopher Way of Parsons
John Hultgren of Abilene

National Association of Chemical Distributors
Jeff O’Neil of Kansas City
Cliff Wiksten of Kansas City

Brown Foundation
Cheryl Brown Henderson of Topeka

Kansas Bioscience Organization
Angela Kreps of Lenexa
Gregory Kopf of Kansas City

Community Bankers Association of Kansas
Shawn Mitchell of Topeka           
Paul Boeding of Seneca
Marilyn Boeding of Seneca         
Dale Bradley of Miltonvale          
Richard Ciemny of Wichita          
Calvin Coady of Wichita
Dan Coup of Hope          
Steven Handke of Everest          
Michael Johnson of Courtland   
Joseph Kennedy of Frankfort    
Patrick Kerschen of Harper         
Gregg Lewis of Osawatomie      
Blake Heif of Osawatomie           
Bruce Schriefer of Wichita           
Brad Yaeger of Wichita
Clay Donly of Salina        
Michael Eagon of Overland Park                

Kansas National Education Association
Bob Thesman of Overland Park
Kimberly Howard of Wichita

National Association of Secondary School Principals
G.A. Buie of Eudora

Employee Owned S Corporation of America       
Stan Biggs of Kansas City              
Greg Klein of Overland Park       
Ed Rolf of Paolo
Craig Schmidt of Overland Park 
Jim Schorgl of Kansas City            

Association for Advanced Life Underwriting       
Philip Sarnecki of Overland Park               

Advanced Life Underwriting      
Dexter Umekubo of Salina          
Lee Elrick of Wichita       
Audrey Umekubo of Salina         
Matt McAvoy of Overland Park 

WIBW Radio
Greg Akagi of Topeka

UMKC Executive MBA Program Students             
Nancy Harper of Overland Park

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees            
Richard Short of Topeka               

Fight Crime        
Gary Smith of Emporia  
Ron Ridley of Jetmore  
John Settle of Larned

Rural Kansas ILEC Telephone Companies              
Mike Foster of Clay Center
Steve Davis of Medicine Lodge
Greg Aldridge of Caldwell        
Steve Richards of Brewster
Archie Macias of Udall
Tom Gleason of Lawrence
Becki Regiere of Galva
Dale Jones of Council Grove
Brandon Koch of Holyrood
Carla Shearer of Galva
Lonnie Stieben of Clearwater
Rob Koch of Holyrood
Carl Krehbiel of Moundridge

National Student Transportation Association      
John Doswell of Hutchinson       
Kent Tyler of Hutchinson             

Overland Limousine Service       
Diane Forgy of Shawnee Mission

Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
Marleah Mullen of Wichita         
Jeffrey Hanson of Overland Park             

Kansas East Conference United Methodists Organization             
Ken and Jeanette Grenz of Overland Park           
Sue Luttrell of Spring Hill              
Hazel Steely of Hiawatha             
Sharon Springer of Westmoreland          
Nancy Clark of Holton
Thelma Miller of Scott City          
Joan Toot of Baldwin     
Janice Schaeffer of Ozakie          
Kathy Smith of Topeka 
Elaine Ward of Kansas City          
Barbara Hunt of Overland Park 
Sharon Frederickson of Wichita
Jan Vaughn of Lawrence              
Emily Weems of Overland Park 

McDonald's Corporation              
Cliff Earp of Kansas City
Mark McCoy of Fort Scott           
Thomas and Marilyn Dobski of Lawrence       
Hugh O'Reilly Jr of Emporia         
Rick Kuehl of Hays 
Neil Getzlow, Overland Park         

Cobalt Boats      
Paxson St. Clair of Neodesha    

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.

Contact Me

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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