Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter.
U.S. Cash Sent to Iran Was Ransom Payment
In light of evidence contrary to their previous claims, the Obama administration this week admitted what has been clear for many of us – the $400 million in cash paid to Iran in January was given in exchange for the release of American prisoners. Iran’s policies of international belligerence pose clear threats to regional peace and American lives. The Iranian government has sponsored deadly terror attacks against United States citizens, actively worked to expand their secret nuclear program, violated bans on missile testing, and openly threatened the United States and our allies.
Since the payment was made, two more American citizens have been unjustly detained by the Iranian regime. Iran has also failed to pay owed damages to American victims of Iranian-sponsored terror. The Obama administration has rewarded all of these actions by delivering billions to Iran and repeatedly misleading the public in doing so. Congress must act to restrain the executive branch and restrict the possibility of the administration inappropriately settling any further Iranian claims.
I have introduced legislation (S. 2452) to require Iran to pay all owed damages awarded to American victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism before the U.S. government can settle any additional financial disputes with Iran. My legislation puts justice for American victims of Iranian terrorism ahead of compensation for the Iranian regime.
After Witnessing Consequences of Historic Wheat Harvest Firsthand, I Called on USDA and USAID to Prioritize Wheat Shipments in Food Aid
After traveling through Kansas and seeing the historic wheat harvest, I called on Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and USAID Administrator Gayle Smith to prioritize exports of wheat in U.S. food aid programs. While Kansas farmers planted fewer acres to wheat than any time since the 1980s, they produced the sixth largest harvest on record due to unprecedented yields. Grain elevators are full and millions of bushels of wheat are piled on the ground due to a lack of available storage. With prices at the lowest point farmers have seen in years, an opportunity exists for USDA and USAID to take advantage of the surplus of high quality wheat available on the market by increasing shipments in food aid.
Wheat grown in Kansas and across the country has historically played a critical role in helping to reduce global hunger. It is the most consumed commodity worldwide, making up 20 percent of the calories and 20 percent of the protein consumed by the world’s poorest. Approximately 600,000 metric tons of wheat were donated through U.S. food aid during the most recent marketing year. As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, my legislation continues strong support for food aid efforts to utilize U.S. commodities to fight against food insecurity. I will continue to push for this commonsense solution for the benefit of both Kansas farmers and the world’s poorest. Click here to learn more.
Unnecessary Risk & Release of GITMO Detainees
The Obama administration announced the single largest release of terrorist detainees held in the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GITMO) this week. Without reason, the White House is yet again displaying a disturbing lack of judgment and transparency with the release of these 15 detainees.
The Obama Administration has been rapidly transferring detainees from GITMO since 2010, releasing more than 45 detainees since January 2016. The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) confirms that the total reengagement rate of GITMO detainees returning to the battlefield or suspected of returning to terrorism is at more than 30 percent. This administration and foreign countries have lost track of numerous detainees, which escalates the risk for our military men and women if the detainees return to the battlefield.
I have pushed to strengthen oversight of the Department of Defense Periodic Review Board – that determines the transfer of GITMO detainees – and to bolster congressional authorization before releasing detainee terrorists who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its citizens. I am staunchly opposed to closing GITMO and moving detainees to anywhere in the United States, including Fort Leavenworth. I will continue working to keep the remaining 61 detainees at GITMO. My legislative efforts to uphold and strengthen the law prohibiting the closure of GITMO and transfer of detainees to the United States include:
- The Protections Against Terrorist Transfer Act of 2016 (S. 2780) to strengthen the certification requirements relating to the transfer or release of detainees at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba;
- The Detainee Transfer Transparency Act (S. 2788) to make available to the public the intended transfer or release of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, at least 21 days in advance;
- The Detaining Terrorists to Protect America Act (S. 165) to prohibit the transfer to the United States of detainees designated medium- or high-risk for two years and ban transfers to Yemen, where dozens of the remaining Guantanamo detainees are from;
- S. 2559 to prevent President Obama from giving GITMO back to Cuba without proper Congressional approval; and
- Sense of the Senate (S.Res.396) that individuals captured by the United States for supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant should be detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
St. Luke’s South Hospital and KCV Prairie Ridge Psychiatric Hospital
This week I visited two Kansas hospitals whose staff works hard each day to provide quality care to their communities. On Thursday afternoon, I visited Saint Luke’s South Hospital in Overland Park. I learned more about their advancements in telemedicine and electronic health records, which enable greater efficiencies and improved patient interaction with their care team. Thanks to CEO Bobby Olm-Shipman for hosting my visit.
I visited Prairie Ridge Psychiatric Hospital on Friday morning. Psychiatric hospitals such as Prairie Ridge represent a major part of how mental health care is provided to Kansans. Mental health continues to be an increasingly important part of our health care system. Thanks to CEO Jason Hooper for hosting me.
Visiting DuPont in New Century
I had the opportunity to learn about DuPont’s Nutrition and Health business and take a tour of several research, development and innovation labs on site this week. The company employs more than 300 at their New Century location and produces ingredients manufacturers use in food production. These ingredients may be found in many varieties of foods including ice cream, infant formula, nutrition bars, cheese and bread. Not surprisingly, many of DuPont’s lab personnel are professional food scientists by training. It was great to learn more about their efforts to support and encourage students interested in STEM careers through their cooperative engagement with area schools and Kansas colleges and universities.
As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, the visit was also an opportunity for me to get feedback on federal policies impacting food production in Kansas and throughout the country. Thanks to Cathy Miller and John Breeden for hosting my visit.
Kansas Station General Managers
I met with station general manager members of the Kansas Association of Broadcasters on Wednesday to discuss the important services that local television broadcasters provide and the federal issues that impact their day-to-day operations. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently administering its first-ever broadcast incentive auction, which provides interested broadcasters the opportunity to sell their spectrum. However, broadcasters who chose not to sell off their licensed spectrum have serious concerns that Congress’s 2012 auction authorization does not provide adequate funds or time for the “repacking” process in which these remaining broadcasters are relocated to another channel.
As a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, I will continue to fight to provide local broadcasters, especially in the rural parts of Kansas, the flexibility and resources they need to continue their critical services. In addition, we discussed the impact that harmful proposals like the Department of Labor’s overtime rule and elimination of the advertising tax deduction would have on their ability to provide quality broadcasting services to Kansans.
Hearing from Wichita Community Activists
I met with Wichita community activists Djuan Wash, Brandon Johnson and A.J. Bohannon on Wednesday to discuss ways we can strengthen relationships between law enforcement and citizens. We also talked about our shared goals to increase resources for the mental health care, provide more transportation options for both rural and urban areas, and eliminate food deserts that restrict the ability of Kansans to feed themselves and their families, especially in minority communities. My goal is to make certain the American Dream is a possibility for every American, regardless of where they live or the circumstances they are born into.
Shawnee Rotary and Chamber Business After Hours
I spent time in Shawnee visiting with Chamber of Commerce members this week at their Business After Hours event and speaking with their Rotary Club members. We talked about job creation and entrepreneurship, the importance of supporting small business growth by ensuring access to credit and freedom from overreaching federal regulations, our debt and deficit, national security, and STEM education for Kansas students. Thanks to Shawnee Rotary President Stephanie Meyer and Shawnee Rotarians for hosting me.
Topeka and KCK Chamber Congressional Forums
I participated in the Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce Congressional Forum – a monthly forum to give members an opportunity to voice their suggestions and concerns to their congressional delegation. I spoke to the group about the importance of pursuing policies that will enable Kansas students who are interested in STEM to make a career here at home, as well as policies that create an environment to empower entrepreneurs to unleash new and innovative ideas and improve the chance that they can be successful in growing their business and creating jobs for Americans. I appreciated the discussion I shared with chamber members about a variety of issues including progress on the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, energy production and workforce development. Thanks to KCK Chamber President Daniel Silva, Congressional Forum Chair Bill Epperheimer and 2016 KCK Chamber Board Chair Valerie Mussett for hosting me.
I also took part in the Topeka Chamber of Commerce Federal Forum Luncheon this week to hear from members about ways we can improve the economic success of our communities. The discussion touched on caring for our veterans; the Department of Labor’s new overtime and fiduciary rules and their impact on job creators; the mental health challenges facing Kansas cities; the Affordable Care Act; and funding for our highways, bridges and roadways. Thanks to all who attended, asked questions and shared their thoughts.
Newton and East Wichita and Rotary Club Meetings
I traveled to Harvey County on Tuesday afternoon to attend the weekly meeting for Newton Rotary Club. In addition to visiting with fellow Rotarians, I enjoyed the comedy show presented by ventriloquist Greg Claassen. I was glad to see American Legion National Vice Commander Paul Sanford in attendance and meet with the two bright young exchange students pictured here – Elsa Menindez, who is from Orleans, France, and Logan Treaster, who is a Newton native about to travel abroad. My thanks go out to Michael Hylton and Rod Kreie for the warm welcome.
My second Rotary Club visit for the week was in Sedgwick County for the East Wichita Rotary Club meeting. I was delighted to learn of the experiences that local high school students Chris Burrell, Cameron Vance and Dylan Vance (pictured here) had at Rotary Youth Leadership Camp in Winfield. Thanks to Club President Fred Heismeyer and Kim Hurtig for allowing me to attend.
Kansans in the Office
Shaun Miller of Berryton
Lana Miller of Berryton
Brayden Miller of Berryton
Johnathan Walker of Lawrence
Randy Walker of Walker
Lucas Walker of Lawrence
Matt Walker of Hays
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.
Very truly yours,
Newsletter Sign-up Form
Note: Fields marked with an * are required.