Kansas Common Sense
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Pushing for Terror Victim Compensation Before Transferring Funds to Iran
I introduced legislation (S. 2452) in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday as the Obama Administration agreed to pay Iran $1.7 billion to settle a financial dispute. My bill directs the U.S. government to put justice for American victims of Iranian terrorism ahead of compensation for the Iranian regime. This forced reprioritization would occur by prohibiting the transfer of related to the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal to Iran until Iran has paid damages awarded to Americans for Iranian supported terror. Rather than incentivize state-sponsored kidnapping, the administration should remind the government of Iran that terror and hostage taking are not for-profit enterprises. Click here to learn more.
Senate Democrats Block Refugee Security Bill
The Senate voted this week to consider the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act (H.R. 4038), legislation that would strengthen our country’s refugee screening process in light of terrorist threats, specifically from Iraq and Syria. I voted in favor of considering this bill but despite strong bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and majority bipartisan support in the Senate, the opposition of 43 Senate Democrats ended the bill’s consideration. As America supports humanitarian efforts and those in need, we must prioritize the country’s safety by making certain those who seek entry to the United States are not a security risk. I will continue to support common-sense policies that strengthen our national security while upholding American values.
Waters of the United States Rule Veto Override
I was disappointed, though not surprised, President Obama chose to veto a resolution of disapproval of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule that redefines and expands the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. In November, the Senate passed a resolution to stop the rule under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to reject major new regulations. The House passed the same resolution earlier this month.
We all share the goal of providing a clean and safe water supply, but there are better ways to do so than forcing unnecessary regulations on our farmers, ranchers, oil and gas producers, and other stakeholders. The rule, which greatly expands EPA’s jurisdiction to regulate private land and water, threatens to harm our economy and cost us jobs. It is clear the Obama Administration intends to disregard any concern or objection that stands in the way of its radical environmental agenda. While it is easy to be discouraged the Senate was unable to gather 67 votes to override the veto this week, it is important that we continue to pursue efforts to repeal the WOTUS rule and other damaging regulations that have resulted from seven years under the Obama Administration.
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Hearing on the United States Postal Service
This week, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) held a committee hearing on the financial condition of the United States Postal Service (USPS). For many years, I have been concerned about the worsening financial status and decreasing reliability of the Postal Service. Across Kansas, especially in rural areas, we have been experiencing worsening service and delayed delivery. This December, I co-sponsored bipartisan legislation (iPOST) to restructure the USPS and assist the Postal Service in upholding its constitutional duty to provide delivery service across America. The HSGAC hearing featured testimony from USPS leadership and outside experts. Each of the testimonies demonstrated the critical need for Congressional action to put the USPS on a better financial path. Given the importance of the Postal Service to our economy and society, and the significant costs of failing to address this growing problem, I was pleased to see the Senate take this step toward postal reform. I will continue to support passage of the iPOST reform legislation to prevent financial turmoil at the USPS and make certain that Kansas residents and businesses alike have access to a high quality and reliable Postal Service.
Pressing the VA to Fix Choice Act Implementation
On Thursday, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to discuss the MyVA Initiative to support veterans in accessing care they need by streamlining the process through one program. MyVA is also intended to help reform the Choice Program, which is still a troubled program that has not given veterans the choice to use community care as intended by Congress. Kansas veterans continue to struggle with access to care in their communities through Choice. Many of our VA medical facilities in Kansas are only open part-time, or do not have a full-time Medical Doctor (MD) on staff, causing those who have sacrificed for our nation struggle receiving needed medical services.
During the hearing, I had the opportunity to remind Secretary McDonald of requests made to his Deputy, Sloan Gibson, during a similar hearing December 2, 2015. I am disappointed that those requests on behalf of Kansas veterans have still not been answered, and I called on the Secretary to make certain we get answers. These requests relate to the eligibility requirements for the Choice program. Common sense tells us that if you live within 40 miles of a VA facility, but that clinic cannot provide you with the services you require, or does not have an MD on staff, you should be able to receive care closer to home. Veterans deserve a VA worthy of their service and sacrifice, and I will continue to call on the senior administrators at the Department of Veterans Affairs to take action, be responsive to veterans, and fix the problems within the VA.
Visit to SMART Lab
On Friday, I toured the Kansas State University Semiconductor Materials and Radiological Technologies Laboratory, or SMART Lab, in Manhattan. The SMART Lab is internationally known for its research and development of new and innovative radiation detector technologies and serves as a center for undergraduate and graduate student education. It also accommodates funded research projects from various government and industrial sponsors. Here, I'm pictured with K-State Nuclear Engineering Graduate Student Michael Reichenberger of Haven. Thanks to Steven Bellinger for the invitation to learn more about the facility.
Tour of GE Aviation University
I also toured the GE Aviation University Development Center in Manhattan on Friday. GE’s University Development Center (UDC) provides real-world engineering opportunities in aviation systems. The co-op facility employs 14 full-time engineers and 40 part-time students from Kansas State University. Thanks to Ashton Archer, a K-State undergraduate, for the invitation to learn more about the co-op.
University of Kansas Takes on University of Texas
Over the weekend, Robba and I enjoyed rooting on the University of Kansas Jayhawks as they took on the Texas Longhorns. The win secured Coach Self's 200th win in Allen Fieldhouse. It’s always good to be back at my alma mater.
Apply to be a Summer 2016 Intern
My own interest in public service was sparked by an internship for Kansas First District Congressman Keith Sebelius in 1974. As an intern, I had the chance to learn firsthand how a Congressional office operates and how the legislative process works.
I am proud to be able to offer this same opportunity in my Senate office today where I have interns year-round who have a unique opportunity to work closely with my staff on behalf of Kansas. Applications are already being accepted for internships in my Washington, D.C. and Manhattan, Kansas, office for the summer 2016 term. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence.
Kansans in the Office
Archie Macias of Udall
President Stephen Minnis of Atchison
Mike Frost of Overland Park
Dr. Mike Cook of Hutchinson
Unified Government of KCK and Wyandotte County
Mayor Mark Holland of Kansas City
Catholic Medical Association
Dr. Paul Camarata of Overland Park
Tucker Nelson of Mission Hills
Tammy Buckner of Lawrence
Megan Fairchild of Lawrence
Sophie Dewitt of Lawrence
Brooke Wright of Lawrence
Marian Frick of Lawrence
Jensen Bergmann of Lawrence
Zoë Hamilton of Lawrence
Haven Bellerive of Lawrence
John Hamer of Lawrence
Lucy Schmidt of Oskaloosa
Josh Moolvolton of Lawrence
Andrew Flynn of Lawrence
Gavin Carver of Lawrence
Cooper Carter of Lawrence
Dr. Fred Britten of Hays
Garrett Nathan 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,
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