Kansas Common Sense
May 21 2018
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National Police Week
This week marks National Police Week. This week and every week, I am grateful to Kansas police officers whose bravery and dedication to their community keeps us safe. I cosponsored a resolution supporting this week-long designation to bring special attention to law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect their communities. This resolution honors those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty this year.
I have also cosponsored the National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act, which authorizes the U.S. Department of Treasury to mint a coin to commemorate the opening of the National Law Enforcement Museum this fall. Proceeds from the mint will support the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Fund and community outreach programs.
Voting to Balance the Budget
Our country is facing enormous fiscal challenges which will have a disastrous impact on our economic future if left unaddressed. With the national debt in excess of $20 trillion, Americans rightfully expect their elected officials in Congress to confront our fiscal challenges rather than push them off into the future. On Thursday, I was joined by 20 of my colleagues, including Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in voting for a resolution introduced by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), which would balance the federal budget in five years. Known as the “Penny Plan,” this resolution would reduce government spending by one percent per year for the next five years. Although the resolution did not garner enough support to become law, I was pleased to support a measure to deliver upon the fiscal responsibility Kansans expect from Washington. I remain committed to reining in our federal spending.
Hearing the FBI’s FY19 Budget Request
On Thursday, I chaired a hearing of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies where Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray fielded questions on the FBI’s FY2019 budget request. I stressed to the director my desire to see the FBI replicate the success it and its local partners have had in thwarting criminal organizations and efforts to harm Kansans and their businesses. I also raised the important issue of responsible oversight, urging the FBI to share the findings of its internal review of the handling of the USA Gymnastics abuse investigation.
With the FBI’s broad and complex mission, it is imperative that there is an appropriate balance of fulfilling the bureau’s diverse responsibilities while targeting the highest needs and the greatest criminal threats. As chairman, I will continue to support innovative and creative resources that help law enforcement engage local leaders, build lasting partnerships and improve the health of our communities. I am proud of the FBI’s work in Kansas and across our nation, and I look forward to working with Director Wray and my colleagues on the subcommittee to best fulfill the bureau’s resource needs.
Please watch my exchange with Director Wray on what information I expect him to share with my committee upon the FBI’s conclusion of its internal investigation into sexual abuse in amateur sports.
Advocating for Southwest Chief Passenger Train
On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing to consider three transportation nominations from the president, including Joe Gruters to become a member of the Amtrak Board of Directors. In light of recent indications from Amtrak that it does not intend to fulfill its committed share of project costs to preserve the Southwest Chief passenger train, Wednesday’s hearing was an opportunity to make clear to Amtrak that this is unacceptable.
In March, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded $16 million in TIGER grant funding to the Southwest Chief Route Stabilization Project, in large part due to commitments from the Kansas Department of Transportation, BNSF railroad and Amtrak to match funds needed to complete track upgrades and pay ongoing maintenance costs for the route. After several years of laudable public-private cooperation between all stakeholders to preserve the Southwest Chief – a route that is critical to Kansas communities like Garden City, Dodge City, Hutchinson and Newton – I am disappointed by Amtrak’s actions and am concerned about the long-term implications of any attempts to break up the national network for passenger rail.
As a government-sponsored enterprise established by Congress, Amtrak provides an important public service, but the input of Amtrak-served communities must be taken into account before any decisions regarding changes in service are made. Serving on both the authorizing and appropriating committees for Amtrak, I will continue my efforts in the Senate to urge Amtrak to make good on its commitment to Kansans and the Southwest Chief. Click here for more.
Hearing From Kansan Michelle Bowman in Banking Committee
On Tuesday, I questioned Kansas Bank Commissioner Michelle Bowman, who has been nominated by the president to serve as a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, in a Banking Committee nomination hearing. Miki has deep roots in rural Kansas and her extensive community banking experience makes her an ideal choice for this important position. She has her finger on the pulse of American households from across the country, bringing a much-needed perspective in Washington, D.C. Miki will be an invaluable asset to the board. I look forward to supporting her confirmation. Watch our full exchange here.
Supporting Legislation to Reform the Department of Veterans Affairs
On Thursday, I had the opportunity to see the HBO documentary, John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls, the story of Senator John McCain’s life and his sacrifice for our country. I’ve worked closely with Sen. McCain for the last several years in regard to legislation trying to improve the circumstances that our nation’s veterans face as they access healthcare within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Last year, we partnered on multiple pieces of legislation regarding the Veterans Choice Program – a program that Sen. McCain played a critical role in establishing – to allow veterans to receive care in their community when distance or wait times prevent them from accessing care at their VA medical center.
At the start of last year, Sen. McCain and I met to outline several priorities we had for reforming VA Community Care programs, and we worked to get those priorities included in the “McCain MISSION Act,” which recently passed the House of Representatives and will be voted on in the Senate next week. This legislation will transform the VA into a modern healthcare system and establish guidelines that determine when it is in the best medical interest of the veteran to receive care in their communities. This bill will also provide much-needed funding to maintain the Veterans Choice Program until the new Veterans Community Care program can be established. On Thursday, I spoke on the Senate floor to urge my colleagues to pass this bill before Memorial Day to properly honor the veterans who have sacrificed for this nation, as well as our friend and colleague, Sen. McCain. Please watch my floor speech here.
Highlighting Ft. Riley, Ft. Leavenworth to Army Secretary and Chief of Staff
This week, I spoke with Secretary of the Army Mark Esper and Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley about the Army’s growth and our military installations in Kansas. I appreciated our conversation during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearing, where they fielded questions about the Army's fiscal year 2019 budget request. I also met with Gen. Milley in my office earlier in the week to discuss Fort Leavenworth's role as the “Intellectual Center of the Army” and I thanked him for his routine visits to meet with soldier students.
During the hearing, I discussed the Army’s process for basing decisions for armored brigade combat teams that could benefit Fort Riley with both Sec. Esper and Gen. Milley. I am pleased that both leaders have committed to taking the time to make certain the basing process is fair and I look forward to working with the Army on this important decision. Both Sec. Esper and Gen. Milley see tremendous value and potential in the resources at Fort Riley and I am glad they recognize the support our Kansas communities provide in the quality of life to soldiers and their families. Watch my full line of questioning here.
Naval Pinning for Kansan John Herrman
I met Kansan and Navy Sailor John Herrman on Thursday during his naval pinning ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. John was promoted to the rank of Chief Petty Officer by the Navy’s top officer, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. John has already had an outstanding career, as demonstrated by his selection as the 2017 US Fleet Forces Command Sea Sailor of the Year. The award recognizes individual sailors who best represent the ideals of the professional sailor and the Navy.
John, who is from Elkhart, remains rooted to his home even as he continues to climb in the naval ranks. During his ceremony, he shared his belief that there are “no more hard-working people than those who work on the farmlands in Kansas, and I’ve tried to bring that same hard work to the Navy.” Congratulations to John, his wife, Kyle, their children and his parents, Carl and Lorna Herrman. Thank you all for your service to our great nation.
Fighting for Farmers in the Bostwick Irrigation District
As a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, I had the opportunity to raise an important issue with the top official of the Army Corps of Engineers, R.D. James, during a hearing on water infrastructure legislation. I questioned Mr. James about the unrealistic financial burden placed on Kansas farmers due to the Corps’ incorrect categorization of a dam project for a Corps reservoir in Nebraska, which supplies water to an irrigation district in north central Kansas.
Because of the Corps’ mis-categorization of the dam safety project – deemed necessary by the Corps to prevent failure of the flood gates at the dam – roughly 300 Kansans in the Bostwick Irrigation District are being held responsible for paying $9 million more for this project than they should. At a time when average net farm income continues to decline, it is more important than ever that decisions made by federal agencies in D.C. do not impose an undue burden on the livelihoods of Kansans. I appreciated Mr. James’s candor during our exchange and will continue working with the Corps until this issue is resolved. Please click here to watch our full exchange.
Questioning NIH Director Collins on Research Funding
During a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Labor and Pensions hearing this week, I questioned National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins and other NIH leaders on the agency’s fiscal year 2019 budget request. The NIH is a global leader in medical research, and the lifesaving work being done to bolster early disease detection, find cures for life-altering diseases like Alzheimer’s and better understand different types of cancer is dependent on continued federal investment. Dr. Collins relayed to me that every $1 of NIH investment yields a return of over $8 – a significant and reassuring metric, as I intend on making certain taxpayer money is spent both efficiently and purposefully. NIH research, operated through grants at institutions all across the country – including KU Medical Center – will lead to new treatments and, hopefully, cures that will alleviate both the financial burden of disease on our health system and the personal burden placed on our families. I will continue working to provide NIH researchers with the tools they need to do their work effectively. Please click here to watch our full exchange.
Speaking at the KCK Chamber Congressional Forum
On Friday, I gave the keynote address at the Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce Congressional Forum in Kansas City. I updated the chamber on my work in Congress in support of Kansas City and Wyandotte County including efforts to improve healthcare for our nation’s veterans, provide for transportation and infrastructure projects of significance to Wyandotte County and the broader region, and invest in national medical research investment to the community. We also shared conversations about the availability of essential healthcare services and the need to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on community banks that support job creators in our communities. Thanks to KCK Chamber CEO Daniel Silva, Congressional Forum Chair Bill Epperheimer and KCK Board Chair Craig Gaffney for inviting me to address chamber members.
Hosting Townhall Meetings in Leavenworth and Wabaunsee Counties
I heard from Kansans in Lansing on Monday regarding issues including the VA, federal prison expansion and funding, Medicaid and Medicare funding and immigration. While Congress may not agree on comprehensive immigration reform, I believe a majority of my colleagues are supportive of border funding and DACA codifications and that Congress should move forward on these bipartisan priorities. Local officials raised frustrations with the VA's review of the Leavenworth County Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP) program and I agree with their concerns. I am working on behalf of the county to hold the VA accountable and am seeking substantive answers to our concerns regarding the VA's review process.
On Saturday, I spoke with Kansans in Alma about the importance of the Veterans' Choice program, expanding rural broadband, providing increased access to mental health services and protecting our way of life in rural America.
Thank you to everyone who attended to share their thoughts and ideas with me, including State Representative Ron Highland, and to the Volland Store for the hospitality. The Volland Store is owned by Patty Reece who purchased, updated and turned it into a community space to bring local residents together to share ideas, art and fellowship. Thanks also to Jacob, Dalton, Anna, Erin and Randall Debler for attending.
Now Accepting Fall Internship Applications
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 working closely with my staff on behalf of Kansans.
Applications for internships in my Washington, D.C. and Kansas offices for fall 2018 are due Friday, June 15. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence. Click here for more information.
Now Accepting 2018 Service Academy Applications
As students are finishing up the school and beginning their summer breaks, I want to remind them of the opportunity to apply to a United States Service Academy. Appointing Kansans to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.; the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo; and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. is one of my favorite duties as a U.S. Senator.
To review requirements and move through the application process, please download an application from my website or contact my Olathe office at 913-393-0711. All application materials are due to my Olathe office by September 7, 2018. After applications have been reviewed, applicants will be notified of interviews with my Service Academy Selection Board, which will take place on Saturday, September 22, 2018, at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.
Kansans in the Office
American College of Rheumatology
Kent Kwas Huston of Leawood
American Feed Industry Association
Eric Arnold of Leawood
American Society of Anesthesiologist
Mark Brady of Overland Park
Greg George of Wichita
Daniel Jacobs of Kansas City
Coalition Against Bigger Trucks
Don Ash of Wyandotte
CNH Industrial North American Plant Manager
Jeff Bolander of Wichita
Kyle Fickley of Tonganoxie
David Harwood of Olathe
Varun Vasankumar of Wichita
Council for Opportunity in Education
Kaye Monk-Morgan of Wichita
Federal Reserve Board Nominee
Michelle Bowman of Kansas City
Household and Commercial Products Association
Kay Johnson of Lawrence
Scott Ferber of Leawood
International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 774
Lonnie Cox of Wichita
Tyson Kelly of South Haven
Mark Lowry of Belle Plaine
Kansas Association of Realtors
Kelly Adams of Manhattan
Therese Adams of Manhattan
Monica Angeles of Pittsburg
John Brocker of Wichita
Vanessa Lamoreaux of Topeka
Jeff Carson of Kansas City
Dennis Clary of Wichita
Lonnie Cox of Wichita
Cindy Cunningham of Overland Park
Rob Curtis of Leawood
Julie Eisele of Independence
John Fort of Garden City
Karen Gehue of Topeka
Max Haverfield of Roeland Park
Rob Hulse of Lawrence
Terrie Huntington of Lawrence
Brian Jones of Pittsburg
Tyson Kelly of South Haven
Steven LaRue of Lawrence
Andrew Mall of Kansas City
Marsha McConnell of Hutchinson
Deborah McMullen of Lawrence
Kathy Minder of Paola
Natalie Moyer of Wichita
Kyle Niemaun of Overland Park
Margaret Pendleton of Manhattan
Chris Rost of Salina
Debbie Ruff of Hanston
Jessie Ruff of Hanston
Morgan Ruff of Hanston
Ronnie Ruff of Hanston
Cleve Smith of Augusta
Henry Wertin of Lawrence
Tasha Wertin of Lawrence
Sydney West of Olathe
Todd Woodburn of Wichita
Christian Zarif of Overland Park
Kansas Contractors Association
Chad Girard of Hutchinson
David Harwood of Olathe
Jeff Laury of Wichita
Jim Ralston of Wichita
Chris Rech of Emporia
Michael White of Topeka
Don Hibbs of Belle Plaine
Teresa Hibbs of Belle Plaine
Kids and Cars
Janette Fennell of Leawood
Tom Bishop of Holton
Chad Mohwinkle of Overland Park
Lane Moore of Hutchinson
National Association of Truck Stop Operators
Dan Adams of Salina
Sapp Bros of Salina
Jeff Dykes of Salina
Guy Walker of Salina
National Electrical Contractors Association
Roy Meinhardt of Wichita
Curtis Mitchell of Wichita
Shawn Smith of Topeka
Dylan Woodard of Wichita
One Voice Against Cancer
Courtney Hurtig of Overland Park
Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores
Dave Acthen of Overland Park
Chandler Brass of Stockton
Dennis McAnany of Olathe
Patrick Lingg of Stockton
Adam Palace of Wichita
Tom Palace of Topeka
Marvin Spees of Topeka
Brad Thompson of Hutchison
Scott Zaremba of Lawrence
Specialty Equipment Market Association
Kyle Fickler of Lenexa
The ALS Association Mid America Chapter
Jamie Kennedy of Wichita
Sean Kennedy of Wichita
The Association of Pools and Spa Professionals
Steve Johnson of Lawrence
The National Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Marley Sugar of Overland Park
Alicia Thomson of Cawker City
Justin Wilson of Dodge City
Sara Wilson of Dodge City
Brian Cohoon of Topeka
Carl Herrman of Elkhart
Lorna Herrman of Elkhart
David Hopkins of Rose Hill
Janet Hopkins of Rose Hill
James Iverson of Herington
Dennis Kalmar of Turon
Karen Kalmar of Turon
Mason Kalmar of Turon
Peyton Kalmar of Turon
Rick Kellerman of Wichita
Cheryl Ojile of Andale
Jared Ojile of Andale
Jordan Ojile of Andale
Nicholas Ojile of Wichita
Debbie Ruff of Hanston
Jessie Ruff of Hanston
Morgan Ruff of Hanston
Ronnie Ruff of Hanston
Kent Ruse of Wichita
Robin Ruse of Wichita
Blake Sanders of Lawrence
Robert Sanders of Lawrence
Lisa Spoon of Winfield
Paige Spoon of Winfield
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 letter, a Facebook comment, or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking 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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