Kansas Common Sense


Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks 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 past Monday, Congress re-opened the government by passing a continuing resolution (CR) to fund our military and other critical government agencies through February 8. I’m pleased this agreement was reached, we must get out of the CR business and back to funding the government through the regular appropriations process.

Happy Kansas Day!

On January 29, 1861, our state was founded with the ideals of personal freedom and individual liberty in mind. Our history is marked by events and people that have made us into the state we are now, and I’m encouraged today by all the Kansans who have paved the way before us.

Our story is one about farmers, ranchers, teachers, entrepreneurs, parents and countless unsung heroes whose hard work has built our state’s economy and made us a leader in many industries.

Thank you for allowing me to represent Kansans in the United States Senate. To watch my Kansas Day video tribute, click here.

Demanding Answers from US Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, NCAA & Michigan State University Regarding Systemic Failures to Protect Athletes from Sexual Abuse
This week, disgraced USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years in prison for sexually abusing over 150 young women. As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee subcommittee with jurisdiction over the health and safety of USA Gymnastics, US Olympic and NCAA athletes, I – along with my committee colleague Senator Richard Blumenthal – am demanding answers from USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee and Michigan State University regarding their systemic failures to protect athletes from sexual abuse.

Of particular concern is the recent allegation that USAG actively sought to silence at least one Olympic gymnast with a non-disclosure agreement. We want to know: how was this justified? Who was aware of this NDA? Is this common practice? While we appreciate the efforts by USOC to establish the US Center for Safe Sport, it is obvious that additional measures need to be taken to prevent similarly heinous crimes from occurring in the future while ensuring appropriate reporting in the unfortunate event that they do.

I look forward to USAG, USOC & Michigan State's prompt responses, and will continue working to protect our athletes from these heinous crimes. For more information or to read the letters in full, click here.

Paying Tribute to Liberal’s Jack Taylor
Robba and I are saddened by the loss of our good friend Jack Taylor this week. Jack was the kind of individual who always put family and community first. He was a relentless advocate for Liberal, using his time and talents to be a vocal advocate for expanding US Highway 54 and staying involved in local organizations such as the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, Baker Arts Center and the Booster Club. His pride in his community was clear to all who knew him. He taught all of us through his actions that satisfaction in life comes from what you do for others rather than what you do for yourself, and he was eternally optimistic, choosing the find the positives in every situation. This is Jack’s legacy, and I am proud to have known him, his wife of 64 years Georgetta, and his wonderful family.

In 2016 when Jack retired, I took the chance to honor his many years of service and accomplishments by sharing a tribute to him in the Senate’s Congressional Record. I hoped to surprise Jack with a framed copy of the tribute at a townhall meeting in Liberal, but the Taylors were in the middle of a move and told me they were unable to attend. However, I soon learned they were planning all along to surprise me by coming to my townhall, even after they’d said they couldn’t make it.

This photo captures the moment we discovered each other’s surprise plans. 

Encouraging Action to Improve Drug Pricing Transparency in Medicare Part D
This week, I sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma urging her to finalize the 2019 Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit program proposed rule regarding pharmacy price concessions. CMS has noted that this proposal would reduce total beneficiary drug costs by $10.4 billion by effectively prohibiting retroactive pharmacy Direct and Indirect Remuneration (DIR) fees. These fees unfairly leave community pharmacists, especially those in rural or medically underserved areas, operating their businesses with great uncertainty. Pharmacists should be focused on the customers they serve rather than being forced to worry about when these fees will be collected by a Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM), how large the fees will be, and how they can accommodate for these losses as they try to run their businesses. As a founding member of the Senate Community Pharmacy Caucus, I am encouraged by the actions of CMS to simplify our pharmacy system so that Kansans will continue to have access to their local pharmacists.

Gov. Brownback Confirmed as Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom
Governor Brownback has long demonstrated his commitment to promoting the freedom of all to practice the religion of their choice. On Monday, I presided over the Senate as consideration of Gov. Brownback began and the Senate voted in favor of advancing his nomination. On Wednesday, the Senate voted to confirm Gov. Brownback as United States Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom.

Honoring International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Saturday marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day for the international community to come together to condemn the acts of the Nazi regime and its collaborators while remembering and honoring all those who suffered as a result of anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a rise in anti-Semitism today in both the United States and across Europe, and it is critical that we work to eradicate these acts. I joined several of my Senate colleagues this week in writing to President Trump, urging him to honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day by condemning anti-Semitism in all its forms. We also urged him to nominate a candidate for the vacant position of Special Envoy to Combat Anti-Semitism at the State Department to help to combat this intolerance.

Welcoming New Leadership to the Aerospace Industries Association
As co-chairs of the Senate Aerospace Caucus, Senator Mark Warner and I welcomed the new president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), Eric Fanning. In Kansas, the aerospace industry has an impact on every corner of our state – from cybersecurity to aircraft manufacturing and developing a talented workforce to maintain American supremacy. The aerospace industry is where a strong national defense and stable economy converge and I am committed to making certain that America’s defense, civil aviation and space sectors advance amidst global challenges. I previously worked with Eric in his capacity as Secretary of the Army, and I know with his extensive experience in the executive and legislative branches of our government that he shares this commitment. I look forward to working with my caucus colleagues and industry leaders in safeguarding and promoting American innovation.

Going Live on Bloomberg TV to Discuss NAFTA
On Wednesday, I appeared on Bloomberg TV to discuss the importance of negotiating pro-America trade agreements and why the United States must remain in NAFTA. I am concerned that withdrawing from the NAFTA agreement will have a negative impact on our economy and harm our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers. I will continue to work with my colleagues to advocate for sound trade policy and that grows our economy and protects American jobs.

Watch the full interview here.

Joining Participants at the Kansas Commodity Classic
I addressed attendees of the Kansas Commodity Classic in Manhattan on Friday morning, joining folks from the different commodity groups across the state who traveled to hear experts discuss the issues and address the outlook for Kansas agriculture. One of the issues discussed was the upcoming Farm Bill – we need a strong bill that is on time and provides an adequate safety net. With low commodity prices, we must work to improve Title I programs and protect crop insurance. 

In order to sell our commodities, we need access to the world’s markets. I believe we’ve made progress with the administration on NAFTA; however, I remain concerned that the administration could decide to withdraw from NAFTA unless there is significant progress in negotiations, including this week in Montreal. Farmers and ranchers are faced with uncertainty year round, but what producers don’t need is more uncertainty coming out of Washington. Thanks to all who attended and who shared your perspectives with me. 

Addressing KFB Young Farmers & Ranchers
It was a pleasure to join the Kansas Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers for their annual conference on Saturday. The engagement and interest of these young people is absolutely essential to future of our ag industry, and I applaud the passion of those who attended the conference. It’s important to make sure the next generation of producers have a seat at the table when discussing the issues that impact the industry, from trade and energy to the economy to overregulation and the Farm Bill. I want to thank the KFB Young Farmers and Ranchers for allowing me to visit with them and for using their voices to build a better and brighter future for Kansas agriculture.

Joining Justice Thomas at Kansan Stephen McAllister’s Oath of Office Ceremony
I spoke at Stephen McAllister’s swearing in as U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas. Stephen is a veteran attorney and has had a distinguished career in federal litigation, as Kansas solicitor general and during his time clerking for two Supreme Court Justices. His bright legal mind and his litigation experience uniquely qualify him for this role. It was great to have Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in town to conduct Stephen’s swearing-in. Thanks to Stephen's wife, Suzanne, for planning the event.

Now Accepting Summer 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 Summer 2018 are due Friday, February 23. 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.

Kansans in the Office

Kansas Educators
Volora Hanzlick of Sabetha
Kim Rassmussen of Leavenworth

Oral Health Kansas
Tanya Brunner of Topeka
Christi Nance of Kansas City

National Head Start Association
Joanie Burke of Girard
Jeanette Sperfslag of Hiawatha
Mike Baugher of Roeland Park

Kansas Mentors
Destinee Parker of Topeka

National District Attorneys Association
Todd Thompson of Leavenworth
Steve Howe of Johnson County
Brandon Jones of Ottawa
Mark Depree of Wyandotte County
Marc Bennett of Wichita
Charles Branson of Lawrence
Michael Kagay of Shawnee County

Andy Schlapp of Wichita

Capitol Tour
Lt. Col. Dean Mitchell of Tonganoxie
Jacob Mitchell of Tonganoxie
Sgt. Greggory Sutton of Wakefield
Kelly Sutton of Wakefield

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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