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. With another winter storm moving across Kansas, I hope you’ll follow the Kansas Department of Transportation’s warnings and stay off the roads if they’ve become dangerous.

The Looming Sequester
On Friday, government spending cuts known as sequestration will take effect unless Congress reaches a resolution this week. Should the sequestration deadline pass, $85 billion will be cut from the government’s FY 2013 budget and $1.2 trillion will be shed from over the course of a decade, as laid out in the Budget Control Act of 2011. It’s also notable that half of all cuts will fall on the Department of Defense.

The President and Congress must reduce federal spending and lower our national debt, but sequestration is a poor way to do so. Cuts like these are irresponsible, affecting valuable and wasteful programs alike. I feel strongly that Congress and the President must do what we were elected to do, and that means passing a responsible budget which prioritizes the programs that effectively and efficiently serve the American people. Unfortunately, it has been nearly 1,400 days since Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate has brought forth a budget. I will continue to work with my colleagues toward a meaningful and responsible solution to our government’s spending problem. The President, who originally proposed the sequester, is not being helpful and now says tax increases are the way to avoid spending cuts.

National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) Central Utilities Plant Construction Contract Awarded

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I was notified on Friday that the Department of Homeland Security awarded the $40 million utility work contract for the construction of the Central Utilities Plant (CUP), an important step toward constructing NBAF. The contract being confirmed is good news because without the capabilities NBAF provides our country is at risk from foreign animal disease threats. The CUP will be a free standing 87,000 sq. ft. building built on the NBAF site on the Kansas State University campus, and is expected to be completed in two and a half years. I look forward to continued progress on this vital national security asset.

Father Kapaun to Receive Medal of Honor
During my time in the House and Senate, I have worked with the Kansas delegation to urge the Secretary of Defense to recommend the President award Father Emil Kapaun with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Finally, it was announced Friday that Father Kapaun, a Kansan and Korean War hero, will be receiving this distinguished award in April. I am grateful President Obama will use his authority to give Father Kapaun the long-overdue recognition.

Father Kapaun was from Pilsen and was a priest in the Diocese of Wichita. During the Korean War, Father Kapaun served as a chaplain of the 8th Cavalry Regiment of the First Army Division. He was taken prisoner along with other American soldiers and carried severely injured fellow soldiers on his back, while rallying others to help in a similar fashion. While in the prison camp he served his comrades by escaping to steal food from nearby farms to bring back to the starving prisoners. He cared for sick soldiers, washed them, shared his food with them, and inspired them with his unfailing faith and acts of generosity until his death in May 1951.

Olathe Joint Town Hall Meeting
On Tuesday, I was in Johnson County and participated in a joint town hall meeting with Senator Pat Roberts and Congressman Kevin Yoder. More than 200 citizens attended to speak and listen to their fellow citizens regarding their concerns on what is happening — or not happening — in Washington, D.C. Issues discussed included the debt crisis, subsidies, Medicare, veterans and upholding the Constitution. I appreciate Kansans sharing their common sense so I can continue to work in the Senate on their behalf. Thank you to Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland for hosting the event, and to Tim Danneberg for his assistance in organizing the event.


Topeka Chamber Breakfast
On Tuesday, I spoke at the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce Breakfast and had the opportunity to answer questions about sequestration, the national debt, and the need for Congress and the President to work together to cut spending and address the economic issues we face as a country. We also discussed Topeka and Kansas-specific issues including levees, state taxes, and local investment. It was good to see Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten and other community leaders at the event. I appreciate the Topeka Chamber Members’ attendance and commitment to our state’s capital city.

Subcommittee Assignments Announced for 113th Congress
The Senate Subcommittee Assignments for the 113th Congress have been announced, and I am pleased to be serving on several subcommittees whose jurisdictions have a direct impact on the lives of Kansans and America’s economy.

As a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, I have been chosen to continue my service as a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies. This subcommittee has responsibility for setting annual spending limits for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration. Agriculture is a staple of the Kansas economy and USDA plays many roles in helping to maintain agriculture’s success. I will continue to work to find the proper balance that allows USDA to provide necessary services to rural America, while at the same time reducing spending to bring our expanding federal debt under control.

I will also serve as Ranking Member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. I am grateful to my Senate Republican colleagues for entrusting me with leadership of this subcommittee, which oversees a range of issues important to Kansans including our nation’s commitment to advancing cures and treatments for disease through medical research, as well as the ability of rural communities to access quality health care.

Finally, I am member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, which oversees funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Strengthening our nation’s security efforts is one of my top priorities and a critical responsibility of Congress. The threats our nation faces are real, and this subcommittee plays an important role in making certain we can address these challenges. As a member, I will continue to advocate for construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF). NBAF is an essential part of our national security apparatus and must be constructed to protect Americans from biological threats.

Visit to Forbes Air Force Base
On Tuesday, I visited Forbes Air Force Base to discuss the base’s recent selection as a finalist to receive the second installation of new KC-46A tankers. This major achievement elevates the National Guard’s role in air mobility and refueling for the total force of the US Air Force. It was good to meet many airmen from the 190th and see the Squadron Operations Building where the 190th manages their air mobility missions. Thanks to MG Lee Tafenelli, Col. Ron Krueger, and the other Airmen of the 190th Air Refueling Wing for briefing me on the critical and strategic role that Forbes continues to play in the Air Force Air Mobility Command’s mission. 

Marysville Rotary Club Lunch
On Monday, I had the opportunity to visit with the members of the Marysville Rotary Club. It was good to be back in town, and we discussed issues specific to the Marysville community including agriculture, rural hospitals and healthcare.

Rotary Club was held at the soon-to-be open bowling alley and eatery, Landoll Lanes. Don Landoll wanted to give Marysville residents of all ages something fun to do in their hometown, and I applaud him for his efforts to improve his rural community. Thank you to the Rotarians and Dan Landoll for inviting me to join them. Thank you also to Marshall County Sheriff Dan Hargrave, Marshall County Commissioners, Marysville Mayor Bill Phillipi and Chamber Chair Coleen Jennifer for your contributions to the Marysville community.

Riley County High School Tour
This week, I toured Riley County High School (RCHS). The high school serves the communities of Riley, Leonardville, Keats and the surrounding areas. RCHS is also proud to serve many families from Fort Riley. I was impressed by the school’s dedicated departments in art, agriculture, and science, and was glad to hear that even in this rural community, enrollment numbers have remained steady. Thank you to Brad Starns, Superintendent, Dan Stron, School Board Member, as well as Student Leaders Levi Bailey, Ian Eastes, Bree Busch and Abbey for a great tour.

In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:

American Psychological Association
Michael Roberts of Lawrence

Lindsay Vogtsberger of Kansas City
Doug Ervin of Kansas City

Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. In recent weeks, I’ve been listening to Kansans calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the debt crisis and big issues our country faces. Whether your thoughts are in the form of letter, a Facebook comment or a phone call, please know that I am listening and I appreciate messages from Kansans who wish to make their voice heard.

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. 

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