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.

Remembering Lieutenant General Seitz
On Saturday, America lost a great hero and dedicated Kansan. Lieutenant General (Ret.) Dick Seitz was a highly decorated officer who selflessly served our country through three wars. He was one of the few WWII veterans left to tell their story and I was honored to have the opportunity to hear a few of his incredible experiences. Lt. Gen. Seitz was a mentor, a friend and someone I greatly respected. He not only served his country, but also his state and his community. As a native Kansan who settled in Junction City following his military retirement, he never retired from serving. The great impact he had on the Junction City area community will never be forgotten and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to know him.

Farm Bill Update
Over the past two weeks, the Senate has been working on a new Farm Bill that will save taxpayers $24 billion. The bill puts vital risk management tools and conservation programs back in place — including crop and livestock disaster insurance — providing farmers and ranchers with the long-term certainty they need to produce food, fiber and fuel for our country and the world. The Farm Bill currently in place is an extension of the 2008 bill and is set to expire on September 31, 2013.

Thursday I voted to bring the Farm Bill to the Senate Floor, which will allow the Senate to move forward and limit the amount of time for debate or further delay. I am committed to making certain we develop sound farm policy that helps us continue to be the most food secure country in the world. Farmers and ranchers need a long-term safety net that is made of sound farm policy not the constant guessing game that is associated with another extension.

Visitng Merriam-Based Treat America 
It’s always good to visit thriving Kansas businesses like Treat America Food Services and learn more about their operations. Established 20 years ago with only eight employees, Treat America now boasts 1,200 and leads the food services industry in developing innovative technologies focused on consumer demand and healthy options. During the tour, Treat America President and National Automatic Merchandising Association Board Member John Mitchell, Jr. and I had the opportunity to discuss issues affecting the industry and how the association is working to address them. Click here to see a photo from my visit.

Banking Committee Reviews Impact of Iran Sanctions

The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing Tuesday to review the impact of sanctions the United States and our allies have put on Iran for its continued nuclear program. I attended the hearing and asked witnesses from the Department of State and the Department of Treasury about the cooperation of other countries in working with the United States to abide by the sanctions and about human rights abuses in Iran. Particularly troubling is the case of American pastor Saeed Abedini. Pastor Saeed is a U.S. citizen who was arrested last summer in Iran and detained because of his Christian faith. Wendy Sherman, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs at the State Department, said during the hearing that the State Department was working hard to secure Pastor Saeed’s release. No person should be detained, tortured or face execution for their religious beliefs and I am hopeful Pastor Saeed comes home soon.

Following the hearing, I sponsored the Iran Sanctions Loophole Elimination Act to tighten sanctions and make them more effective. Iran is believed to be circumventing financial sanctions by converting foreign-held euros into local currencies. This legislation would deny the Iranian government access to its foreign currencies held in other countries so that it is more difficult for Iran to finance illicit activities. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is a threat to the United States and our allies. We must be committed to preventing this regime from acquiring the most dangerous weapons on earth.

Rock Springs Chapel Rededication
Sunday I was honored to give remarks at the rededication of the meditation chapel at Rock Springs 4-H Center. In addition to supporting 4-H, the center provides a great setting for team building, personal development, learning and having fun. As the largest youth organization in Kansas, 4-H makes a difference in the lives of thousands of Kansas youth every year. Through 4-H, young people are being equipped with skills that will help them become successful in life. The chapel renovation was made possible through the generosity of numerous Kansans including the Lindquist Family, the Maley Family and Rahjes Family pictured with me here. Thank you to the Kansas 4-H Youth Council for hosting a great event. 

ATT Update
On June 3, the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) opened for signature, and the Obama Administration has announced that it intends to sign. This news is extremely disappointing, given the Administration abandoned its critical negotiation principle of consensus, and Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman’s description of the treaty’s goals as “ambiguous.” Good treaties aren’t ambiguous, and our constitutional rights are too important to be entrusted to a dangerous treaty drafted by nations hostile to the ownership of firearms by private citizens. 

Upon passage of the ATT at the U.N. General Assembly on April 2, which due to the Administration’s indifference only required a majority vote, the Administration indicated it would begin an extensive and thorough legal and policy review – a process typically requiring several months. By already signaling a readiness to sign the ATT, the Administration has clearly abbreviated this review process, and the lack of seriousness on their part to review the treaty before agreeing to sign is dangerous.

The United States should ratify treaties only when they are in our national interest, clear in their goals and language, respect our sovereignty, and do not create any openings to infringe upon our constitutional freedoms. The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty fails to meet any of these tests, which is why I urge the President not to sign it. I am joined in these efforts by a bipartisan coalition of 35 U.S. Senators who have cosponsored my resolution, S. Con. Res. 7, to make clear that any treaty that undermines the Constitutional freedoms of American gun owners will not be ratified by the Senate.

Supporting a Permanent Student Loan Solution
Unless Congress acts, student loan interest rates on subsidized federal Stafford loans for undergraduate students will increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2013. Subsidized Stafford loans are need-based loans available to undergraduate students and account for roughly 40 percent of all federal student loans. I understand that education can be a family’s most important investment and ought not be complicated by short-sighted Washington politics. Rather than settling for another ineffective, short-term patch that only helps a portion of students, it is time for Congress and the President to pass a student loan policy that provides certainty and reflects the long-term financial planning students and families undertake to pay for higher education.

On Thursday, the Senate voted on two proposals to avert the interest rate increase on these loans. I voted for a proposal offered by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma that would base all new student loan interest rates on market rates. Under this plan, the interest rate for all Stafford loans, as well as school loans for graduate students and parents, would be based on the 10-year Treasury rate plus 3.0 percent. This legislation would fix the rate of interest for the life of the loan. I opposed the other proposal, offered by Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, that would provide another temporary extension of the current interest rate for only subsidized federal Stafford loans. This temporary extension would be paid for with permanent tax increases. Although the procedural votes to advance either of these proposals failed, this action could spur further negotiation on how to resolve this matter.

The House of Representatives has already passed a proposal to move student loans to a market-based interest rate, and the Obama Administration has offered a similar proposal in its budget. In the interest of both students and taxpayers, I support legislation that permanently addresses interest rate levels for all federal student loans.

Attending the Lenexa Chamber Business Blast and Taste of Lenexa
While back in Kansas, I had the opportunity to attend the Lenexa Chamber’s Business Blast and the Taste of Lenexa where companies promoted their business to chamber members. The event was held outside on the historic grounds of the Lackman Thompson Estate where the Lenexa Chamber is housed in the original farmhouse that has been restored. I visited with business owners about issues affecting their companies including taxes, immigration and hiring new employees. Events like this are a great chance for advice and instructions from Kansans. Thank you to the Lenexa Chamber for supporting and promoting the business community. Click here to see a photo.

Lincoln County Hospital Visit
This weekend I traveled to Lincoln to visit with hospital and community leaders at Lincoln County Hospital (LCH) and tour the facility. This visit enabled me to learn more about the challenges LCH faces in administering care to patients in Lincoln County and the surrounding area, and how federal health policies impact the work they do each day.

LCH is a rural community hospital classified as a Critical Access Hospital (CAH). We discussed how important access to the essential health care services provided by CAHs and other community hospitals is to Kansas communities. I recently questioned U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about concerns I have with the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal, which seeks to cut Medicare reimbursements to CAHs and completely eliminate the enhanced reimbursement some of these hospitals receive to account for the higher costs of providing care in rural areas. We also discussed concerns with impact of sequestration, which reduces Medicare reimbursements to hospitals.  While I strongly believe that Congress must reduce federal spending and lower our national debt, I opposed the legislation that implemented sequestration because arbitrary, across-the-board cuts reduce funding for effective programs by too much and leave wasteful, inefficient programs largely intact. These cuts disproportionately affects Kansas and other rural states that care for an aging population across a wide area by squeezing facilities to the point where they will be forced to significantly limit services to patients.

As ranking member of the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over funding for most agencies within HHS, I will continue to advocate for hospitals and the critical role they have in strengthening the communities we call home. Thanks to LCH Administrator Greg McNeil, LCH Board Chairman Jack Crispin, and all the staff, administration, and board members for hosting me. Click here to see a photo.

U.S. Senate Page Trenton Kennedy Heads Back to Kansas
Trenton Kennedy of Frankfort was one of 30 high school juniors from across the country serving as a U.S. Senate Page this spring. Senate Pages primarily serve as messengers who deliver correspondence and legislation, but also help to prepare the Senate floor and get the opportunity to learn about the legislative process. It has been great to get to know Trent both on the Senate floor and when he visits my office, and I hope this has been an experience that will benefit him as well as the Frankfort community. To learn more about Trent and watch a video about his experience in Washington, click here.

Now Accepting 2013 Service Academy Applications
Even as students are 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, New York; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, is one of my favorite duties as a U.S. Senator.

To find out the requirements and apply, please download an application from my website or contact my Olathe office. All application materials are due to my Olathe office by September 6, 2013. After applications have been reviewed, applicants will be notified of interviews with my Service Academy Selection Board, which will take place on Saturday, October 5, 2013 at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.

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

Fort Riley Staff
Major General Paul Funk of Fort Riley
LTC Chris Danbeck of Manhattan
CPT Dan Bell of Fort Riley 

Kansas Governor’s Military Council
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer
Major General Lee Tafanelli
John Armbrust
Rufus Forrest
Alonzo Harrison
Doug Kinsinger
John Montgomery 

American Academy of Pediatrics
Dennis Cooley of Topeka
Pamela Shaw of Kansas City 

National Grange
Nathan Strawder of Burlington
Mandee Strawder of Burlington 

National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
Dwight Tully of Salina
Rick Wilborn of McPherson
Keith Birkhead of McPherson
Scott Forland of Lenexa
Tony Kimmi of Manhattan
Russell Oeser of Overland Park 

International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists
Eric Everett of Mission
Jan Gerber of Wichita 

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
John Lacobs of Stilwell
Liz Jacobs of Stilwell
Emily Thompson of Westwood
Jennifer Betner of Wichita
Carol Bush of Wichita
Keith Humphrey of Derby 

Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas
Mark Holland of Kansas City
Julie Solomon of Kansas City 

Kansas Health Care Association/Kansas Center for Assisted Living
Cindy Luxem of Topeka
Kevin Crowley of Sedgwick
Fred Benjamin of Coffeyville
Steve Hattestad of Olathe
Beth Shepard of Chanute 

Kansas Chapter of Children’s Advocacy Centers, Inc.
Amy Boydston of Lenexa
Joanna Zimmerman of Dodge City
Sarah Schenek of Great Bend
Jane Holzricher of Hutchinson
Amanda Yenzer of Manhattan
Jessie Voiers of Emporia 

United Nations Association of the US
Allison Halpin of Lenexa
Nadia Azam of Overland Park
Christine Traner of Lawrence

Investment Adviser Association
Mark Vincent of Wichita 

Jewish Community Relations Bureau/American Jewish Community
David Rudman of Leawood
Marvin Szneler of Overland Park 

Kansas Contractors Association
Bob Totten of Topeka
Vern Hopkins of Salina
Gregg Conner of Overland Park
Randy Hatteshol of Hays
Chad Girard of Wichita
Woody Moses of Topeka
Brian Hansen of Andover
David Harwood of Leawood
Earl Losier of Hutchinson 

United We Dream
Delia Garcia of Wichita 

Kansas Livestock Association
Matthew Welsh of Meade
Philip Weltmer of Smith Center
Geremy Larson of Overland Park 

Wichita Area Builders Association
Wes Gaylon of Wichita
Larry Higgins of Wichita
Tim Shigley of Augusta
Leon Greaser of Wichita
Carl Harris of Newton
Vern Klassen of Wichita
Tony Zimbelman of Wichita
Jeff Wiens of Wichita
Pam Wiens of Wichita
Rachel Wiens of Wichita
Terry Robinson of Topeka
Gary Pashman of Topeka
Don Klausmeyer of Wichita 

Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City
Mark Hoffman of Merriam
Sara Corless of Mission Hills
Michael Snodgrass of Kansas City 

Portland Cement Association
Steven Tritsch of Lenexa
Jacqueline Clark of Overland Park 

Joyce Martin of Topeka
Angela Lampe of Wichita 

Air Line Pilots Association
Steve Donovan of Andover 

Senate Page’s Family
Trent Kennedy of Frankfort
Mike Kennedy of Frankfort
Melissa Kennedy of Frankfort
Anita Heiman of Seneca 

American Pizza Community
Jim McNerney of Wichita 

Mental Health for America
Susan Lewis of Lawrence 

First Trust Mortgage
Mark McDougald of Overland Park 

Capitol Tour
Brenda Schlenk of Olathe
Kara Schlenk of Olathe
Noelle Schlenk of Olathe
Tyler Andrews of Overland Park
Lindsay Andrews of Overland Park
Terry Olberding of Fairview
Marsha Olberding of Fairview
Keri Welch of Burlingame
James Welch of Burlingame
Mike Schlenk of Olathe
Kevin Marks of Wichita
Debbie Marks of Wichita
Jared Marks of Wichita
Rochelle Leep of Wichita
Justin Leep of Wichita
Ronald Capps of Wichita
Julia Capps of Wichita
Anna Capps of Wichita
Colton Capps of Wichita
Joshua Capps of Wichita
James Graham of Great Bend
Kathryn Graham of Great Bend
Jacob Graham of Great Bend
John Graham of Great Bend
Bob Draney of Derby
Gail Draney of Derby
Elston White of Derby
Mildred White of Derby
Packard Lamont of Wichita
Pamela Lamont of Wichita
Matthew Welsh of Meade
Philip Weltmer of Smith Center
Linda Miller of Neodesha
Jillayne King of Pittsburg
Julian Archuleta of Pittsburg
Syd Dippel of Lindsborg
Mikaela Johnson of Lindsborg
Aaron Evans of Lindsborg
Austin Crawford of Lindsborg
Josh Baxter of Lindsborg
Haley Enyart of Lindsborg
Andrea Willems of Marquette
Whitney Willems of Marquette
Tara Gladding of Marquette
Daisy Quested of Marquette
Cody Hopkins of Marquette0
Jenna Hubele of Gypsum
Tyler Divelbess of Marquette
Jeffrey Arellano of Wichita
Catherine Arellano of Wichita
Emma Anderson of Lindsborg
Jenell Hulse of Lindsborg
Jessica Van Ranken of Lindsborg
Hanna Heble of Lindsborg
Tela Peterson of Lindsborg
Ben Dolezal of Lindsborg
Angela Dolezal of Lindsborg
Wayne Carlson of Lindsborg
Nita Kay Carlson of Lindsborg
Hannah Carlson of Lindsborg
Morgan Loder of Marquette
Mark Klaassen of Marquette
Tyler Divelbess of Marquette 

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.

Very truly yours,


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