Kansas Common Sense
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Obamacare Problems More Than Just A Website
The Obamacare website is an embarrassing disaster, but unfortunately the law’s problems run much deeper than just the website. Obamacare is driving up health insurance premiums and causing millions of Americans to lose the coverage they currently have. The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” gave President Obama’s pledge that “no one will take away” your health plan a “Four Pinocchios” rating, its highest classification of fallacy. The unfortunate reality is many more Americans have lost their health insurance than have enrolled in coverage under Obamacare. Young Americans and middle-class families are facing significant premium increases they cannot afford, and workers are seeing their hours reduced and their paychecks cut because of the law's mandates.
I believe the entire law should be repealed and replaced, but until that happens American individuals and families must be protected from the disasters created by Obamacare. In July, President Obama acknowledged that a significant component of this law is broken and delayed enforcement of the employer mandate. The following week, I offered amendments in the Senate Appropriations Committee to delay both the employer mandate and individual mandate. Both of these amendments were unfortunately defeated in party-line votes.
This week, I sponsored the “Delay Until Fully Functional Act” (S. 1592), legislation to delay Obamacare’s individual mandate until it can be certified that the law’s website and health insurance Exchanges are functional. It is unfair for the federal government to punish individuals for not doing something the government is requiring them to do when the Administration’s incompetence has made it impossible for them to comply. I also sponsored the “If you Like your Health Plan, you Can Keep it Act” (S. 1617), legislation to follow through on the President’s broken promise: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. Period.” This bill would make the grandfathered plans under Obamacare less restrictive and provide flexibility for individuals to keep the plans they already have.
Meeting with the Nominee for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
On Wednesday, I met with Jeh Johnson, the President’s nominee to succeed Janet Napolitano as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). We had a productive conversation about the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan and the need for construction to move forward. I wanted to make certain NBAF remains a DHS priority as a vital national security asset for our nation and the safety of our Animal Health Corridor.
New Legislation Will Help Americans Save for Their Futures
Last year, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and I created the Senate Economic Mobility Caucus to explore policies that expand economic opportunity for Americans. One factor that contributes to upward mobility is personal savings. Savings allow individuals and families to build wealth that can be invested in education or a home. Savings also create a personal safety net so that individuals are better able to cope with the loss of a job or unexpected illness. Unfortunately, one in three Kansas households does not have a savings account.
To promote savings and help Americans build financial assets for their future, I introduced S. 1597, the American Savings Promotion Act, this week with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). This legislation would allow financial institutions to offer prize-linked savings accounts, which award account holders with chances to earn prizes based on deposit activity. Prize-linked savings accounts are safe, regulated financial products that have proven to increase savings rates and attract both former non-savers and those with low incomes — empowering individuals to better endure financial strain and climb the economic ladder. Importantly, this legislation does not create a new federal program or spend scarce taxpayer resources. While this tool would offer the chance of big winnings, its real value is the promise of increased financial security for all Americans. Click here to learn more about the American Savings Promotion Act.
Visiting with Wichita State
On Tuesday, I met with representatives from Wichita State University to discuss the latest developments at WSU, including the university’s plan to strengthen its role as a technology center for South Central Kansas. I appreciated the opportunity to sit down with WSU President John Bardo and his wife, Deborah; Dr. John Tomblin, executive director of the National Institute for Aviation Research at WSU; and Andy Schlapp, WSU’s Executive Director of Government Relations. We discussed the university’s research support for and in cooperation with Kansas industry stakeholders, such as local aviation companies. I commend WSU for its focus on fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in our state.
Extending Emergency Care Coverage for Veterans
This week, along with a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I introduced legislation to expand emergency care treatment reimbursement eligibility for veterans. Our nation’s heroes should not be forced to bear the burden of emergency health care costs simply because of exorbitant VA facility waiting times to see a doctor.
Current law prohibits the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) from reimbursing emergency room care at non-VA facilities for veterans who haven’t received care at a VA clinic or hospital within the past two years. Veterans who have recently returned from deployment or live in rural communities often can’t meet this requirement as a result of extensive wait times for scheduling VA facility appointments. This legislation would waive the two-year requirement and allow veterans to be reimbursed for emergency medical care at non-VA facilities. Click here to learn more.
Protecting Fourth Amendment Rights of General Aviation Pilots and Passengers
On Wednesday, I joined Senator Pat Roberts and six others in sending a letter to Rand Beers, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In recent years, there has been a dramatic spike in the number of reported stops and searches of general aviation aircraft, and our letter to Secretary Beers requests an explanation. General aviation pilots and passengers deserve answers for why Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has stopped planes during flight and demanded access to search planes without any apparent probable cause of illegal activity or dangerous behavior onboard the aircraft. We must make certain the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens are not being violated, and I look forward to receiving a response from DHS in a timely manner. To read the full text of the letter, click here.
Greeting Honor Flight Veterans at the WWII Memorial
Thursday, I was privileged to spend time with Kansas World War II veterans and their guardians at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. These veterans represent the best of America – a willingness to sacrifice for the greater good. It is because these veterans answered the call of duty that we enjoy the freedoms we have today. These visits truly reaffirm my commitment to do all I can to make our nation a better place for future generations. Click here to see a photo.
FHSU President Hammond to Retire in 2014
On Wednesday, it was announced that Fort Hays State University (FHSU) President Ed Hammond will retire in June 2014 after 28 years at the university helm. Over nearly three decades, my friend Dr. Hammond has been a tremendous asset to FHSU and the entire state of Kansas. Because of his “Forward Thinking, World Ready” mentality, President Hammond helped bring new horizons to thousands of Kansas students – many of which are from small towns across our state. From the renovation of the Sternberg Museum and Picken Hall to the development and growth of the virtual college, Dr. Hammond has strengthened the quality of education for all FHSU students. Upon his retirement, President Hammond will truly be missed, but his visionary leadership and remarkable contributions to FHSU will impact students and the community for generations to come. Robba and I offer a heartfelt thanks to Dr. Hammond for everything he has done for the entire Hays community.
Manhattan Regional Airport Expansion Groundbreaking
It was good to join Manhattan Mayor John Matta; Kansas State University Chief of Staff Jackie Hartman; Fort Riley Garrison Commander, Colonel Andrew Cole; Airport Advisory Chair Dick Hayter; Manhattan Chamber President Lyle Butler; and state representatives to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Manhattan Regional Airport Terminal Expansion. Construction will expand the terminal building to two enclosed passenger boarding bridges, and the airport will remain fully operational during construction. The $15.8 million project is being funded by the Federal Aviation Administration and the City of Manhattan.
Air service is a vital public safety and economic development asset for communities across Kansas, and this expansion will help meet the needs of the growing Flint Hills region. Thanks to Airport Director Peter Van Kuren and the Airport Advisory Committee for your hard work on behalf of Manhattan Regional. Click here to see a photo.
In the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
Greg Wheeler of Marysville
Mark Siegmund of Olathe
Bob Drummond of Olathe
American Association of Colleges of Nursing
Monica Scheibmeir of Topeka
Kathleen Harr of Topeka
Betty Smith-Campbell of Wichita
Nelda Godfrey of Kansas City
Kansas Farm Bureau
Ron Seeber of Shawnee
Leslie Kaufman of Topeka
Erick Stafford of Topeka
Allie Devine of Topeka
William Gordon of Leawood
Terry Holdren of Manhattan
Pittsburg State University
Shawn Naccarato of Pittsburg
Wichita State University
President John Bardo of Wichita
Deborah Bardo of Wichita
Andy Schlapp of Wichita
John Tomblin of Wichita
John Gillcrist of Kansas City
Rod Geiger of Kansas City
Reverend Gina Gile of LaCygne
Courtney Fowler of Manhattan
Rochelle S. King of Topeka
Sheila Blackman of Wichita
Nancy Brown of Stanley
Sharron Ritter of Overland Park
Burns & McDonnell
Mike Talboy of Kansas City
Kansas Home Care Association
Jane Kelly of Topeka
Terri Wahle of Junction City
Kansas Hospital Association
Tom Bell of Topeka
Chad Austin of Topeka
Larry Van Der Wege of Lindsborg
George Stover of Lyons
Tom Bell of Salina
Kirk and Carolyn Duncan of Overland Park
Justin Evans of Hays
Aaron York III 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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