Kansas Common Sense
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Debating the National Defense Bill
This week, the Senate resumed consideration of legislation to fund the Department of Defense for the coming year. The National Defense Authorization Act, S. 3254, was debated and amended on the Senate floor, and is expected to be finalized soon.
This week, the Senate resumed consideration of legislation to authorize the Department of Defense and programs that support Member of our Armed Forces for the coming year. The National Defense Authorization Act, S. 3254, was debated and amended on the Senate floor, and is expected to be finalized soon. Three of the amendments addressed important issues regarding our nation’s national security. I supported the Feinstein-Paul Amendment, which prohibits the indefinite detention of American citizens. This amendment passed by a vote of 67-29, ensuring the Constitutional rights of Americans.
Additionally, I voted to block funds from being used to transfer detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, to the United States. It is vital that we protect American citizens from the risk of enemy combatants being transferred to American prisons such as Leavenworth. Another important vote was to support the fight against autism. I voted for the Gillibrand Amendment, passed by the Senate to safeguard health and wellness care for autistic children of service members will be included under the military’s TRICARE program. All three of these amendments ensure the safety and well-being of our Members of the Armed Forces and all Americans.
However, the Nelson (FL) Amendment that would have repealed the required reduction of survivor benefits by dependency and indemnity compensation was defeated. I supported this measure to ease the burden military widows already endure after the loss of their loved one.
Along with Senator Roberts, I proposed an amendment that allows local communities more opportunities to provide support services such as water and waste management to military installations in order to find cost savings. I also offered an amendment which asks the General Accounting Office to review Department of Defense conferences that were cancelled and may have cost taxpayers. The GSA scandal last spring showed that we must reduce these types of expenses as a result of cancellations. When these cancellations occur, it is not too much to ask the Federal government to manage them in a way that ensures savings for taxpayers. It is my hope that both amendments will pass the Senate and be included in the bill’s final language.
Examining the State of Entrepreneurship in America
Millions of Americans remain out of work and the unemployment rate has not been below 7.8 percent since 2008. To jump-start the economy and create jobs, I sponsored Startup Act 2.0 this year with several of my Democratic and Republican colleagues. In September, Startup Act 2.0 cosponsors Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) joined me in sending a letter to the Chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee asking the committee to hold a hearing on the state of entrepreneurship in America.
Entrepreneurship is important because entrepreneurs are job creators. Since 1980, entrepreneurs and the new businesses they create have been responsible for nearly all of the net new jobs created in the United States. In fact, new businesses create an average of 3 million jobs each year. Unfortunately, the startup engine of our economy is slowing down. At the same time, other countries are taking action to better support and attract entrepreneurs – creating new competition for the United States.
This week, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee held a hearing on entrepreneurship in response to the request Startup Act 2.0 cosponsors and I made this fall. The hearing provided an important opportunity to highlight not only the essential role entrepreneurs play in growing the economy and creating jobs but also in some of the challenges entrepreneurs face. Click here to watch some of my remarks from the hearing.
Welcoming Kansas Legislators to Washington
On Thursday I welcomed a group of Kansas state legislators visiting Washington to attend the Kansas American Legislative Exchange Council annual conference. I met with the group on the steps of the United States Capitol and enjoyed visiting with some of our state’s long serving public officials. I was also glad to have the opportunity to introduce myself to some of Kansas’ newly elected legislators. The group included Senators Ray Merrick, Julia Lynn, Garrett Love, Mary Pilcher Cook, Chris Steineger; Representatives Mike O’Neal, Tom Arpke, Arlen Siegfreid, Lance Kinzer, Rob Bruchman, Joe Seiwert, Pete DeGraaf, John Rubin, Scott Schwab, Peggy Mast, Mario Goico, Senators Elect Jeff Melcher and Steve Fitzgerald; Representatives Elect Jerry Lunn, Travis Couture Lovelady, J.R. Claeys, Willie Dove, Shanti Gandhi, and Josh Powell.
Working for Cuba’s Release of Alan Gross
On Tuesday, Cuban officials put members of the media on “alert” that an announcement was imminent on Alan Gross – the United States citizen and U.S. government contractor Cuba has unjustly imprisoned. As the imprisonment of Alan Gross nears its three year mark, my colleague Ben Cardin (D-Mar.) and I were hopeful that the Cuban government would announce its intention to grant Mr. Gross’ release. But instead, the Cuban announcement we were waiting for was that Alan was in “good health”—an assessment that is disputed by Alan’s family and his attorney.
Earlier this year, 42 of my colleagues joined me and Senator Cardin in calling on the Cuban government to release Alan on humanitarian grounds and allow him to return to his family in the United States. It’s time for Cuba to release Alan and allow him to return to his family. Failure to do so makes improved America-Cuba relations that much more difficult and unlikely. I spoke on this important issue on the Senate floor on Wednesday night. Click here to view my remarks.
U.N. Gives Palestinians Non-Member State Status
Thursday’s vote in the U.N. General Assembly to change the status of the Palestinians at the U.N. to non-member observer state was a further blow to the peace process. Peace cannot be achieved by votes in the U.N.; it can only be achieved by the Palestinians sitting down and negotiating directly with the Israelis as called for in previous agreements. If the Palestinians wish to establish a sovereign state, they must first recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept Israel’s historical connection to the land.
Encouraging Americans to Live Drug-Free, Healthy Lives
I recently cosponsored a resolution on Red Ribbon Week and drug prevention. Red Ribbon Week, which took place October 23-31, is a commemoration of the life of Special Agent Enrique Camarena of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), who was murdered in the line of duty in 1985. It is a week dedicated to memorializing Special Agent Camarena and the fight against the violence of drug-related crime. In 1988, the National Family Partnership (NFP) formalized a national campaign of observance, which was chaired by then-President and Mrs. Reagan. This campaign is now the oldest and largest drug prevention program in the nation. This Senate Resolution I sponsored honors Agent Camarena, recognizing the vital work of drug-abuse prevention, and encouraging Americans to live drug-free, healthy lives.
Visiting Shawnee Community Services
Before heading back to Washington, D.C., Monday morning, I stopped by Shawnee Community Services food pantry to visit with staff and volunteers about the good work they do in providing food, clothing, shoes and cash assistance to those in need. This year, they celebrate 30 years in service to their community. The pantry was founded by Evelyn Van Kemseke, who remains an active volunteer. Community groups participate by collecting food and cash donations through drives to help stock the pantry and numerous grocery stores provide bread. Thanks to Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan who is also a member the organization's board for joining me as well as Evelyn Van Kemseke, Executive Director Sylvia Terry, Volunteer Coordinator Marlisa Kemseke for inviting me to visit and all the wonderful work they do.
Hosting a Town Hall in Russell
On Saturday, I continued my Statewide Listening tour with a town hall meeting in Russell County. I traveled to the Dream Theater in Russell on Saturday morning to visit with area residents. They shared with me their concerns about a number of issues including healthcare, the UN Arms Trade Treaty, the Farm Bill, and federal regulations. What I hear from Kansans during my town hall meetings plays a very important role in my work in Washington. I appreciated the opportunity to answer questions and update local residents on the latest developments in the Senate.
Celebrating K-States Last Regular Season Football Game
On Friday evening, Robba and I attended a Dessert Reception hosted by K-State Director of Athletics John Currie and his wife Mary Lawrence in Manhattan celebrating the last K-State’s last regular season football game. It was great to be among friends and meet new people as Robba and I are getting settled into our new community. Congratulations to the K-State football team on the terrific season they have had this year. It is always a pleasure to see what the Wildcats can achieve with Coach Snyder guiding his student athletes. I am always pleased to watch native Kansans like Arthur Brown (Wichita), Chris Harper (Wichita) and Travis Tannahill (Overland Park) as they develop into quality young football players and citizens. It is great to see Coach Snyder recruiting to Kansas talented individuals like Collin Klein – whose tremendous season has earned him my vote for the Heisman Trophy! Thanks again to the Curries for their warm welcome, hospitality and excellent desserts.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below.
Credit Union National Association
Don Homan of Leavenworth
Michael Augustine of Leavenworth
Jim Holt of Wichita
Mike Welli of Wichita
Sarah Meehan of Wichita
Valerie Taylor of Topeka
LeeAnn Marker of Hutchinson
David Graf of Overland Park
Marla Marsh of Wichita
Karen Maness of Hutchinson
Mitzi Alexander of Hutchinson
Ben and Amy Kraft of Hutchinson
Jon Austin of Hutchinson
Kansas Association of Broadcasters
Kent Cornish of Topeka
Kansas Hospital Association
Chad Austin of Topeka
Tom Bell of Topeka
Karen Endicott-Coyan of Fort Scott
Vicki Hahn of Leoti
Fred Lucky of Topeka
Kevin Miller of Hutchinson
Hugh Tappan of Wichita
Tom Bell of Salina
Kansas Soybean Association
Joshua Bohach of Overland Park
Sister Therese Bangert
Sister Therese Bangert of Kansas City
Alaide Vilchis of Lawrence
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. 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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