Kansas Common Sense
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Working to End Military Furloughs
Friday, Senator Manchin of West Virginia and I were joined by forty-eight of our Senate colleagues in making clear to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that the National Guard and Reserves, as well as the civilians who support our soldiers and airmen, should not be furloughed and should receive pay during the government shutdown. Even though the “Pay Our Military Act” was quickly passed by the House and Senate and signed into law before the government shut down to make sure all military personnel receive pay, there were reports that this law does not include all of our Armed Service members.
Congress made it clear with the passage of the “Pay Our Military Act” that the financial well-being and readiness of those serving our country must not suffer due to gridlock on Capitol Hill, and gave the Department of Defense (DoD) the authority and latitude to maintain pay and benefits for all service members and the civilians who support them. Good news came on Saturday when Secretary Hagel moved quickly to end the furloughs on our Reserve Component and DoD civilians, just one day after receiving the letter requesting the DoD assess their interpretation of the “Pay Our Military Act.” Nearly 90 percent of the 350,000 previously furloughed employees are back at work and providing support to our military today. While uncertainty loomed over our National Guard and the civilians who support our soldiers and airmen, ultimately the right decision was made.
I was pleased that a total of fifty Senators could put their differences aside, quickly come together in a bipartisan manner, and join me in making our position clear to the Department of Defense; all members of the Armed Services deserve fair and equitable treatment under the law. Click here to learn more.
The 17 Percent Government Shutdown
While both chambers of Congress remained in session through the weekend, there is still no clear path forward on a deal to restore government funding. This week, a source from the Senate Budget Committee estimated that 83 percent of government operations continue, which means 17 percent of the government is actually shut down.
Americans expect their elected officials to work together to address our fiscal challenges, but a solution remains elusive while President Obama and Senate Democrats refuse to negotiate. I do not accept the idea that crisis-to-crisis governing is the only way Washington can deal with tough issues. With courage and discipline, Congress can address the real and significant problems that face our nation.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed several partial funding bills including measures to: resume benefits for America’s veterans and Armed Forces, reopen national parks and museums; fully reopen the National Institutes of Health which supports our nation’s medical research efforts; and grant back pay for furloughed government workers (which passed by a vote of 407 to 0). The passage of these bills by the House proves there are areas of our government where both parties can find common ground. Unfortunately, the Senate refused to consider any of these bills following a veto threat from the White House.
I did not want the government to shut down, and I do not want the shutdown to continue. No one can predict with certainty how the current situation will be resolved, but I am confident that if we keep advancing common-sense solutions, there will ultimately be meaningful discussions that will bring this stalemate to an end. Last week, I discussed the government shutdown on the U.S. Senate Floor. Click here to listen to my remarks.
Meeting with Kansas Veterans at the WWII Memorial
Regardless of the government shutdown, the Honor Flight Network will host nearly 1,000 members of America’s Greatest Generation in Washington, D.C., in the coming days. Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization created solely to honor veterans for all their sacrifices by transporting our heroes to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at their memorials.
Last week, Americans watched in shock as senior veterans were being turned away from the World War II Memorial and other memorials due to the government funding lapse. Fortunately, the veterans did not let barricades deter them from visiting their memorial.
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to greet 85 World War II and Korean War vets from Kansas and Missouri as part of the Heartland Honor Flight. The entire Kansas delegation was on site to make certain the Honor Flight veterans who traveled across the country to visit the memorials honoring their service were not affected by Washington’s failures. Although indecision continues on Capitol Hill, we can all agree that their contributions to our country can never be fully measured or repaid. It is paramount that we make certain our nation’s veterans are not denied access or the opportunity to be celebrated at their memorials. Click here to watch me discuss the experience at the memorial with Neil Cavuto on Fox News Channel. You can also click here to see photos from the visit.
When it comes to finding a solution to the government shutdown, elected officials in Washington can learn much about leadership from our nation’s veterans. The battles we engage in need to be a lot less about Republicans and Democrats, and much more about what’s good for the country. The veterans we met with at the World War II Memorial should serve as a reminder that there is a higher calling to what we do in our nation’s capital. There is something more important than the political skirmishes.
In the Office
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
American Occupational Therapy Association
Elizabeth Cooke of Overland Park
American Subcontractors Association
Brad Miller of Olathe
Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)
Gail Finney of Wichita
Sydney Carlin of Manhattan
American Psychological Association
Michael Roberts of Lawrence
Jennifer Bonds-Raacke of Hays
American Veterinary Medical Association
Michael Whitehair of Abilene
Ernest Kutzley of Topeka
Associated General Contractors of Kansas
Mike Gibson of Topeka
Mike Hafling of Topeka
Karen Oblinger of Mulvane
Gregg Oblinger of Mulvane
Kansas State University
President Kirk Schulz of Manhattan
Ron Trewyn of Manhattan
Sue Peterson of Manhattan
Sherlyne Delaney of Leawood
American Physiological Society
Mark Weiss of Manhattan
Missouri and Association Rivers Coalition (MORAC)
John Patrck of Lenexa
Erich Schmitz of Prairie Village
Procter & Gamble
Jack Geissinger of Kansas City
Mia Wise of Kansas City
Donald Kempin of Olathe
Garth Smith of Wichita
Lathrop & Gage
Joel Voran of Leawood
Mary Birch of Overland Park
Association of Energy Service Companies
Kansas Head Start Association
Erick Vaughn of Lawrence
Diann Gerstner of Colby
Sharolyn Jackson of Manhattan
Pittsburg State University
Shawn Naccarato of Pittsburg
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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