Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks 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.
Congress needs to get out of the continuing resolution (CR) business and back to funding the government through the regular appropriations process, where we can prioritize spending, we can reduce spending, and perhaps most importantly we can rein in agencies, departments and bureaucrats with direction on how money can be spent.
I spoke to a number of Kansans this weekend as my office remained open during the shutdown. I appreciate all who called and shared your thoughts with me and my staff. I’m pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement that enables us to maintain funding for our military and other critical government agencies. Now that the government is funded, we will continue discussions on the DACA program and on how to strengthen border security.
The agreement to re-open the government includes an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for a full six years. CHIP helps provide healthcare coverage to children in low-income families in Kansas and around the country who otherwise would be left without any insurance, and most likely, without the funds necessary to cover their healthcare costs. In Kansas, the program has had sufficient funding through March of this year, but in other states, that was not the case. For this reason I voted previously to extend CHIP funding through the first few months of the year and have spoken on the Senate floor in favor of its reauthorization. I am pleased to have voted today to extend the program for the next six years – the longest reauthorization in the history of the program.
Senator Bob Dole Receives Congressional Gold Medal – the Highest Civilian Honor
Congress awarded Senator Bob Dole the Congressional Gold Medal this week – the highest civilian honor the United States can bestow. He joins a list of highly-esteemed Americans, dating back to 1776 when President George Washington became the first recipient of this award.
I once heard a story about Bob Dole’s commitment to our country that stuck with me: Sen. Dole’s service in World War II resulted in his effort to raise money to build the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This was a privately-funded memorial, and he went out and raised money across the country. When he went to Hollywood to visit with someone who had lots of money and ask for that person’s support for this project, they responded by saying, “I’m not interested – I have other priorities.”
Sen. Dole responded to that mogul with, “When I was 22, I had other priorities, too. I went to war.” And that’s the Bob Dole who every day since then has gone to battle for Kansans and all Americans. Thank you, Sen. Dole, for your distinguished service to our country, especially to our home state of Kansas. The world is a better place because you are in it.
Please watch my full remarks honoring Sen. Dole on the Senate floor here.
Kansans’ Federal Appointments Move Forward
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Advancing Gov. Brownback’s Nomination
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved Governor Brownback’s nomination to the post of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom during their hearing this week. I look forward to seeing Gov. Brownback’s nomination move forward so that the full Senate will have the opportunity to vote to swiftly confirm him.
Supporting Russell’s C.J. Mahoney for Deputy U.S. Trade Representative
I had the opportunity to introduce C.J. Mahoney, native of Russell, at the Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider his nomination to be Deputy United States Trade Representative on Wednesday morning. C.J. has an impressive professional background, including degrees from Harvard and Yale and a United States Supreme Court clerkship. C.J.’s success demonstrates a tremendously promising future at the USTR and beyond due to his significant intelligence and talents, and his strength in personal character. I got to know C.J. as a young man when he served Kansans as one of the first interns I hired when elected to the United States House of Representatives. C.J. exhibits Kansas character and an appreciation for others, he is highly qualified for this position and is the type of person that anyone would want serving in this capacity.
Please watch my full remarks introducing C.J. to the committee here.
Applauding Progress on Lenexa Native Holly Teeter’s Nomination as a Federal Judge
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in favor of Ms. Holly Teeter of Lenexa, Kan., to serve as a federal judge for the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. Her nomination now awaits a final vote on the Senate floor. Last year, I had the privilege of introducing Ms. Teeter to the Senate Judiciary Committee for her confirmation hearing and sharing the recommendations of her colleagues with Judiciary Committee members. I continued my conversations with Committee members this week and was pleased to see her receive support from each of them.
Ms. Teeter is highly qualified for this judgeship; she graduated with Highest Distinction from The University of Kansas with a degree in chemical engineering and first in her class from the University of Kansas School of Law. Dedicated to public service, Ms. Teeter has served as a law clerk for multiple judges and currently serves as the Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
The Use of Social Media in Global Terrorism
On Wednesday, I joined my Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee colleagues to question executives from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the Foreign Policy Research Institute on the steps social media platforms are taking to combat the spread of extremist propaganda over the internet. In today’s environment, fighting terrorism online is often about having more information, acquiring that information sooner and responding to that information effectively. This hearing provided helpful insight into how large internet companies are proactively seeking industry-wide solutions to eliminate the harmful extremist propaganda that continues to plague the internet ecosystem.
While social media companies provide an open platform for productive thoughts and ideas to be shared across the globe, there have been demonstrated abuses of this freedom by terrorist organizations using these platforms for recruitment. I am pleased these companies are taking innovative approaches to combat violent propaganda, including the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to more quickly and accurately find problematic material and increase coordination throughout the industry to identify best practices.
Please click here to watch my questions during the hearing.
Joining CNBC’s Squawk Box to Discuss Government Funding, Commerce Hearing
I appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box Wednesday morning to discuss the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on terrorism and social media and to talk about my goals for the appropriations process.
You can watch our conversation here.
Oversight for the Department of Veterans Affairs
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin testified under oath before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs this week regarding the VA’s implementation of several pieces of legislation that were signed into law last year. During the hearing, I reminded Sect. Shulkin of the exchange we had during his confirmation hearing a year ago, when we discussed the all-too-common occurrence of the VA using its regulation process to thwart the intent of Congress when implementing newly passed laws.
I also questioned Sec. Shulkin on the numerous community care proposals currently before Congress, and whether or not he believes the criteria for accessing community care should be dependent on the troublesome regulations process or if he supported clear, data driven proposal I offered last month with Sen. John McCain. It is of the utmost importance to me to reform Choice and to pass the right policies that will work for veterans in accessing the healthcare that they deserve. I’m disappointed that the Secretary expressed his desire to rely on the VA bureaucracy to determine when and if a veteran can access care, instead of taking the veterans centric and data-driven approach that Sen. McCain and I put forward. It is critical that the future of community care has the best interest of veterans at its core, not the best interest of the massive VA bureaucracy. Please click here to watch my exchange with Sec. Shulkin.
Meeting with Students Participating in the March for Life
Hundreds of Kansans once again made the 40-hour round-trip to Washington this week for the annual March for Life held on Friday. This event gives Americans from all parts of the country the opportunity to come together to advocate for the sanctity and inherent dignity of every human life, especially life in its most innocent form. I had the opportunity to visit with University of Kansas students who give voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. I’m pleased the weather finally cooperated for the participants this year!
Nominees in the Senate Banking Committee
I am enthused to be back on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Our committee plays a critical role in setting policy that will continue to strengthen our economy and make certain small businesses can succeed, Americans can buy or sell a home and U.S. producers can export our goods to foreign markets. The position will also give me a greater opportunity to continue to be an advocate for access to community-based financial services and ensure Kansans can continue to call rural America home. It is good to rejoin the committee and look forward to working with Chairman Crapo and my colleagues to oversee and strengthen the financial system that millions of American consumers rely on.
In my first hearing this week since being re-appointed to the committee, we reported five of the president’s nominees for executive positions within the administration. All five of these nominees had been reported out of the Banking Committee in 2017, but were not confirmed by the whole Senate. I am pleased these qualified nominees will now have the chance to be considered by the full Senate in the near future.
The nominees are the Honorable Jerome H. Powell, of Maryland, to be Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; the Honorable Randal Quarles, of Colorado, to be reappointed as a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; the Honorable Brian D. Montgomery, of Texas, to be Assistant Secretary for Housing – Federal Housing Commissioner, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Mr. Robert Hunter Kurtz, of Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Mr. David Ryder, of New Jersey, to be Director of the United States Mint.
Now Accepting Summer Internship Applications
My own interest in public service was sparked by an internship for Kansas First District Congressman Keith Sebelius in 1974. As an intern, I had the chance to learn firsthand how a Congressional office operates and how the legislative process works. I am proud to be able to offer this same opportunity in my Senate office today, where I have interns year-round working closely with my staff on behalf of Kansans.
Applications for internships in my Washington, D.C. and Kansas offices for Summer 2018 are due Friday, February 23. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence. Click here for more information.
Kansans in the Office
Kansas Global Trade Service
Karyn Page of Wichita
Chuck Laue of Leawood
Kansas Hospital Association
Chad Austin of Topeka
Karen Siebert of Kansas City
Catholic Medical Association
Paul Camarata of Overland Park
Randy Mullett of Overland Park
March For Rally Group
Faith Biermann of Goodland
Aidan Setter of Topeka
Fr Scott Wallish of Lawrence
Madison Karr of Lawrence
Victoria Reggeti of Lawrence
Micaela Crispin of Lawrence
Will Long of Wellington
Joseph Spexarth of Colwich
Caroline Spexarth of Colwich
Peter Spexarth of Colwich
Scott Spexarth of Colwich
John & Irene Sheerin of Shawnee
David Landis of Newton
Adam Wilgers of Elbing
Drak Koops of Downs
Marsha Gerbitz of Haysville
Mark Tremaine of Nickerson
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 letter, a Facebook comment, or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking 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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