Kansas Common Sense


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Senate Floor this Week
The Senate this week cleared a short-term extension of highway and transit authority, providing two more weeks for House and Senate conferees to complete a long-term deal before funding expires December 4. The Conference Committee, comprised of relevant committee chairs and select members from each chamber, is tasked with ironing out the discrepancies between the House and Senate-passed highway bills. On July 30, 2015, the Senate passed H.R. 22, legislation reauthorizing transportation programs for six years and providing three years of fully guaranteed funding, without raising taxes or adding to the deficit.

Also debated on the Senate floor this week was the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill, one of 12 federal spending bills Congress is tasked with passing each year. In an effort to return the Senate to its traditional budget process, what’s known as “regular order,” the new Senate Majority has passed all 12 bills out of the Appropriations Committee and attempted to move them toward a vote on the Senate floor. Unfortunately, the Senate Minority blocked floor consideration of any and all appropriations bills this year until passage of H.R. 2029, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, on November 10 – the first appropriations bill to pass the Senate since 2011.

Because an agreement on amendments could not be reached on the THUD legislation last week, further consideration has been delayed until after Thanksgiving recess. As such, it is likely that the 11 outstanding appropriations bills will be merged into a larger “omnibus” package, which Congress must negotiate and pass by December 11, when funding for the federal government will otherwise expire.

Senate Opposes EPA Proposal
I voted in favor of both S.J. Res. 24 and S.J. Res. 23 this week, which both passed the Senate, to express disapproval with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan rule. The latest proposal threatens to increase energy costs for Americans with minimal environmental benefits. Washington should focus on commonsense policies to make energy cleaner and more affordable rather than adding more cost, red tape and regulations. This administration continues to ignore the impact a rule like this has on Americans, and I believe we should work to put in place environmental policies that can both protect our natural resources and safeguard our economy.

Kansans would be disproportionately affected because nearly two-thirds of our electricity production comes from coal. Our state’s power providers have made great progress in reducing emissions over the years, but the additional regulations mandated in this rule will result in higher costs without demonstrating much environmental benefit. Click here to learn more.

Attorney General: Transferring Prisoners Against the Law
During a House Judiciary Committee last week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified that current law prohibits the transfer of detainees from GITMO to the United States. The president’s pursuit of transferring prisoners to U.S.-based prison facilities such as Fort Leavenworth is not only illegal, but also jeopardizes our national security and the important mission of educating our future military leaders at the Intellectual Center of the Army. Fort Leavenworth is home to the Command and General Staff College, where many foreign officers are sent for professional military education alongside American soldiers.

Congress has passed multiple laws through defense authorizations and appropriations bills to prevent the transfer of detainees to the United States, and it is important those laws are upheld. I remain committed to making certain this unlawful transfer does not occur, and I am pleased the Attorney General also recognizes the strong prohibition within the law.

Protections for Veterans Who Fall Victim to Fiduciary Fraud
I introduced the Fiduciary Responsibility and Accountability for Unpaid Debts (FRAUD) Act this week along with Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut and Senator Brown of Ohio. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Fiduciary Program is designed so veterans who are no longer able to manage their benefits are able to use a fiduciary to manage their benefits for them. In recent years the VBA has discovered an increasing number of cases where fiduciaries are taking advantage of these veterans and misusing their benefits. Though the VBA has taken steps to improve their oversight to spot fiduciary abuse of benefits, they lack the ability to reissue benefits to the veterans in these cases. The FRAUD Act would give the VBA the authority to reissue a veteran’s benefits when a new fiduciary has been named – making certain no veteran loses their benefits due to the manipulation of bad actors.

NIH and Life-Saving Research
I addressed the Senate on Wednesday to promote an opportunity Congress has to deliver on a promise to provide strong support for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and for life-saving biomedical research in this country. The recent two-year budget deal that became law presents a path to deliver a much-needed support to NIH and prioritize the important research that saves and improves lives, reduces health care costs, and fuels economic growth. I believe we can position our country to provide steady, predictable growth to NIH, the largest supporter of medical research in the world. This sustained commitment will benefit our nation many times over, and bring hope to current and future generations.

NIH-supported research has raised life expectancy, improved quality of life, lowered overall health care costs, and is an economic engine that strengthens American global competitiveness. Today, we are living longer and healthier lives thanks to NIH research. Deaths from heart disease and stroke have dropped 70 percent in the last half-century. U.S. cancer death rates are falling about one percent each year. But much work remains. Diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and mental illness touch all of us and our loved ones. Half of all men and a third of all women in the United States will develop cancer in their lifetimes. One in three Medicare dollars is spent caring for individuals with diabetes. Nearly one in every five Medicare dollars is spent on people with Alzheimer's and other dementias. In 2050, it will be one in every three dollars. New scientific findings are what yield breakthroughs that enable us to confront the staggering challenges of disease and illness. To advance life-saving medical research for patients around the world, balance our federal budget, and control Medicare and Medicaid spending, we must prioritize biomedical research to further our leadership in science and discovery. Click here to view this speech.

Visiting the Kansas Intelligence Fusion Center
I appreciate the hard work of talented analysts at the Kansas Intelligence Fusion Center (KIFC) who coordinate with state, local, private sector and federal partners to protect Kansans and all Americans from emerging threats. I visited the KIFC over the weekend to learn more about the attacks in Paris, the current terror threat from the Islamic State, and efforts to keep us safe in the homeland.

U.S. Air Force Academy Superintendent
It is always a pleasure to catch up with Lieutenant General Michelle Johnson, a former Commander at McConnell Air Force Base. She is a strong, committed leader to the young men and women who will lead our United States Air Force as Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy. I appreciate Lt. Gen. Johnson’s hard work to make the academy cadets the best individuals and airmen they can be.

Federal Courts in Kansas
This week I introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the federal judicial system, the Temporary Judgeship Conversion Act (S. 2314). The United States District Court for the District of Kansas currently has five permanent judgeships and one temporary judgeship. This temporary seat was added in 1990 with the help of Senator Bob Dole to increase the district’s capacity and has since been reauthorized on an annual basis. Recognizing that the continued existence of this “temporary” judgeship has been necessary to keep the caseload in Kansas at an appropriate level, my legislation seeks to make permanent our temporary judgeship as well as eight others in districts facing similar circumstances.

National Rural Health Day
This past Wednesday was National Rural Health Day, which honors the community-minded spirit and dedication that prevails in Kansas and other parts of rural America. It also gave us a chance to recognize the unique health care challenges facing rural Americans, and to celebrate the individuals who rise to meet these challenges every day. Last year, I introduced a bipartisan Senate resolution (S. Res. 588) recognizing the importance of access to health care in rural areas in Kansas and throughout our nation, which passed the Senate unanimously on National Rural Health Day. This year, I introduced the Rural Veterans Improvement Act (S. 2265), which would give veterans in rural areas increased access to care and expanded opportunities to receive the care they have earned. I commend the men and women working in these health care facilities for their tireless dedication to the people they serve. We are grateful to you and your fellow health professionals who care for the 62 million individuals who call rural America home.

Meeting to Discuss Adopted Children Stranded in DRC
I joined a group of Senate Colleagues this week to discuss with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) ambassador the hundreds of adopted children waiting to be released to their American parents. More than two years ago, the DRC halted issuing exit visas for adopted children – stranding them in the country and depriving them of loving homes. Having signed letters to DRC’s president, parliamentary leaders, and the ambassador to no effect, it was important to press upon the ambassador this is an issue Congress takes seriously. Too many parents in Kansas and across the country have waited far too long to welcome their children into their homes.

National Entrepreneurs’ Day
Entrepreneurs have long been vital to the economic health and growth of America. Research from the Kauffman Foundation shows that new businesses accounted for nearly all net new jobs between 1980 and 2005. In fact, entrepreneurs created 400,000 new businesses in 2013, and were responsible for creating 2.3 million jobs that same year. This week I introduced a resolution to celebrate the contributions of American entrepreneurs and officially establish National Entrepreneurs’ Day as a federally recognized observance day. The Senate resolution, which I offered with Senator Booker of New Jersey, aims to have Congress recognize the third Tuesday of every November as National Entrepreneurs’ Day. I am proud to say that this resolution passed the Senate by unanimous consent two days after it was introduced.

Farmers’ Rice Cooperative Annual Meeting
I spoke at the Farmers’ Rice Cooperative annual meeting this week before heading home to Kansas. I’ve found over the years that rice farmers share many of the same priorities, issues and concerns as farmers I talk to in Kansas. Among many other issues, agricultural producers are concerned about overregulation by the federal government, having certainty in the tax code, and increasing export markets by reducing foreign trade barriers. As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the budget and activities within the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration, I hope I can serve to facilitate a relationship between rice growers and farmers in Kansas for the betterment of all of us who benefit from a strong U.S. agriculture sector.

Kansans in the Office
Dr. Kelly Lechtenberg of Manhattan

Capitol Tour
Greg McHenry of Manhattan
Tawny McHenry of Manhattan
David Kurt of Hugoton
Shelley Kurt of Topeka

Jimmy Todd of Lenora

Kansas Independent College Association and Fund
Matt Lindsey of Topeka

Kansas Soybeans
Dennis Gruenbacher of Andale
Suzanne Gruenbacher of Andale
Craig Gigstad of Winchester
Lance Rezac of Onaga
Gene Binder of Shawnee

Wilson Communications
Brian Boisvert of Wilson

Overland Park Chamber of Commerce
Tracey Osborne of Overland Park
Tom Robinett of Overland Park
Marga Spangler of Overland Park
Brad Stratton of Overland Park
Michael Tracy of Overland Park
Jim Holland of Leawood
Mike Hess of Overland Park
Tony Rupp of Overland Park
Mashaun Butler of Overland Park
Rick Worrel of Overland Park
Larry Winn of Overland Park

Society for Human Resource Management
Lisa Carlton of Topeka
Unique Hiram of Fort Riley
Courtney Cates of Emporia
Sherry Dryden of Hays
Shelbye Smith of Wichita

Kansas for Change
Sharon Gordon
Mike Morton

Society for Human Resource Management
Lisa Carlton of Topeka
Sherry Dryden of Hays
Unique Hiram of Fort Riley
Shelbye Smith of Wichita
Tammy Galvan of Manhattan
Courtney Cates of Emporia

Drug Policy Alliance
Sharon Gordon of Udall
Mike Morton of Udall

Eagle Communications
Gary Shorman of Hays

University of Kansas
Elizabeth Kozelski of Lawrence
Kathleen Lane of Lawrence
Tim Lewis of Kansas City
Margher Senguinette of Kansas City
Jack Cline of Lawrence

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.

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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