Kansas Common Sense
Nov 21 2011
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This week the Senate passed legislation to fund programs within the Departments of Agriculture, Transportation and Commerce for fiscal year 2012. Included in that funding bill was a provision called a “continuing resolution” that prevented a federal government shut down by extending funding for all other government programs not within the Departments of Agriculture, Transportation and Commerce from November 18 until December 16, 2011. It is time we put these short term continuing resolutions behind us and truly find ways to reduce spending in 2012 and beyond. Freeing our country from running deficits and a burdensome national debt will set our country on the path toward a stronger economy.
Super Committee Fails to Reach Deal as National Debt Hits $15 Trillion
Our country’s national debt reached an all-time high of $15 trillion this week, amounting to more than $133,000 of debt for every American taxpayer. During the last three years alone, our national debt has increased by more than $4 trillion, underscoring the vital need for Washington to put in place a serious plan to tackle our growing fiscal crisis. I share the tremendous disappointment of many Americans as another opportunity to solve our nation’s debt crisis passed us by when the super committee announced today that it would not be able to reach a deal. But the inability of the super committee to find common ground is nothing new for a Congress that often puts political party above love of country.
When I opposed the deal that formed the super committee in August, I did so because I firmly believe each member of Congress was elected to make difficult decisions – and that those decisions should be debated in the light of day. Tackling our country’s fiscal problems takes more than a committee; it takes courage. Now more than ever, Congress and the President must work together to address our country’s greatest threat: our government’s habit of reckless spending. The failure to do so will jeopardize the future of our country and the American dream for the next generation.
Supporting Kansas Priorities in the Appropriations Process
I was proud to serve on the first appropriations conference committee of the year between the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to finalize the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture, Commerce/Justice/Science, and Transportation/Housing Urban Development Appropriations bills – which passed the senate on Thursday. The final conference report was within the budget limits set by the most recent budget agreement and decreases annual spending compared to fiscal year 2011. While not perfect, I believe the final conference report appropriately funds these agencies, while also placing limits on areas where the Administration has overreached with new regulations.
I was particularly pleased to see the emphasis placed on agricultural research in the conference report, as well as Congress’ adoption of a directive I authored to encourage the advancement of cereal grain genetic research. The Administration had decided to discontinue funding for this important research, despite the recent global emphasis placed on this issue. Click here to read more. My report language directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue to fund competitive grants in this area.
American Entrepreneurs are Job Creators
The United States has long been known as the land of opportunity, where individuals risk all they have to live out their dreams and make a better life for themselves and their families. Every day, entrepreneurs across our country do just that. As they pursue their dreams, these innovators create jobs for millions of Americans. In fact, research has shown that between 1980 and 2005, the majority of jobs in the United States were created by entrepreneurs and their young companies.
This week, I introduced a resolution with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), which was approved by the Senate, to designate the week of November 14 through 20, 2011, as “Global Entrepreneurship Week.” Global Entrepreneurship Week is an initiative to celebrate the innovators and job creators who drive economic growth in America and around the world. Global Entrepreneurship Week began in 2008 after being launched by former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Carl Schramm, the president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City. Click here to read more.
Small businesses are the true engine of job creation in our country. To get our economy growing again, Congress must encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship in America.
Working to Strengthen the PROTECT IP Act
This week I joined Senator Wyden (D-OR) in objecting to the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECT IP Act) because of concerns that the bill, as currently written, will have unintended consequences. The PROTECT IP Act would alter the framework of the Internet in an effort to stop the sale of counterfeit goods and online piracy, but would do so in a way that would undermine our national security and stifle innovation by American entrepreneurs – the backbone of the American economy.
I agree strongly that the online sale of counterfeit goods and online piracy needs to be addressed. However, this bill and the companion Stop Online Piracy Act legislation in the House, unnecessarily risk an overbroad application of new and unprecedented tools by the U.S. Department of Justice. This overreach could fundamentally change the Internet, moving us toward a world where transactions are less secure, ideas are less accessible, and starting a website or online business wouldn’t be an option for anyone who couldn’t afford a lawyer. In fact, I met with several young entrepreneurs in my office this week who have all started successful businesses on the Internet. They reported to me that had the PROTECT IP Act been the law when they started these businesses, their ideas would never have gotten off the ground and they could not have attracted investors. The leading technology experts in the United States say the provisions of PROTECT IP will kill online startups.
Neutral parties on the Internet should not be liable for the actions of bad actors. Since I support the goals of the PROTECT IP Act to combat online infringement and protect rights holders, I intend to work with Senator Wyden, as well as proponents of the legislation to explore and advance proposals in a way that avoids collateral damage to American entrepreneurs, as well as the security and infrastructure of the Internet. Click here to learn more.
Urging for the Prompt Confirmation of Tom Hoenig
On Thursday, I was pleased to discuss Tom Hoenig's qualifications to be Vice Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) at his Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee nomination hearing. A graduate of Benedictine College in Atchison, Tom Hoenig has been nominated by President Obama to serve an agency with many responsibilities under the new Dodd-Frank financial reform law. I am a strong supporter of this nomination, as Tom has the independence and experience necessary to help make certain the largest financial institutions in our country never again threaten the health of our conomy. Additionally, Tom Hoenig has been a longtime advocate and supporter of rural America, and understands how critical a community bank is to a town. As the hearing, I urged my colleagues to promptly confirm Tom to this important job. Click here to watch my remarks.
Supreme Court to Rule on Health Care Reform Law
On Monday, the United States Supreme Court announced that it will hear a challenge to the health care reform law. The Court stated that it will hear arguments in March 2012 regarding the constitutionality of the law’s individual mandate, which forces most Americans to buy health insurance or face a penalty beginning in 2014. A ruling is expected before the Court’s session ends in June 2012. Among other issues the Court will consider are whether the rest of the law can stand if the individual mandate is struck down and whether the law’s Medicaid expansion is constitutional.
I am pleased the Supreme Court has decided to consider the constitutionality of the health law. This law has generated significant uncertainty for American families and businesses – compounding the steep economic challenges already facing our nation. This uncertainty imposes an enormous drag on our economy at the worst possible time. The law’s individual mandate is an unprecedented requirement and it is critically important that the Court determine as soon as possible whether it is constitutional.
Recognizing National Rural Health Day
Kansas and other states set aside Thursday, November 17, 2011, as National Rural Health Day to honor the community-minded spirit that prevails in rural America and to recognize the unique health care challenges faced by rural citizens. Approximately 62 million people – nearly one in five Americans and one in three Kansans – live in rural and frontier areas. This special way of life would not be possible without access to quality health care. I would like to thank the many dedicated medical professionals in Kansas and across our country who work hard each day delivering quality care to Americans living in rural areas of our nation. Their commitment helps preserve the special way of life we enjoy in rural America for future generations.
Joining the Olathe Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast
Prayer is a powerful thing. It has the ability to comfort and encourage. When practiced with others, it can unite individuals in common purpose. Early Friday morning I attended the Olathe Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast and had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Jeff DeGraffenreid, Olathe Fire Chief and Director of Emergency Management and Anna Keena, City Clerk and Director of Human Resources for Spring Hill, who both shared insightful comments on the importance of prayer. This special event raises money for fourteen Olathe charities through the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund. Thanks to Mayor Mike Copeland for the invitation. Click here to see a photo from the event.
Attending the Kansas Farm Bureau Annual Banquet
On Friday evening, I attended the annual Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB) banquet, held in Manhattan. The banquet is part of the KFB annual meeting where KFB leaders from across the state come together to set the organization’s policies and goals for the coming year. At the Banquet, Sen. Roberts and I had the honor of presenting Edie Dahlsten, Vice President of the KFB, and her husband Larry with a framed copy of a floor statement Sen. Roberts and I submitted to the Congressional Record in honor of Edie’s many years of service. For nearly a decade, Edie has served in the role of Vice President with distinction, and this November she will retire at the end of her term. She embodies many traits we can all admire; a deep love for the great state of Kansas, gratitude for the many hard working families who daily provide the food, fuel and fiber Americans rely on, and the respect of her peers across the nation. Thanks to KFB President Steve Baccus for inviting me to this year’s annual meeting. Click here to view a photo from the event.
Selection Board Interviews Applicants for U.S. Service Academies
On Saturday, I had the honor of meeting more than 90 students from Kansas at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library in Abilene as part of my annual Service Academy Selection Day. Students applying for admission to the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy interviewed with my Selection Board, and the Board provided me with recommendations regarding nominations. This day has always been a favorite of mine because I get to meet some of the best and brightest of Kansas. The day once again served as a reminder that Kansas produces smart, hard-working, civic-minded people who want to serve their country.
Big thanks to Karl Weissenbach and Linda Smith at Dwight D. Eisenhower Library for hosting us. And, this important process would not be possible without the help of my selection board, made up of community leaders from across the state who take great interest in seeing students succeed. The members review applications and conduct interviews before giving me their recommendations. Members of the 2011 Service Academy Selection Board include: Mike Junk and Shirley Braxton of Salina; Ron Whitney and Steve Harmon of Emporia; Ron Lucas of Goodland; Paula Ripple of Dodge City; Hunt Parker, Larry Britton and John O’Leary of Wichita; Christopher Orwoll of Hutchinson; Jacque Oakes of Independence; Jill McCarthy and Ernie Garcia of Overland Park; Shand Mayville of Fort Riley; Cecil Webb of Olathe; Rob Boyer of Lenexa; Wendell Maddox of Kansas City; John Holt of Leawood; and Denise Ott of Leavenworth and Steve Hawley of Lawrence. I would like to thank several Kansans currently attending a U.S. Service Academy for traveling home to Kansas to visit with this year’s applicants: Cadet Paulina Rudolph of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a native of Silver Lake; Midshipman David Faerber of the U.S. Naval Academy and a native of Salina; and Cadet Jordan Yano of the U.S. Military Academy and a native of Overland Park. Click here to view photos from the luncheon.
Honoring the Life of Rev. Bill Miller
On Sunday morning Robba and I attended a ceremony in Hays to dedicate a sculpture honoring the late Rev. Bill Miller at the First United Methodist Church. Rev. Miller served as a pastor in Hays from 1967-1982 and later served as a chaplain at the Hays Medical Center. As a devoted member of the Hays community, Rev. Miller was an extremely kind, gentle and giving person, and was loved by all who knew him. Rev. Miller cared deeply for others and dedicated his life to serving God and others. He passed away last January, leaving behind his beloved wife Carolyn and many dear friends. The sculpture now standing outside First United Methodist Church on West Seventh Street, entitled “Children of the Heavenly Father,” depicts seven children dancing in a circle – and stands as a tribute to Rev. Miller’s love for children. It was a privilege to attend the dedication of this special sculpture and to remember the man who impacted the lives of so many in the Hays community.
Upcoming Listening Tour Stops
This week, the Senate will not be in session in observance of Thanksgiving, so I am back in Kansas and will be making several stops this week across our state. On Friday, November 25, 2011, I will continue my statewide listening tour in several communities. If you’re nearby, I encourage you to stop by to share your thoughts.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Kearny County Listening Tour Stop
Location: Kearny County Hospital
Address: 500 Thorpe Street in Lakin, KS
Time: 10:00-11:00 a.m. CST
Hamilton County Listening Tour Stop
Location: Hamilton County Farm Bureau
Address: 105 N. Main Street, Syracuse, KS
Time: 10:30-11:30 a.m. MST / 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. CST
Greeley County Listening Tour Stop
Location: Greeley County Extension Office, Ocieneuschwander Room
Address: 1001 Ingalls Street, Tribune, KS
Time: 12:30-1:30 p.m. MST / 1:30-2:30 p.m. CST
Wichita County Listening Tour Stop
Location: Business Care Center
Address: 102 West Broadway, Leoti, KS
Time: 3:00-4:00 p.m. CST
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office from across the state, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits.
Kansas City Board of Public Utilities
Joe Dick of Kansas City
Darrell Dorsey of Kansas City
David Alvey of Kansas City
Don Gray of Kansas City
Kansas Soybean Commission
Harold Kraus of Hays
Lance Rezac of Onaga
Mel Davis of Shawnee
Matt Jaeger of Minneola
Kenlon Johannes of Topeka
Dennis Hupe of Topeka
Mid Kansas Cooperative Association
CJ Blew of Hutchinson
Myron Voth of Walton
David Mills of Abilene
Dave Christiansen of Moundridge
Danny Posch of Moundridge
Pittsburg State University
Steve Robb of Pittsburg
Shawn Narccarato of Pittsburg
Archie Macias of Wichita
University of Kansas Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies
Edith Clowes of Lawrence
Adrienne Landry of Lawrence
Bart Redford of Lawrence
Kansas Workforce Summit
Eddie Estes of Dodge City
Kansas Health Institute
Dr. Robert St. Peter of Topeka
Council for Exceptional Children
Stephanie Parks of Olathe
Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
Diane Raley of Overland Park
Angela Kreps of Lenexa
Society for Human Resource Management
Christine Burger of Hays
Phyllis LaShell of Hays
Crystal Malchose of Westmoreland
Beysi Carter of Cimarron
National Telephone Cooperative Association
Terry Force of Wheaton
Sallie Force of Wheaton
Fredonia City Commission
Flip Hutflies of Fredonia
Jim Carlson of Garden City
Additionally, Rev. Dwight Douglas of Olathe and Donna Riddell took a tour of the U.S. Capitol this week.
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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