Kansas Common Sense
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FCC Backs Away from Plan to Infringe Upon First Amendment
Friday was a victory for the First Amendment when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it will no longer ask media owners and journalists to participate in an upcoming Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs. While the FCC is required to report every three years on the barriers that may prevent entrepreneurs and small businesses from participating in the media marketplace, Congress has never asked the FCC to evaluate the content of news, how news stories are selected, and what the news philosophy of the station might be. Furthermore, this information is not necessary for the FCC to fulfill its mission to identify barriers for entrepreneurs, and it comes at a time when Americans have more media options than ever. Congress has not requested that the FCC to probe into the decision-making of broadcasters, and there is no place for the government to be asking about these topics. While the study was described as voluntary by the FCC, broadcasters may have felt obligated to participate because they are dependent upon the FCC for their license to operate and must renew their licenses every eight years. Thankfully, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler asked that the questions for media owners, news directors and reporters be removed from the survey. I will continue fighting to protect the First Amendment and free speech in America.
Can Americans’ Faith in IRS be Restored?
On Thursday, I wrote to The Daily Caller to express my concern for new proposed rules by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Following last year’s admission by the IRS of targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny during their application process for tax-exempt status, Americans expected legitimate consequences for agency officials and a serious investigation into the scandal. Instead, the IRS is effectively doubling down on their strategy to target political opponents through a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, issued on November 29, 2013.
The new rule seeks to expand the definition of “candidate-related political activity” for all 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations, a definition so broad it could threaten the First Amendment rights for organizations by denying them tax-exempt status if they use any communication that mentions a political candidate or party. Under these enhanced restrictions, social welfare organizations would face limitations on efforts to educate or register new voters, get-out-the-vote campaigns, any events in which a political candidate is present, and many more activities. From the 23,000 public comments on the rule (and counting), it is clear that organizations on both the left and right of the political spectrum are worried these proposed rules will infringe upon their constitutional rights by harming their ability to communicate with both candidates and the public.
I have joined Senator Pat Roberts and many other Senate colleagues in introducing legislation, the Stop Political Targeting by the IRS Act, to suspend any IRS rulemaking related to 501(c)(4) organizations for one year, while the investigation into their previous targeting scandal remains ongoing. In addition, my colleagues and I have written IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to remind him that he has the power to stand up to the Obama Administration and put a stop to these inappropriate tactics. After last year’s revelations of deliberate political targeting, the IRS has a steep climb to repair its relationship with the American people, but abandoning these proposed rules would be a positive and necessary step in the right direction. To view the full text of my op-ed in The Daily Caller, click here.
Congressional Hearing on Alzheimer’s Research
This Wednesday, February 26, the Senate Appropriations Labor-Health-Education Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the impacts of Alzheimer’s disease and research initiatives to address the disease. As Ranking Member of this subcommittee, I requested this hearing to detail the urgent need to commit to defeating one of the greatest threats to the health of Americans and the financial well-being of our country, and to highlight groundbreaking research initiatives currently taking place. The hearing will feature a panel of experts including representatives of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — the focal point for our nation’s medical research infrastructure. We will hear testimony from NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, as well as former U.S. Representative for Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District Dennis Moore. In 2012, Dennis publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Since then, he has worked to raise the profile of this disease and to advocate for research support.
We must achieve not only an effective treatment, but a cure for Alzheimer’s over the next decade. I recently wrote an op-ed and spoke to my colleagues on the Senate floor about the need to pursue this goal. Please click here to read this editorial and here to watch my floor speech. I hope that this hearing will draw attention to the urgency of the challenges posed by Alzheimer’s disease, and highlight innovative research advances that have the potential to bring us closer to effective treatments and one day, hopefully, a cure.
Our Nation’s Fallen Service Members Deserve Better
This week, CBS News reported on real concerns that the Pentagon’s Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) has had its solemn mission of finding, identifying and returning the remains of fallen American soldiers undermined by lapses in management. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I have long shared these concerns and believe it is becoming increasingly clear that JPAC is not adequately fulfilling its duties.
During the lapse in appropriations and government shutdown last October, several POW/MIA excavation and recovery missions previously scheduled to occur in November and December 2013 were postponed or canceled altogether, including the case of Major Dean Klenda of Pilsen. Maj. Klenda went Missing In Action on Sept. 17, 1965, when his F-105 plane crashed in North Vietnam. At that time of the delays, I made it clear to General McKeague that Congress is committed to working with JPAC to make certain excavations are carried out and completed on schedule.
I introduced an amendment to the FY14 National Defense Authorization Act in December that expressed the sense of the Senate that funds for planned or scheduled POW/MIA excavations in fiscal year 2014 should not be subject to annual appropriations. I will continue to work on preventing such scenarios from ever happening again, but the $300 million increase in funding for JPAC included in the Omnibus last month makes further delays in planned recovery missions inexcusable.
In response to the ongoing issues at JPAC, and General McKeague’s assertion that delays will continue, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced this week that he will give the Pentagon 30 days to deliver a plan to speed up the process of finding, recovering and identifying missing remains of United States troops from previous wars. I am pleased with this decision and I look forward to reviewing the proposed reforms. It is vital that JPAC make good on the promise to find, identify and bring America's heroes home.
Army Veterans to Receive Medal of Honor
On Friday, the White House announced that two Army veterans with Kansas ties – First Lieutenant Donald K. Schwab and Sergeant Jack Weinstein – will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor on March 18, 2014. This news came after an extensive review of their valorous actions that initially awarded them the nation’s second highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross.
Much time has passed, but I’m happy to see that these courageous veterans received Presidential attention for their courageous actions while serving in World War II and the Korean War. They are both more than deserving of this distinguished honor and will finally receive the recognition they deserve. First Lieutenant Donald K. Schwab served in World War II; Sergeant Jack Weinstein served in the Korean War. Both Schwab and Weinstein’s families currently reside in Kansas.
Kansas Listening Tour Stops: Lansing and Hill City
This week, I held Kansas Listening Tour stops in Lansing and Hill City.
In Lansing, nearly 50 area residents came out to discuss a variety of issues including access to health care for veterans, energy, the deficit and our broken immigration system. Here, I’m pictured with LTG Rich Keller (Ret.) and high school student Sarah Jane Vandersteen.
In Hill City, I met with 20 area residents at the Graham County Courthouse. We discussed veterans’ issues, the Farm Bill, need for health care in rural communities and the debt.
The issues I focus on and work I do in Washington, D.C., are largely based on the conversations I have with Kansans during these town hall meetings. Thanks to the folks who came out today and shared a dose of Kansas common sense! Check my website for upcoming Kansas Listening Tour stops.
I’m now accepting applications for congressional internships in my Washington, D.C., and Kansas offices for summer 2014. An internship in my office – either legislative or communications – provides a unique opportunity to work closely with Senate staff on behalf of the state of Kansas. Legislative interns will gain a better understanding of the legislative process in the U.S. Congress, and develop knowledge and professional skills valuable to future career pursuits. Communications internships provide a unique opportunity to learn about how political communications and the legislative process intersect, and gain practical knowledge about the inner workings of a fast-paced press office.
The application deadline for summer 2014 internships is March 1, 2014. Applications can be obtained and completed under the “Services” section of my website at www.moran.senate.gov. Applicants should submit a completed application form, resume, academic transcript, two letters of recommendation and a cover letter explaining their interest in public service and detailing a policy issue of personal importance. Please submit required materials to: email@example.com.
Kansans in the Office
Edward Watson of Wichita
Audrey Doane of Downs
Steve Doane of Downs
Heidi Doane of Downs
Kansas Department of Labor
Secretary Lana Gordon of Topeka
Justin McFarland of Topeka
National Association of School Psychologists
Cassandra Mia Bonitto of Lawrence
Rachel Bromberg 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.
Very truly yours,
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