Kansas Common Sense
Jan 09 2017
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.
The 115th Congress Begins
I was honored to have my family with me as I was sworn in to another term in the U.S. Senate this week. Serving Kansans in the nation’s capital is one of the greatest privileges of my life. I took a few moments to reflect on what came before, the significance of this moment in time, and the responsibility I’ve been given by Kansans to make a difference on their behalf. Please watch the video below to hear my thoughts on the week.
Members of Congress have taken the oath of office since the First Congress in 1789, and I was proud to once again perform this solemn rite:
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
Serving on Key Committees in the 115th Congress
This week I was appointed to a number of key committees whose jurisdictions have a direct impact on our nation’s economy and the lives of Kansans. During the 115th Congress, I will be serving on the following committees:
- U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations
- U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
- U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
- U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
- U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
The new Congress brings us a host of opportunities to help Kansans and all Americans. Congress’ ability to make the kind of changes that will strengthen our national security, make healthcare accessible and affordable for more Americans, secure our border and make much-awaited changes to our immigration system, simplify our tax code, help local businesses thrive, and ensure our farmers and ranchers can continue feeding the country and the globe is enhanced when the legislative and executive branches work together. I look forward to supporting policies to create jobs and opportunities for every American.
Laying Out Priorities for Healthcare Reform
On Thursday afternoon, I offered on the Senate floor a blueprint of policy recommendations for consideration as Congress works to repair the damage Kansans have endured under the Affordable Care Act. Americans are hurting under this law, and they have spoken clearly numerous times: it’s time for us to bring them changes that improve their lives by improving their healthcare and making sure that no American is worried about whether or not the care they or their family member needs is outside their reach.
These reforms aim to address the increasing premiums, increasing costs across the health system, and diminishing choices in health plans for Kansans and their families over the past six years. I will work to make these reforms a reality in any healthcare reform legislation that is discussed in the Senate.
Bipartisan Senate Efforts in Response to United Nations Criticism of Israel
I introduced legislation this week in the Senate in response to the recent actions of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) related to Israel. UNSC resolution 2334 was clearly a deliberate effort against Israel and will do little to improve prospects for direct negotiations and a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. My resolution (S. Res. 5) expresses the sense of the Senate that the United States supports the state of Israel, that the Obama administration’s decision not to veto the UNSC resolution was at odds with the directives of a bipartisan Senate majority and broke from President Obama’s own policy record on the issue. I also joined a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce S. Res. 6, a similar resolution focused specifically on voicing Senate opposition to the UNSC resolution 2334. Below, you can view my speech on the Senate floor to learn more about this topic and my legislation.
Israel is a strategic partner in the Middle East and a target of international attacks, both with weapons and diplomacy. Regrettably, the United Nations has become a platform for anti-Israeli efforts, a trend acknowledged with disappointment by outgoing U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. America’s leadership at the U.N. and on the world stage is important and I will continue to work in the Senate to push American foreign policy in a direction that provides security and prosperity for Americans while promoting the welfare of our interests and partners around the globe.
Enhancing Immigration Enforcement and Reducing Violent Crime with Sarah’s Law
Following the start of the 115th Congress this week, I joined several senators in reintroducing legislation related to violent crime committed by individuals illegally present in the United States. The bill known as “Sarah’s Law” (S. 37) would require the federal government to better prioritize its responses to individuals charged with violent crimes while in this country illegally – correcting current policies that leave unchecked criminals free to reoffend. The legislation is named after a woman who was killed by allegedly drunk driver who was unlawfully present in the United States and nonetheless released on bond. The suspect remains at large. Kansas has experienced violence and crime as an awful consequence of America’s broken immigration system. The failure to fix our immigration laws puts lives at risk and justice out of reach. Sarah’s Law has the potential to reduce crime and save lives. I am glad to join this effort to make our communities safer and will push for the bill’s passage.
VA Accountability Remains A Priority in the 115th Congress
I kicked off the new Congress by introducing The Increasing the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability to Veterans Act of 2017 (S. 12) on Tuesday. This legislation will make certain senior Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) executives and health care employees convicted of a felony related to their position at the VA do not receive the same benefits as those who honorably serve our nation’s veterans.
The VA has failed to demonstrate a willingness to eliminate corruption by holding individuals responsible for their behavior. This legislation will help make certain VA senior executives and health care employees who violate the sacred trust of our nation’s veterans will not be rewarded with unjustly guaranteed benefits or linger on administrative leave at taxpayer expense.
I was pleased this legislation unanimously passed the full Senate last Congress and I am hopeful that S. 12 will swiftly pass once again and be signed into law. If you’d like to read the text of the bill, please click here.
Championing Legislation to Reform the Federal Tax Code
On Tuesday, I joined Senator David Perdue of Georgia to reintroduce the Fair Tax Act to overhaul and simplify the American tax system. The FairTax would replace our complicated and costly tax system with a flat national consumption tax and eventually shutter the Internal Revenue Service. The FairTax places all taxpayers on equal footing, protects Americans from government intrusion by the IRS, and would immediately boost economic growth by incentivizing savings and investment – all while collecting revenue levels similar to those of our current mess of a tax code.
Tax reform is not an easy undertaking, but the economic need for a leaner and fairer tax code has never been greater. By eliminating every loophole, exemption, exception, credit and deduction, the FairTax removes the manipulation of taxpayers via the tax code. The FairTax Act deserves to be debated and given an up or down vote. This tax reform proposal would have a positive impact on millions of taxpayers, allowing Americans to be in charge of their lives and money.
Sharing My Perspective on Fox News
I joined Harris Faulkner on Fox News over the weekend to discuss the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings, the administration transition and President Obama’s plan to release more than a dozen additional Guantanamo Bay terrorist detainees prior to inauguration day. Please watch our discussion in the video below.
Meeting with Two Presidential Cabinet Nominees
On Wednesday, I met with Wilbur Ross, President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Commerce. I have the benefit of sitting on the Commerce Committee in the Senate, so we had a great discussion about the economic priorities and challenges of Kansans. In particular, we discussed the importance of improving rural internet and cell coverage – top priorities of mine. We also discussed other Kansas infrastructure priorities, including updating our bridges, highways, and airports.
I also met with Scott Pruitt, whom President-elect Trump has nominated to serve as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Our conversation was about many of the burdensome regulations facing Kansas farmers, ranchers, energy providers, small businesses and many other stakeholders. As a new member of the Environment and Public Works committee, I look forward to hearing Mr. Pruitt’s testimony before the committee and having the opportunity to make certain that the EPA implements common sense policies that protect the environment and promote economic growth.
Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Meeting
I caught up with and met a number of leaders in the Pittsburg community this Friday afternoon at a Chamber of Commerce lunch. I shared my perspective on health care reform and how my new committee assignments and addition to the Environment and Public Works Committee will help me advocate to improve Kansas transportation projects. Thank you to Chamber President Blake Benson for the invitation to provide an update on goings on at the federal level and all who shared their thoughts with me.
Kansans in the Office
Gregory Foxx of Dighton
Timothy Kohtz of Hays
Jon Hixson of WaKeeney
Erik Nuaimi of Manhattan
Randy O’Boyle of Manhattan
Don Masch of Overland Park
Ryan Neuhofel of Lawrence
Chuck Laue of Leawood
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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