Kansas Common Sense
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Raising the Debt Limit a Moral Issue
The debt limit serves an important purpose. Congress’s borrowing power is firmly rooted in our Constitution, and the debt limit is an important tool to force action on reining in our ever increasing national debt. Unfortunately, this week President Obama asked Congress to abdicate responsibility and raise the debt limit from its current $17.3 trillion level without any reduction in federal spending or any change in the way Washington does business.
The debate on government spending is often seen as a philosophical discussion or a partisan political bickering opportunity here in Washington, D.C. The reality is, our out of control government borrowing and spending is a moral issue, and it has very real consequences for the lives of Americans. Each time Congress raises the debt ceiling without substantial reductions in spending, it is a dangerous threat to job creation, economic growth and our children’s ability to pursue the American Dream.
When Kansas families and businesses reach their credit limit, they don’t get an automatic increase to keep on spending. They cut back and adjust their budget, but Washington does the opposite. This is the eighth time the President has asked Congress to raise the debt limit. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office now projects that by the end of his second term, President Obama will have seen the national debt increase by about $8.5 trillion. Some say it is irresponsible to not raise the debt ceiling, but in my view it’s irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without serious changes to the way Washington spends money.
I think the greatest responsibility we have as elected officials is to make certain the American Dream may be lived by those who follow us. In my view, the greatest threat we have to being able to pursue the American Dream is the debt and deficit. It is thought to be compassionate to spend money, but how can it be compassionate to spend money that is not ours – money that belongs to the next generation? The time to correct our failures is now. Americans deserve leadership here in our nation’s Capital to confront these challenges – not to push them off to the next generation. We know what is going to happen if we don’t act, and it would be immoral for us to look the other way or to kick the can down the road because of the politics of these issues.
Speaking with American Medical Veterinary Association Members
On Tuesday, I spoke to members of the American Veterinary Medical Association when they were in Washington, D.C. for their annual fly-in. We discussed the veterinary medicine loan repayment program, the importance of veterinary care in rural communities, and the recent Senate-passed Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act.
The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act is a step in the right direction for the licensed practitioners who help ensure public safety and care for animals in Kansas and across the country. By legalizing the transportation and dispensation of controlled substances, this legislation would make certain veterinarians are equipped with the tools they need, and is particularly important for practitioners who work in rural areas, conduct research or respond to emergency situations. Companion legislation, H.R. 1528, has been introduced in the House.
(Photo credit: Scott Nolen/AVMA News)
Another Unilateral Obamacare Change
On Monday, the Obama Administration announced a second round of delays to the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. Initially delayed for a year by the Administration this past July, the employer mandate requires businesses of 50 employees or more to provide a prescribed level of health insurance or pay a penalty for each employee working 30 hours or more a week. According to the Administration’s announcement this week, businesses with less than 100 employees will get an extra year before they have to comply with the mandate, and larger businesses are also granted extra time to ramp up health coverage for employees.
The President continues to ignore the reality of how damaging Obamacare is for American individuals and families. The Administration cannot delay away the devastating effects of his law. Following the report last week from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office confirming that his signature legislative accomplishment is pressing down on our economy even more than previously forecast, the President is again acting without Congress to unilaterally change the law in order to give Democrats political cover in an election season. Click here to read more about this issue.
While the Administration moved unilaterally to provide businesses temporary relief from the ACA in an election season, it continues to ignore the problems this law is causing for individuals and families. They face increased health insurance costs and the ACA’s new individual mandate tax that will be implemented and overseen by what we have learned is a politically-biased Internal Revenue Service (IRS). On Monday, I asked the IRS a series of questions to clarify how the agency will enforce the individual mandate, which goes into effect this year. Click here to read my letter to the IRS. Given the number of last-minute changes the Administration has made to the ACA, there is confusion and concern about the enforcement of the individual mandate tax and Americans deserve to know how the IRS intends to enforce this new and unprecedented tax.
Obamacare’s problems run much deeper than a poorly-functioning website and badly-executed implementation. The true issue is the flawed underlying basis for the provisions of the law: the idea that the government must determine what coverage is acceptable for Americans, regardless of what Americans want for themselves. I believe the entire law should be repealed to protect individuals, families and businesses from the disasters created by Obamacare. We must replace it with practical, common sense reforms that are workable and will actually reduce health care costs.
Alfalfa Amendment included in 2014 Farm Bill
The 2014 Farm Bill included an amendment, #987, which directs the United States Department of Agriculture to begin a pilot program which will develop a workable crop insurance program for alfalfa. As farmers and ranchers continue facing the effects of a drought that has been going on for more than two years, this amendment is a step to help them better manage risk. To learn more about this amendment that passed as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, click here.
Introducing Legislation to Prevent IRS Targeting, Preserve Free Speech
On November 29, the IRS issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to double down on their strategy of targeting political opponents. The new IRS rule seeks to broadly expand the definition of “candidate-related political activity” for all 501 (c)(4) nonprofit organizations. Under this enhanced definition, social welfare organizations would face limitations on their participation in a vast array of activities such as get-out-the-vote efforts, voter registration, any communication that mentions a political candidate or party, and any events in which a candidate is present. The new rules are so ambiguous and far reaching that charities, trade associations and labor unions could be threatened. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) described these proposed regulations as an action “to discourage or sterilize an enormous amount of political discourse in America.” These new rules threaten Americans’ first amendment rights, and further show the inappropriate and overreaching actions of the IRS under this administration. This week I joined several of my colleagues to express these thoughts and concerns to John Koskinen, recently named head of the IRS, and I look forward to his response. It is my hope that the IRS will abandon these proposed rules and attempt to repair their relationship with the American people that was so damaged by their political targeting which was revealed just months ago.
Rural Health Services Bill Passes Senate
On Monday evening, the Senate passed S. 1954, bipartisan legislation I introduced to prevent the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid, from enforcing its unreasonable and inflexible direct supervision rules for outpatient therapy services at Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) and other small, rural hospitals in 2014.
In 2009 rule, CMS mandated a new policy for “direct supervision” of outpatient therapeutic services, which includes services such as drug infusions, blood transfusions, outpatient psychiatric services, wound debridement, and cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services. CMS’ policy currently requires that a supervising physician be physically present in the hospital department at all times when Medicare beneficiaries receive outpatient therapy services. In response to concerns of health care providers and policymakers, CMS had delayed enforcement of this direct supervision policy through 2013 for CAHs and small and rural hospitals with fewer than 100 beds.
Since January 1st of this year, CMS has elected to enforce this unrealistic supervision policy that jeopardizes patients’ access to important therapy services in rural communities in Kansas and across the country. Many Kansas hospitals are having to consider cutting services for their patients or limiting hours of operation in order to comply with this inflexible regulation. S. 1954 would delay the rule’s enforcement and provide CMS with enough time to implement a reasonable policy that more adequately reflects the realities of providing care in rural areas. In order to become law, this legislation must be passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the President. In June 2013, I introduced S. 1143, the Protecting Access to Rural Therapy Services (PARTS) Act, to permanently address this therapy supervision issue. Click here to read more about this issue.
Visiting with Leadership of Kansas Community Colleges
Administrators and trustees representing our state’s community colleges traveled to Washington this week to meet with the Kansas Congressional Delegation and attend the Association of Community College Trustees’ 2014 National Legislative Summit. I had the opportunity to visit with leadership of several Kansas community colleges — including Dodge City Community College, Hutchinson Community College, Johnson County Community College, Kansas City Kansas Community College, Pratt Community College and Seward County Community College/Area Technical School — to learn more about the issues impacting their institutions. I also visited with these Kansans at a reception on Tuesday evening hosted by the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees. As Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations education subcommittee, which has authority over the budget of the U.S. Department of Education, these conversations are critical to helping me assess how the Department’s higher education initiatives are serving Kansas students and colleges. Click here to see a photo.
Preserving Kansas for the Next Generation
On Saturday evening, I had the opportunity to visit with members of Water PACK during their annual meeting in Great Bend. Formed in 1990, this nonprofit organization is made up of about 400 agricultural producers and businesses who work to educate their fellow Kansans about the importance of sustainable irrigated agriculture and its long-term benefits.
I often tell folks in Washington that we live a special way of life in Kansas that is worth preserving for future generations. And critical to that way of life are our state’s plentiful natural resources – especially water. Water is the lifeblood of our municipalities, the foundation for statewide recreation, and will direct the future of manufacturing and production agriculture. Water conservation and natural resource management is vitally important to our economy and quality of life. So I enjoyed spending an evening with so many Kansans who are committed and actively involved in preserving Kansas for the next generation. Thanks to Board President Richard Wenstrom for the invitation and to all the PACK members for welcoming me at their annual meeting. Click here to read more about my remarks.
Olathe Chamber Coffee
I stopped by the Olathe Chamber of Commerce Coffee hosted by Olathe Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram this week. It was great to see so many folks attending the event to get connected, promote their businesses, and work together to accomplish things for their community. Here, I’m pictured with 2013 Chamber Volunteer of the Year Kathleen Saunders. Thanks to the staff at Olathe Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram for hosting the coffee.
Topeka Rotary Club
This week, I attended the Topeka Downtown Rotary Club. I have been a proud member of Hays Rotary for many years and I always enjoy opportunities to attend club meetings around the state. The program featured the Washburn Rural High School International Baccalaureate Program. After an extensive authorization process in 2012, Washburn Rural High School was one of six Kansas schools authorized as an International Baccalaureate World School Diploma Programme (IB) and the first class will graduate this year. The two-year program is open to all high school students in Shawnee County and enables those who participate to engage in a challenging, international pre-university course of study. Congrats to the graduates and to the Washburn Rural faculty and staff who work so hard to provide unique opportunities to their students. Thanks to club president David Beck for allowing me to stop by and to the Cornerstone Home School Singers for the wonderful performance.
Geary County Elementary School Visits
I enjoyed visiting Westwood Elementary and Washington Elementary in Geary County this week. At Westwood, I read with 2nd grader Shannon Robinson as part of the school’s “Rockin’ Readers” program. Then, I made my way to Washington Elementary where I toured the school and had the opportunity to visit with students, faculty and staff. Washington has a military population of about 15 percent, and it’s encouraging to see how the community, Geary County School District and teachers work together to provide a first-rate education for the children of those who serve our nation. Thanks to Washington 5th grade teacher Karin Moon for the invitation.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kansans in the Office
Wayne Bollig of Topeka
Denise Morrison of Kansas City
Jim & Debbie Brown of Derby
Seward County Community College/Area Technical School
President Duane Dunn of Liberal
Andrew Etkind of Olathe
American Veterinary Medical Association and Student American Medical Association
Vern Otte of Leawood
Kelsey Sparrow of Overland Park
Dodge City Community College
Morris Reeves of Dodge City
John Smith of Wichita
Dennis Depenbusch of Lawrence
Jewell County Farm Bureau
Brent McCollough of Randall
Kansas League of Postmasters
Judy Raney of Lawrence
Garden City Community College
President Herb Swender of Garden City
Kansas Grain and Feed Association
Tom Tunnell of Topeka
Ted Schultz of Moundridge
Pete Goetzmann of Overland Park
Mike Shirley of Overland Park
Kevin Brady of Benton
Gary Beachuer of Parsons
Jim Grocholski of Wichita
Troy DeDecker of Overland Park
Shari Feist Albrecht of Topeka
Kansas Fraternal Order of Police
Kenny Gorman of Topeka
James Morton of Dodge City
Mark Bundy of Kansas City
Chester Pinkston of Wichita
Scott Kirkpatrick of Kansas City
Pratt Community College
Darrell Shumway of Pratt
President Michael Calvert of Pratt
Mid-America Regional Council Board of Directors
Mayor Ron Shaffer of Prairie Village
Marge Vogt of Olathe
Ed Peterson of Johnson County
Curt Skoog of Overland Park
Hutchinson Community College
President Ed Berger of Hutchinson
Darrell Pankratz of Hutchinson
Local Taxpayer Advocate—Kansas
Desiree Frierson of Wichita
Kansas Rural Water Association
Dennis Schwartz of Tecumseh
Allan Soetaert of Wichita
Elmer Ronnebaum of Seneca
Sharon Schwartz of Topeka
American Federation of Government Employees
Don Halliburton of Kansas City
Senitria Hampton Monk of Kansas City
National Cable Television Cooperative
Ron Fickle of Lenexa
Johnson County Community College (photo)
President Joe Sopcich of Overland Park
Greg Musil of Overland Park
Lee Cross of Overland Park
Kate Allen of Overland Park
Billy Tope of Lawrence
Anna Strickland of Olathe
Dick Carter Jr. of Topeka
Haskell Indian Nations University
Venida Chenault of Lawrence
Staci Kaye of Lawrence
Stephen Prue of Lawrence
National Trail System
Ross Marshall of Kansas City
Roger Boyd of Baldwin City
American Burn Association
Maria Pena of Kansas City
Dhaval Bhavscar of Kansas City
United Steel Workers
JJ Adams of Marshall County
Christian Science Committee on Publication
Ruth Ann Wefald of Manhattan
Habitat for Humanity
Eric Haar of Topeka
Ryan Weber of Kansas City
Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy
Diana Lee of Lawrence
Rachel Porcaro of Wichita
Peter Porcaro of Wichita
William Porcaro of Wichita
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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