Kansas Common Sense
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Response to ISIS Deserves Full Debate in Congress
This week, Congress voted on a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through December 11. Continuing resolutions have become the norm on Capitol Hill over the last few years as Washington consistently fails to fulfill its basic duty of passing annual appropriations bills. The CR included an amendment to provide $500 million in funding authority for arming and training Syrian rebels in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. (ISIS). I voted against passage of the CR because I believe ISIS is a real threat to the safety and security of Americans. The U.S. response and policy toward ISIS deserves more than a few sentences in a $1 trillion stopgap spending bill passed moments before adjournment for the mid-term elections. The Administration has portrayed that we are taking action to reduce the viability of ISIS, while it is more likely we are arming and training rebels that will ultimately use the weapons against our allies. There must be a discussion about the safeguards needed to ensure we aren’t arming the next Taliban or Al Qaeda 10 years down the road. These weapons could also quickly fall into the arms of ISIS – one must only look to the terrorists’ success overrunning Iraqi troops to gauge the likelihood of these weapons being used against us.
While I believe forceful and effective action must be taken to successfully confront ISIS, our course of action deserves a full and open debate by Congress for the benefit of the American people. Too many Presidents have begun a battle trying to convince Americans that not much will be required for victory and that we can have success without sacrifice. The fight against ISIS must be well planned and thought out in order to earn the support of the American people.
Highlighting the Value of Hometown Financial Services
On Tuesday, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing at my request on the state of small lenders. The hearing was intended to examine in greater detail whether federal regulations are preventing economic growth. I had the opportunity to question regulators like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Federal Reserve, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and a representative of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors.
I am concerned that failure to address the growing federal regulatory problem in Washington D.C. will prevent our hometown lenders from investing in their communities. Only that local loan officer will be able to determine if a farmer is worthy of one more year of credit to put another crop in the ground or if a grocery store is doing well enough to get the capital necessary to fill the shelves. The federal government should not inject itself in those decisions. I have introduced several bills such as S. 1349, the Community Lending Enhancement and Regulatory Relief Act or CLEAR Relief Act and S. 727, the Financial Institutions Examination Fairness and Reform Act that would help make certain that the institutions can remain an important part of the local fabric. To watch my comments, click here.
Here is an excerpt from the hearing:
“A primary motivation for me to serve in Congress has been a belief in the value of rural America. Relationship banking is a significant component of whether or not many of the communities I represent have a future. It is only that community financial institution that's going to make a decision about loaning to a grocery store in town. It's only that entity that's going to decide that that farmer is worthy of one more year of credit…And so as we develop policies in Washington, D.C., that make everything so uniform – a cookie-cutter approach to lending – it means that many of my constituents in the communities they live in will have a much less bright future, and a significant reduction in the opportunity to pursue their farming and business careers and occupations.”
GAO Report: HealthCare.gov Still Security Risk
This week, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing ongoing problems with the security of the Obamacare website – HealthCare.gov. More than a year since its launch, GAO raises concerns that HealthCare.gov users continue to face a serious risk of having their personal information – including Social Security numbers, income and employment records, and tax returns stored by the system – stolen by fraudsters and identity thieves. The Administration has consistently kept Congress and the public in the dark about the serious security concerns with the Obamacare website.
I am a sponsor of two commonsense bills to increase transparency surrounding Obamacare’s implementation and help address the serious privacy and data security concerns associated with the law. The Exchange Information Disclosure Act (S. 1590) requires the Obama Administration to disclose detailed information about the performance of the Obamacare health insurance Exchange website, HealthCare.gov. The other bill, the Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act (S. 1902), would increase the Administration’s responsibility for safeguarding personal information of Exchange users in response to growing security concerns about the website. This is not about politics, this is about personal security and privacy. The House of Representatives passed its own version of both bills with broad, bipartisan support, yet the Senate Majority Leader has yet to bring the bills up for a vote in the Senate.
Access to Health Care for Veterans
During a hearing with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee two weeks ago, I questioned VA Secretary Bob McDonald about the persistent challenges veterans experience with access to health care that must and can be remedied immediately. To highlight the difficulties facing our veterans, I shared the personal stories of Kansans, one of whom was Mr. Larry MacIntire. Larry was forced to drive three hours from Plainville to Wichita to get a cortisone shot in his shoulder. He travels to Wichita several times a month for other minor procedures, which is incredibly frustrating because the local hospital, Rooks County Medical Center, has the ability to provide such care. Secretary McDonald agreed that it is unnecessary for Mr. MacIntire and many other veterans like him to experience this burden of travel when they should be allowed to access care closer to home. I am pleased that the Secretary also believes that veterans should be able to receive timely, quality care regardless of where they call home.
This week, I am happy to report that Mr. MacIntire was contacted by the Wichita Dole VA Medical Center and informed that another upcoming procedure for an MRI was scheduled at the Hays Medical Center, easing the burden of a long drive to Wichita and allowing him to receive the exam closer to home. This is great news for Mr. MacIntire, but there are many more veterans in Kansas that face a similar situation who haven’t received a phone call informing them of an easier option for accessing care. Mr. MacIntire’s story should be the rule, not the exception and Secretary McDonald has committed to me that he will do what is in the best interest of the veteran. As we wait on the VA to formally implement the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act – the legislation passed to help – the Secretary must make certain that the choice to access timely and quality health care is available to all veterans who are either waiting too long for an appointment or driving unnecessary distances to receive care in a VA facility. I encourage Kansas veterans to contact their local VA about accessing non-VA care locally and let me know if you experience push-back.
Attacking the West African Ebola Outbreak
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a health crisis of massive proportions. Ebola is a virus that causes fever, severe headache, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding and stomach and muscle pain. Transmitted between humans through direct contact with bodily fluids, the virus often proves fatal for infected individuals. As of September 18th, the total number of probable, confirmed and suspected Ebola cases in the current outbreak was over 5,300, including over 2,600 deaths. With no proven vaccine or treatment currently available and with the outbreak continuing to escalate, fear and concern have risen across the globe. On Tuesday, I participated in a Senate hearing on the response to this health crisis. We had a distinguished panel of witnesses, including Dr. Kent Brantly, an American missionary physician who was successfully treated for Ebola in the United States.
While West Africa is facing the most devastating and unprecedented Ebola outbreak in history, Ebola can be stopped now by helping Africans and before it becomes a threat to the United States. The single most important thing that can be done to protect Americans is to stop Ebola at its source. And that is where the attention is needed now. There are several promising therapies and vaccines in the pipeline that hopefully will help with our long-term approach to fighting this virus. While it would be advantageous to have a proven drug therapy or vaccine to tackle the virus, there are basics we can provide now to significantly help those infected and to prevent the spread of disease. These include providing a trained medical workforce to coordinate activities on the ground, educating local communities about Ebola and how it is transmitted, supplying basic medical equipment like masks and gloves, and assisting the governments in West Africa to strengthen their public health systems and emergency response infrastructures. We need to declare war on Ebola. This requires a global response and the United States needs to provide the necessary leadership to make certain that the war is won. Click here to view my remarks at this hearing. Also, click here to read an editorial I wrote about attacking the Ebola outbreak that was published on CNN.com.
Honoring Kansas Heroes with an Honor Flight to the WWII
I was honored to welcome a group of World War II veterans from Kansas on Thursday as they visited their World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. It is inspiring to meet Kansans who sacrificed and served our country for the most noble of reasons – not because they believed in partisan politics, but because they believed in protecting our nation, their children and future generations. I am always mindful of their courage and duty when we welcome them to the memorial built in their honor. The sacrifices made by veterans for our freedoms and liberties should never be forgotten, and it is a privilege for me to join them during their time in our nation’s capital.
The veterans and their guardians were flown to the nation’s capital by the Kansas Honor Flight – a grassroots organization that has made it their mission to send our Kansas veterans to see the memorials built in their honor on the National Mall. These individuals represent the best of America, and it is due to their extraordinary sacrifices that we enjoy the freedoms we have today.
Kansas State Fair
The 2014 Kansas State Fair wrapped up on Sunday, September 14th. I hope you had an opportunity to visit the fair in Hutchinson and experience the exciting rides, wonderful foods, educational exhibit halls and livestock barns. Going to the fair and visiting with Kansans is one of my favorite traditions each year. Congratulations to the Kansas State Fair Board on another successful fair. Please take a moment to watch this video, which is a great recap of the annual, 10-day celebration of our state.
Congratulating the Kansas Wheat Commission
Congrats to the Kansas Wheat Commission for being selected to receive an investment award from the Economic Development Administration for the construction of a greenhouse and head house complex at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center in Manhattan. The project will double the greenhouse space at the innovation center and be used to expand and enhance public-private collaborative research and commercialization in wheat biotechnology. I was happy to support this investment because the existing greenhouse space proved too small for the innovation center’s ambitious research program.
The work being done at the innovation center is crucial not just for Kansas farmers, but to the future of agriculture globally. The innovation center’s research program is focused on increasing genetic diversity and yields. With global demand for wheat expected to increase by 60 percent over the next 50 years, it is essential that we continue to invest in agriculture research and development. I am proud that Kansas continues to lead the way.
(Photo from October 2012 Visit)
Prize-Linked Savings Legislation Passes House
This week, the House of Representatives passed the American Savings Promotion Act (H.R. 3374), companion bill to legislation I introduced in the Senate (S. 1597). This development demonstrated that the bill has broad, bipartisan support and represents smart and sensible policy that ought not be derailed by campaign politics. At a time when 44 percent of Americans have less than three-months worth of savings, this legislation will enable financial institutions to offer new products that will help Americans develop healthier personal finance habits that can protect their financial future. As the 113th Congress enters its final months, the Senate should act swiftly to schedule a vote on this commonsense bill and get it to the President before the year’s end. To learn more about this legislation and how prize-linked savings can promote high savings rates and economic mobility, I encourage you to read this article I recently wrote in Business Insider.
Tribal General Welfare Exclusion
Congress last week unanimously passed H.R. 3043, the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act. I had introduced the Senate version of this legislation, S. 1507, to exclude general welfare benefits provided by tribal governments from taxable income. This protects tribal sovereignty from an encroaching IRS by treating tribal governments the same as state and local governments. For our four Native American tribes in Kansas and those throughout the United States, tens of thousands will receive income relief that will bolster their local economies and improve their quality of life. The GWE is a bipartisan, commonsense bill that shows Washington can work to reduce the harmful effects of the federal government’s intrusion on our lives. I look forward to President Obama signing this legislation into law soon.
Service Academy Selection Board
This week, I announced the members of my 2014 Kansas Service Academy Selection Board. The 20-member board will review applications and interview candidates who are applying for admission to U.S. Service Academies. These include the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Those selected will enter the academies in June 2015.
Our country is fortunate to have so many intelligent, hard-working and patriotic young men and women interested in serving our country through the Armed Forces. I know the Selection Board will have a difficult time narrowing the field of qualified candidates, but I value their insight and thank them for their help in making difficult decisions. See below a full list of board members:
- Maceo Braxton, III of Salina
- Karen DeGraaf of Mulvane
- Anne Emerson of Fort Scott
- Nicholas Falcetto of Fort Leavenworth
- Ernest Garcia of Overland Park
- Steve Harmon of Emporia
- Steve Hawley, Ph.D., of Lawrence
- Robin Jackson, Ph.D., of Hutchinson
- Ryan Kriegshauser of Topeka
- Katrina Lewison of Manhattan
- Ron Lucas of Goodland
- Wendell Maddox of Kansas City
- Jill McCarthy of Overland Park
- Lynne Murray, Ph.D., of Baldwin City
- Janet Nichols of Manhattan
- Jayne Pearce of Wallace
- Paula Ripple of Dodge City
- Matt Treaster of Newton
- Samuel Turner of Leawood
- Ron Whitney of Emporia
Now Accepting Spring 2015 Internship Applications
I am now accepting applications for paid congressional internships in my Washington, D.C., and Kansas offices for spring 2015. 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 offer an intern the chance 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 spring 2015 is November 1, 2014. Applications may 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 addressing a policy issue of personal importance and a suggested recommendation to resolve that issue. Please submit required materials to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kansas in the Office
American Association for Cancer Research
Roy Jensen of Kansas City
American Cancer Society
Sue Jirkovsky-Landers of Tecumseh
Jerry Siever of Wichita
Gaybyrne Garrett of Merriam
Meghan Urwin of Sublette
Jim Miksch of Prairie Village
Jennifer Taylor of Topeka
Jill Courtney of Olathe
American College of Cardiology
Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy of Leawood
Michael Main of Leawood
Rauss Thompson of Leawood
Maria Velasco of Overland Park
American Psychological Association
Jennifer Bonds-Raacke of Hays
Alex Chaparro of Bel Aire
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
Phil Schneider of Lenexa
Brad Cook of Overland Park
Close Up Foundation
Mikala Bradbury of Wellington
Michael Wilmoth of Wellington
Computing Research Association
Perry Alexander of Lawrence
Corporation for Enterprise Development
Scott Carter of Wichita
Peggy Kelly of Paola
Kimberly Simmons of Overland Park
Mike Cook of Wichita
Dave Vander Griend of Colwich
Mike Chisam of Lyons
Bernie Hoffman of Sedgwick
Nathan Vander Griend of Colwich
Steve Vander Griend of Colwich
Edward Condon of Liberal
Jeffrey Oestmann of Garnett
Tom Willis of Liberal
Robert Ulther of Topeka
Jill Chisam of Hutchinson
International Franchise Association
Todd Diskin of Olathe
Wendy Diskin of Olathe
Rebecca Gerstner of Overland Park
Bob Teetsel of Shawnee
K-State Feed the Future Innovation Labs
Tim Dalton of Manhattan
Nat Bascom of Manhattan
Venkat Reddy of Manhattan
Roberta Hodges of Manhattan
Gary Pierzynski of Manhattan
Dirk Maier of Manhattan
Jesse Poland of Manhattan
Vara Prasad of Manhattan
Mid-Size Bank Coalition
Dennis Triplett of Lenexa
National Mining Association
Matthew Palmer of Olathe
Donald Kempin of Olathe
US Bankruptcy Court
Bob Nugent of Wichita
Vivan Avery of Olathe
Wally Johnson of Wichita
Greg Thompson of Winfield
Julia Thompson of Winfield
Jedel Yunker of Hays
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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