Kansas Common Sense
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Voting to Support Medical Research, Fix Farm Loans
I supported legislation on Friday to keep the government funded through April 2017 as requested by the incoming administration. I believe Congress should operate through regular budget order, pass an annual budget and set common-sense spending priorities through the appropriations process. This legislation also funds the 21st Century Cures Act, which increases funding for medical research and provides hope for millions of American families without adding to our deficit.
Additionally, it makes certain our nation’s farmers and ranchers who face low commodity prices will have access to the credit they need to make it through the tough months ahead and gives us a chance to consider General James Mattis’ nomination for Secretary of Defense in a more timely fashion.
Passing Legislation Critical to National Defense
The Senate and the House came to an agreement this week on the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I spoke on the Senate floor and voted in favor of this agreement to authorize defense programs and funding in support of our armed forces. This legislation makes certain that the men and women working tirelessly to keep us safe at home and abroad can continue to protect our freedoms and way of life. The bill addresses a number of my national defense priorities, including halting the current and planned force reductions to end-strength levels across the total force, providing military families with benefits and the pay increase they deserve, and preventing the current administration from closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and transferring detainees to U.S. soil. The bill also authorizes critical funding for military construction on Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth and McConnell Air Force Base. This legislation will make certain we remain the number one fighting force in the world and help Kansas remain a stronghold for military training and power. I am pleased that the NDAA is now headed to the president’s desk to be signed into law. Click here to watch my remarks on the floor.
Working to Find Cures for Diseases Impacting Millions of Americans
On Wednesday, I voted to pass the 21st Century Cures Act and send it to the president to be signed into law. This bipartisan bill includes funding for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health, assistance for mental health efforts, provisions to accelerate the Food and Drug Administration’s approval and drug development processes and funding to fight opioid abuse and suicides. Additionally, the bill also includes provisions I have supported to help rural hospitals in Kansas and funding to support the fight against cancer. Investing in this research now will save us billions of dollars in healthcare costs in the future and improve the quality of life for Kansans and Americans. Click here to watch my remarks.
Meeting with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Nominee Dr. Ben Carson
I met with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) nominee Dr. Ben Carson on Wednesday to discuss his approach to the housing priorities of our nation. I shared with him the problems we face in Kansas, from the distinct economic development challenges facing rural areas to the need to modify housing-related regulations to make certain our communities have access to critical housing resources. I enjoyed hearing Dr. Carson’s unique perspective on how to ensure American families have a safe, affordable place to call home, and I look forward to his testimony during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee in the next Congress.
Meeting with Transportation Secretary Nominee Elaine Chao
I visited with President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, on Tuesday. As a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, I take seriously the responsibility of confirming nominees who are qualified and will serve the best interest of all Americans. Secretary Chao’s many years of experience will be an asset to the next administration, enabling us to work together to tackle the challenges that lie ahead for our infrastructure and transportation systems, including the concerns of the general aviation industry and the FAA’s certification process. During our conversation, I told her about the unique challenges facing Americans in rural communities, the impact of the agriculture economy on Kansas transportation and the needs of Kansans living in larger cities like Wichita, Kansas City and Topeka. I look forward to working with Sec. Chao to answer the call of Kansans and all Americans to modernize the roads, bridges and infrastructure we depend on every day while remaining accountable to the American taxpayer.
A Fix for Our Farmers’ Loans
I welcomed the inclusion of a provision in the recently passed continuing resolution (CR) that enables the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) to meet the growing demand for direct and guaranteed loans. Access to credit is critical to keeping farmers in business during challenging times in the farm economy. Young and beginning farmers who haven’t had the opportunity to build up equity are especially vulnerable to low commodity prices, and FSA loans often serve as a last resort for these producers when commercial credit is not available. As chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, I pushed for this provision’s inclusion in the agriculture section of the CR to make certain demand continues to be met during the peak winter and spring months. Very few provisions that change current policy or funding levels were contained in the CR, but I believe we were able to show my colleagues the significance of the farm crisis in getting the FSA loan fix included. The effects of tough economic conditions in agriculture are felt throughout the rural economy. I will continue to fight for policies that help address the financial challenges that farmers and ranchers continue to experience.
Senate Passes Legislation to Hold VA Senior Execs, Health Care Employees Accountable
Late Friday night, the U.S. Senate passed my legislation, the Increasing the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability to Veterans Act (S. 290), to 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 corrupt 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.
Topeka Native Receives Naval Academy Appointment
I sought the help of Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson last weekend to break good news to Topeka-native Dawson Podlena about his aspiration to serve our country. We caught Dawson in the middle of a wrestling tournament to let him know he’ll officially be a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. Dawson was one of my nominees to the academy this year and I’m honored to have a part to play in his selection. Read more about Dawson and his achievements here, http://bit.ly/2ght0m5.
Calling for a Halt of Last Minute Obama Administration Regulations
This week, I joined 22 of my Senate colleagues in requesting that President Obama and his administration stop issuing regulations during the remainder of his time in office. In November, the American people used the ballot box to speak out against regulatory overreach and asked for change in the executive branch. As his term draws to a close, President Obama should respect the will of the American people and refrain from working on or issuing any new, non-emergency regulations.
As the 115th Congress is set to begin and a new president takes office in January, I remain committed to rigorous oversight of executive regulations and making certain that our federal government no longer stands in the way of liberty and prosperity in America. Click here to read my letter.
Pressing DHS for Information on Criminal Immigrant
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Roberts joined me this week in calling on the Obama administration to provide further information about a criminal immigrant who was recently charged with victimization of a child in Kansas. The details of the case are extremely disturbing, and reports suggest he has previously been deported from the United States 10 different times in the past six years. In order to better understand the circumstances leading up to this alleged crime, I am asking U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about the suspect’s criminal and immigration history, and why he was able to enter and remain in the country despite his unlawful status and previous felony conviction. Click here to read my letter.
Visiting with Kansas Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy
I visited the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis on Monday and was honored to meet with a group of talented young Kansas midshipmen preparing to serve their country. The group reminded me that the future of our nation is bright, and I look forward to seeing their contributions and the difference they will make for Kansas and the nation. While I was there I also had the opportunity to visit with U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Walter E. “Ted” Carter. Thanks to Admiral Carter and all the Kansas midshipmen who took the time to visit with me and share exciting plans this coming new year.
United States Air Force Academy Board of Visitors Meeting
I have had the honor of serving as a member of the United States Air Force Academy Board of Visitors since 2014, and I am fortunate to be in a position to make certain this institution provides the best possible education and training for the next generation of airmen. This week the Board of Visitors held their December session in Washington, D.C. During the meeting, I had the opportunity to catch up with Lieutenant General Michelle D. Johnson, former McConnell AFB 22nd Wing Commander, who is currently the first female superintendent of the academy.
Joining CNBC’s Squawk Box to Discuss American Competitiveness
I joined the hosts of CNBC’s Squawk Box on Friday morning to discuss the state of American competitiveness. No party has a monopoly on good ideas, and I cofounded the bipartisan Senate Competitiveness Caucus last year with Senator Chris Coons to examine important issues such as our tax code, the state of entrepreneurship and manufacturing and workforce development. The caucus works with the U.S. Council on Competitiveness to find new ways to unlock our potential and strengthen our nation’s economy. Click here to watch.
Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor
On Wednesday, Americans across the country paused to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago on Dec. 7, 1941 – “a date which will live in infamy.” More than 2,000 Americans lost their lives that day, launching America’s involvement in World War II. An additional 400,000+ husbands, fathers and brothers would never return home from their service to our country during WWII.
I would like to share how Senator Bob Dole – a WWII veteran himself – describes this “greatest generation” of Americans: “On distant fields and fathomless oceans, the skies over half the planet and in 10,000 communities on the home front, we did far more than avenge Pearl Harbor. The citizen soldiers who answered liberty’s call fought not for territory, but for justice, not for plunder, but to liberate enslaved peoples around the world.”
May God bless our World War II veterans and all who have served and continue to serve in our armed forces.
Taking Kansans on a Tour of the Newly-Restored Capitol Dome
The United States Capitol Dome has been undergoing restoration for the past three years to repair and paint 12,800 inches of cracked, rusted and corroded cast iron. On Monday morning with the help of our knowledgeable tour guide, I led Robert and Margo Szabo of Lawrence and the three interns working in my Washington, D.C., office on the first dome tour since the restoration’s completion. Click here for a behind-the-scenes look.
Kansans in the Office
Physician Owned Hospitals
LuAnn Puvogel of Salina
National Association of Fixed Annuities
Chip Anderson of Overland Park
National Physicians Council for Health Policy
Mark Foson of Hutchinson
Robin Durrett of Hoisington
Sharla Durrett of Great Bend
Bob Durst of Topeka
Chad Austin of Topeka
KUMC Child Health and Development/LEND Faculty
Jessica Schuttler of Shawnee
Laura Neenan of Leawood
Jamie Mahoven of Lawrence
Builders Development Corporation
Michael Snodgrass of Kansas City
BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas
Sunee Mickle of Topeka
North Central-Flint Hills Area Agency on Agency
Julie Govert Walter of Manhattan
National Conference of State Legislatures
Keith Esau of Olathe
Tom Hawks of Manhattan
Elaine Bowers of Concordia
Troy Waymaster of Bunker Hill
Diane Hawk of Manhattan
Joe Curtiss of Wilson
Susan Curtiss of Wilson
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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