Kansas Common Sense
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Supreme Court Rules on Health Care Reform Law
On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the health care reform law’s individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance in a 5-4 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts. Associate Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor joined the majority opinion’s holding that Congress acted within its authority to tax when it enacted the law. The Court did specifically note that the individual mandate was beyond Congress’ commerce clause power. The Court also upheld the Medicaid expansion contained in the law, although the Court narrowed this expansion to uphold it as constitutionally valid. Chief Justice John Roberts included the following stipulation in the ruling: “The framers created a federal government of limited powers and assigned to this court the duty of enforcing those limits. The court does so today. But the court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act. Under the constitution, that judgment is reserved to the people.”
A law can be constitutional but still a bad idea. I continue to believe that the health care reform law jeopardizes access to quality health care for many Americans and stifles our country’s job growth through higher taxes and burdensome regulations. In rural states like Kansas, this law is particularly damaging because it will create shortages of doctors, nurses, and other health care providers due to severe cuts to Medicare and budgetary gimmicks – threatening the survival of small towns, where a higher proportion of Medicare patients receive their care.
When the President and other supporters of the law in Congress argued for this law, they claimed to the American people that the individual mandate was not a tax. But, today the Court ruled it is indeed a tax increase, at least 75% of which will fall on families making less than $250,000 a year according to the Congressional Budget Office. The right direction for our country is for Congress to replace this unsound law and enact targeted reforms that will actually drive down health care costs and strengthen access to quality care. I remain committed to replacing this damaging law with commonsense policies the American people support.
Discussing Medical Research Collaboration with NIH Director and KU
On Wednesday, I visited the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) research facility in Rockville, MD to meet with Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and representatives of the University of Kansas to tour the facility and learn more about important research collaborations involving KU. NIH is the focal point for our nation’s medical research and NCATS is a center within NIH focused on accelerating the development of new medical treatments and therapies. To achieve this mission, NCATS requires researchers in a wide variety of scientific disciplines to work together toward a common goal.
KU is uniquely involved with this NCATS collaboration through the university’s Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation. Last year, NIH announced that it was partnering with KU Medical Center and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to accelerate the development of therapies for rare blood cancers. This partnership, which is one of the first of its kind at NIH, will test whether a generic arthritis drug called auranofin could be useful in treating a form of leukemia. The goal of this initiative is to overcome bottlenecks in the drug discovery pipeline to get discoveries from the lab to the patient bedside faster.
Thanks to Director Collins and his team for the opportunity to learn more about NIH’s strategy for innovating the process for translating scientific discoveries into new treatments. Also, thanks to the following KU representatives for joining me at this meeting: Dr. Scott Weir, Director of the Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation at KU; Dr. Roy Jensen, Director of the KU Cancer Center; Dr. Raymond Perez, Medical Director of the Clinical Research Center at the KU Cancer Center; and Jack Cline, Director of Federal Relations at KU. Click here to see photos from this event.
University of Kansas to Make Announcement on July 12
On Friday, KU revealed that the university will make a formal announcement on July 12, 2012 regarding the University of Kansas Cancer Center's (KUCC) pursuit of National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation. In September 2011, KUCC formally applied to NCI to become an “NCI-Designated Cancer Center.” NCI is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and our nation’s principal agency for cancer research and training, focusing on turning laboratory discoveries into new treatments for cancer patients. There are currently 66 NCI-Designated Cancer Centers across the country and none in Kansas.
I am very optimistic about the announcement KU will be making on July 12, and I know it will not only be great news for the university and Kansas City, but also a fantastic development for the entire state of Kansas and the region. Achieving NCI Designation would dramatically enhance KUCC’s ability to discover, develop and deliver innovative treatments to patients and enable the Center to recruit the best and brightest researchers to our state. It would also help Kansas’ development into a thriving medical research powerhouse and attract thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to our state’s economy. I am proud to have supported the Center’s pursuit of this designation from the early stages and look forward to the upcoming announcement.
Supporting Pancreatic Cancer Research
This week, I became a sponsor of the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education act (S. 362). This bill would help our nation develop a long-term, comprehensive strategy to combat pancreatic cancer and coordinate activities to address the high mortality rate associated with the disease. Pancreatic cancer is a terribly devastating form of cancer – it is the only major cancer that still has a five-year relative survival rate in the single digits at just 6 percent, and is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It is estimated that, in 2012, there will be nearly 44,000 new pancreatic cancer diagnoses in the United States and an alarming 37,390 deaths from this disease. Research, education and screening are critical to the early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Cancer research has changed the lives of millions and has the potential to impact millions more – offering them hope for the future. Now is not the time to waiver on America’s commitment to advancing disease cures and treatments. Through support of this legislation and other efforts to support medical research and innovation, Americans will have a fighting chance to combat terrible diseases such as pancreatic cancer. I remain committed to making sure that the United States remains a world-wide leader in medical research and innovation, and that our country has a strategic action plan to understand and attack this disease as well as other forms of cancer.
Thank you to Heather Bowman of Wichita, Pearl Hogan of Merriam, Bradley Lee of Leawood, and Charlotte Garrett of Kansas City with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network for visiting with me in Washington this week about this important piece of legislation.
Flood Insurance Relief Amendment Passes Senate
I’m pleased the Senate was able to move past the obstacles this week and pass S.1940, a reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program. This important piece of legislation to improve the National Flood Insurance Program included my amendment to provide financial relief to homeowners in Kansas and across the country by allowing homeowners living behind a levee to pay the lowest possible rate for their flood insurance while that levee is in the final stages of improvement. The inclusion of this amendment provided a solution to one of the key points of contention; the lack of a compromise on what to do with levees undergoing reconstruction. This question had been a major road-block to reauthorization, delaying this bill for many years.
With fewer federal dollars available, levee upkeep has become very much a local effort, and communities are digging deep to find the resources necessary to rehabilitate their aging flood protection systems. My amendment recognizes those communities who are making significant progress toward improving their levees and lowers the insurance rates for citizens living within that flood plain while ensuring that needed levee improvements are made to protect life and property. While many factors affect the calculation of flood insurance premiums, this amendment’s passage could save residents of eligible communities hundreds of dollars per year. Click here to learn more.
Urging Attorney General Holder to Set Politics Aside
On Wednesday, I strongly urged Attorney General Eric Holder to set aside politics and appoint a special counsel to investigate recent national security leaks that could impact the safety and security to our nation. The numerous national security leaks reportedly originating out of the Executive Branch in recent months have been stunning and if true, the material leaked would reveal some of our nation’s most highly classified and sensitive military and intelligence matters, thereby risking our national security, as well as the lives of American citizens and our allies. If there were ever a case requiring an outside special counsel with bipartisan acceptance and widespread public trust, this is it.
The Attorney General has a critical role as a member of the President's national security team, and no Administration should be expected to investigate itself impartially on such a grave and sensitive matter in the midst of an election. Unfortunately, the appointment of U.S. Attorneys who are under the personal supervision of the Attorney General does not ensure the investigation would not be compromised by even the slightest appearance of politics or undue influence. The right thing to do is to appoint a special counsel to address these grave concerns and I am deeply concerned the Attorney General is allowing politics to interfere with the seriousness of this situation. Click here to read more.
Importance of Community Banks and Credit Unions
On Tuesday, I took to the floor of the Senate to remind my colleagues of the importance of community banks and credit unions to Kansans. Our economic recovery will not truly take hold until these institutions are freed from overly-burdensome regulation and allowed to make good loans to credit-worthy businesses and consumers.
During my speech to the Senate, I again stressed the need for commonsense reform of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Created by the monstrosity known as the Dodd-Frank Act, this new bureaucracy has almost unlimited power to restrict credit or to make it more costly and the future of our community banks and credit unions will largely depend on the rules that the CFPB writes.
Early last year, I introduced legislation which would rein in the CFPB by subjecting it to the annual appropriations process. One of the most important tools for Congress to hold government bureaucrats accountable is the power to fund their operations yet the CFPB was exempt from this process. I am hopeful that in the coming Congress, my legislation is able to receive consideration.
Wichita Chamber of Commerce Endorses Startup Act 2.0
The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce endorsed Startup Act 2.0 this week. Since this bipartisan jobs plan was introduced in May, more than a dozen organizations, chambers of commerce, and businesses have endorsed it.
Data shows that the best way to create jobs for Americans is to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start and expand businesses. For the past three decades, companies less than five years old have accounted for nearly all of the net new jobs created in our country. If we want to strengthen the American economy, create jobs, and propel innovation, we need to focus on entrepreneurs and startups. I am grateful for the Wichita Chamber’s support and recognition of the importance of entrepreneurship.
Now Accepting Applications for Fall 2012 Internships
Congressional internships are a great way for Kansas students to learn about Congress and gain professional work experience. Having worked as a congressional intern myself, I know what a valuable experience it can be. 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. I encourage anyone with an interest in government and public service to apply.
My office is now accepting applications for this fall semester. Completed applications must include a resume, cover letter, academic transcript and two letters of recommendation, and all parts must be submitted for consideration by July 20, 2012. Please visit the interns page on my website to apply or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Remembering Marge Curtis
This week, I was saddened to learn of the passing of Marge Curtis of Hays. On Saturday, I joined friends and family in celebrating Marge’s life at her funeral service at the First United Methodist Church in Hays. Marge was a special person and I have been honored to call her and her entire family my friends for many years. She was a devoted wife to her husband Rex and a loving mother to her two children, Dr. Jeff Curtis of Hays and Dr. John Curtis of Manhattan. Her lifelong membership and involvement with the First United Methodist Church of Hays and Fort Hays State University Alumni Association were a testament of her faith in God and commitment to the Hays community. Marge will be greatly missed. Robba and I extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to Marge’s family and friends during this difficult time.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below. Click here to view photos of some of the visits:
Nick Hatcher of Liberal
Greg Krisseh of Colwich
National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare
Gene Hyde of Lake Quivira
Kansas Music Educators Association
Craig Manteuffel of Hays
Paula Manteuffel of Hays
Avian Bear of Stilwell
Mike Quilling of Holcomb
Rosanna Quilling of Holcomb
Cathy Hunt of Topeka
Troy Johnson of Belleville
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
Heather Bowman of Wichita
Pearl Hogan of Merriam
Bradley Lee of Leawood
Charlotte Garrett of Kansas City
Kansas Cable and Television Association
John Federico of Topeka
Jay Allbaugh of Wichita
Coleen Jennison of Topeka
International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists
Jan Gerber of Wichita
Kansas Hospital Association
Chad Austin of Topeka
United Spinal Association
Adam Lane of Overland Park
KU Center for Research, Inc.
Steven Warren of Lawrence
Mary Morningstar of Lawrence
National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
Erika Lyn Carsella of Olathe
Kylie Michaels of Olathe
Lauryn Markie of Lenexa
Brandon Ramirez of Overland Park
Jean Mayhugh of Shawnee
Donald Kempin of Olathe
Brian Sakurada of Overland Park
National Association of Secondary School Principals
Jacque Feist of Dodge City
Monte Couchman of Lindsborg
House of Hope
Diana Conway, Wichita
Alma Johnson, Wichita
Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas Inc.
Michael Hammond of Topeka
Stuart Little of Topeka
Walt Hill of Hays
Colin Thomasset of Topeka
John Prather of El Dorado
City of Manhattan
Lauren Palmer of Manhattan
Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the US Capitol this week including:
Dr. Julie Martin
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. To send me an email, click 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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