Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you
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.
Congress started this week and is accompanied by a sense of eagerness to achieve more in the next two
years than Congress did in the last two. I am proud to continue to serve Kansans through my roles on
the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs,
and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Debate Now Front And Center
Kansans gathered together over the holidays
with hopes of spending time with family and friends, and reflecting on the many blessings we enjoy
as Americans. Instead, they were forced to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve enduring the ups
and downs of the ‘fiscal cliff’ debate, as the President continued his campaign for higher
taxes as the solution to our economic crisis.
are damaging to the economy and make it more difficult for Kansans to make ends meet. With the expiration
of the Bush tax cuts, Americans were facing more than $4 trillion in tax increases on January 1, 2013.
These increases were bound to affect all income levels. In fact, a Kansan earing an income of $43,000
would have seen a $3,000 increase in their taxes – $250 every month.
goal has been to make certain tax increases affect the fewest number of Americans as possible. And while
imperfect, I am glad that we were able to pass a deal – the Tax Relief Extension Act (H.R. 8)
– that protects 99 percent of Americans. It also limits the tax increases on dividends and capital
gains. Most importantly to Kansas farmers, ranchers and business owners, the deal permanently reduces
the estate tax rates and locks in a $10 million per couple exemption. Gone are the short term fixes,
allowing people to more confidently plan for the future.
is important to note that this deal only addressed one aspect of the ‘fiscal cliff.’ What
is missing is the larger and much more damaging problem of government spending. This year’s deficit
reached $1.1 trillion, the fourth straight year of trillion-dollar deficit spending. This out-of control
government spending has increased our national debt to a record $16 trillion and counting.
President Obama has spent this political season trying to make the
case for tax increases on higher income Americans as the solution to our trillion-dollar deficits. But
the reality is the tax rates the President was successful in raising on January 1, 2013, will bring
in revenue – enough to cover our government spending for just 16 days. As Treasury Secretary
Timothy Geithner announced that we reached our $16.4 trillion borrowing limit on December 31, 2012,
President Obama’s tax increases bought us until January 16, 2013, when the Federal Government
is broke once again.
In February, the Treasury Department
will ask Congress to raise the debt ceiling for the fifth time since President Obama assumed the presidency
to allow the federal government to borrow and spend even more money. A debt ceiling is meaningless if
Congress simply extends the Treasury’s borrowing capacity each time the limit is reached. I voted
against an increase to the debt ceiling two years ago and want Kansans to know that I will not vote
to allow the Obama Administration to borrow any more money unless we substantially change the way the
government does business and significantly reduce spending.
some may say it is irresponsible to not raise the limit, our nation finds itself at a point of such
indebtedness that it is more irresponsible to extend the debt ceiling without significant reductions
in federal spending. There is no flexibility here – our country’s future is at stake and
our children’s ability to pursue the American dream at risk.
thing we learned from the New Year’s Eve ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations is that
our work to tackle the spending crisis prior to the debt ceiling vote must begin today – it cannot
wait until the 11th hour. Americans are demanding that Washington get serious about spending; the President
must come to the table with Congress now and put courage and common sense before politics.
This means taking action on our nation’s real ‘fiscal cliff’
– the $48 trillion in unfunded obligations found in Social Security and Medicare. These so-called
entitlement programs represent promises the federal government has made to Americans, and these promises
must be kept. We must work together now to preserve Medicare for America’s seniors while sustaining
the program for future generations. And, we must adopt a realistic plan to close Social Security’s
budget shortfall and return the program on a sustainable path to ensure future generations have retirement
We have yet to see willingness by the President
to reduce spending, but with the revenue debate settled, spending is now front and center. Americans
are ready for tough decisions, and they are looking for leadership from Washington.
grave spending crisis we face will not be easy to resolve, but we were not elected to ignore these problems;
we were elected to confront them. The President and Congress must do what Kansans do: Make decisions
based on solid values and be held accountable for those decisions. I stand ready to work toward a solution,
and I am hopeful the President will join the effort to achieve meaningful spending reform.
Working to Get
Hurricane Sandy Victims Needed Help
This holiday season,
everyone wants to see those families and communities in the northeast get the help they need as quickly
as possible. As elected officials in Congress, however, we must make sure each and every dollar of
taxpayer money is spent responsibly. The bill that ultimately passed provides $60.4 billion in discretionary
funding, though much of the allocation is directed towards projects or programs unrelated to Sandy
recovery efforts. An alternative bill, sponsored by Senator Coats of Indiana, would have provided immediate
emergency spending for those affected by the storm, while providing an additional three months for
Congress to determine the necessary long term needs to help prevent future disasters. Unfortunately,
the Coats alternative did not pass. The full supplemental passed
the Senate and concluded the Senate’s work for the 112th
NBAF Land Transfer Announced
Kansans received news from the Department of Homeland Security that
they've long been waiting to hear: NBAF is moving forward. After years of hard work by Kansans and numerous
studies that substantiate the need for NBAF, I’m glad to see that DHS and Secretary Napolitano
have signed the land transfer agreement and will work with the state of Kansas to move forward toward
construction of the facility. The first step of the land transfer is good news for Kansas and critical
to our national security. The facts are clear: without the capabilities NBAF provides, our country
is at risk from foreign animal disease threats.
of Kansas has committed $105 million dollars of matching state funds to the NBAF project and $35 million
dollars of research funding for transitioning the NBAF mission to Manhattan. The approximately 46-acre
site is located on the north side of the Kansas State University campus. It provides land acquisition
potential; highway access; environmental compatibility; adequate utility infrastructure; an available
local work force for skilled labor and academic research; and proximity to agricultural, academic, medical
and bioscience resources. Click
here to read more about the land transfer and what it means
Addressing the Uncertainty of
Farmers and Ranchers
The nation’s farmers and
ranchers have been in a state of limbo since the Farm Bill’s authorizations expired in September
of last year. With an expiration of the last Farm Bill, the men and women involved in agriculture were
facing an even greater level of uncertainty than their profession usually entails. With the leadership
of Senator Pat Roberts, the Senate passed a five year Farm Bill that would have given a greater level
of certainty to the ag sector. While this new long term Farm Bill fell short of becoming law, I was
encouraged that Congress included a one year extension of the last Farm Bill in the recently passed
legislation. I am committed to working toward passage of long-term farm policy that saves money and
ensures that the U.S. maintains the safest, most reliable food supply in the world. I look forward to
working with my colleagues in the Senate as we address issues of great importance to Kansans.
Thanking Coach Roger Barta for a Lifetime of Service
While waiting on the Majority Leader to begin the debate on the supplemental
appropriations bill last week, I spoke on the Senate floor to recognize Roger Barta, a football coach
from Smith Center, Kansas who has a rich tradition of football excellence. Coach Roger Barta and his
Redmen football team have won more than 320 games and eight state championships – five of them
in a row. Under the leadership of Coach Barta, the Redmen football team has set state and national records,
including a remarkable 79-game winning streak. But this season, after 35 years of coaching, Roger Barta
announced that he is ready to hang up his whistle and retire. In my speech, I congratulate Coach Barta
for his outstanding achievements over the last three decades – but more importantly, thank him
for his investment in the lives of the young men of Smith Center. Click
here to watch my speech about Coach Barta’s remarkable
Visiting the Lenexa Rotary Club
On Friday I attended a meeting of the Lenexa Rotary Club where visited
with some of my fellow Rotarians and updated the group about recent happenings in Congress. I also learned
about a partnership between the club and the Lenexa Fire Department to purchase a mobile safety education
trailer. The trailer is an interactive mobile classroom that simulates a wide variety of emergencies
to educate and prepare students. The Lenexa Rotarians volunteer with the fire department to staff the
trailer during demonstrations and serve as a great example of a private-public partnership helping their
community. Over 3000 parents and children have experienced the simulations at schools and Lenexa Festivals.
Thank you to the Lenexa Firemen for supporting and implementing this valuable educational program. Thank
you also to Rotary President Andy Prosser for hosting me and to Ashley Sherard for coordinating my
Service Academy Nominees Announced
Supporting young Kansans in their efforts to attend one of our nation’s
Service Academies is one the responsibilities I enjoy most as a United States Senator. This year, I
received 90 applications for just four principal nominations. In November, my 20-member Service Academy
Selection Committee met to choose this year’s nominees. I was humbled by the talents and achievements
of this year’s applicant pool and am encouraged to see Kansas producing so many outstanding young
men and women. Congratulations to the students who have earned my support as they continue the process
to gain admission to these celebrated and historic institutions.
In the Office
Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the US Capitol this week including:
to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve
you in Washington, D.C. In recent weeks, I’ve been listening to Kansans calling and writing in
to share their thoughts and opinions on the “fiscal cliff” and the big issues our country
faces. Whether your thoughts are in the form of letter, a Facebook comment, or a phone call, please
know that I am listening and I appreciate messages from Kansans who wish to make their voice heard.
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,
Very truly yours,