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on Spending Negotiations in Washington
The federal government of the United States has been shut down
for two weeks. I did not want a government shutdown, and I want it to end as quickly as possible. This
shutdown is the product of many factors and actors, but the impasse is a general manifestation of Congress
and the President skirting their responsibilities. The shutdown represents a refusal to engage in a debate
over government, its purpose and priorities. Fear of difficult choices or the threat of falling short
of absolute legislative victory has kept this body from rationally examining this important topic.
week, I visited the White House for a meeting with the President and I was encouraged by the conversation.
But shortly after that meeting, the President rejected the compromise offered by the House of Representatives.
Because of the President’s unwillingness to negotiate, the discussions for a solution have shifted
away from the White House to the Senate Majority and Minority leaders.
no one can predict with certainty how the current situation will be resolved, I am hopeful that there
will ultimately be meaningful discussions that will bring this stalemate to an end.
spoke in the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday about my frustration with Washington’s pattern
of crisis-to-crisis governing, and challenged my colleagues and the President to break the pattern and
use the debt ceiling debate to finally deal with tough issues facing our nation. I believe this impasse
is an opportunity for Congress to change course, make substantial reductions in spending, lower our nation’s
debt and deficits, and make structural changes to the way we do business in Washington. Click
here to watch highlights of remarks in the Banking Committee.
Sergeant Patrick Hawkins
On Wednesday, I spoke
on the Senate floor to honor Sergeant Patrick C. Hawkins,
25, who was among four members of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment killed on Oct. 6, 2013, in
Kandahar, Afghanistan. Patrick is a hero, soldier, and American who was willing to sacrifice his life
through service for the well-being of his family back home – including his wife in Kansas –
and for the future of a country that we all love.
Patrick Hawkins was born on Oct. 1, 1988. His battalion commander described him as “a brave and
incredibly talented Ranger.” Patrick was moving to aid another wounded Ranger when he was killed
and epitomized the Ranger Creed: “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”
to Restore Military Death Benefits
As a consequence to the government shutdown, the families of
our fallen – including Sergeant Hawkins’ family – were told they would not receive
the death benefit gratuity customarily provided by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to financially
assist grieving families. This week, I joined a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues in urging the
Defense Secretary to provide immediate death gratuity payments to military families during the government
shutdown. Although donations were offered to these families by the Fisher House Foundation and many others,
the Senate acted as it should on Thursday by passing H.J. Res. 91, Honoring
the Families of Fallen Soldiers Act, to make certain DoD has the flexibility
it needs to support the families of fallen soldiers. The president signed bill into law on Friday. Click
here to read my letter to Sec. Hagel urging the DoD to
reinstate death benefits to families of the fallen.
Janet Yellen Nominated to Chair the Federal Reserve
week, President Obama nominated Janet Yellen, vice-chair of the Federal Reserve, to replace Chairman
Ben Bernanke whose term expires in January. As one of the overseers of the world’s largest economy,
this position holds immense power over the cost of doing business, and Chairman Bernanke’s replacement
will have a profound impact on our national and global economy. As a member of the Senate Banking Committee,
I will be one of 22 Senators to review her credentials, as well as her plans for the future of the U.S.
Central Bank. I look forward to reviewing this nomination and will continue to press for a transparent
Federal Reserve that protects American interests. Click
read my full statement.
Rural Housing Concerns
Wednesday I participated in a Senate Banking Hearing where I had
an opportunity to discuss the unique challenges communities in Kansas face when it comes to providing
suitable housing for its residents. Too often, we hear of local leaders seeking to attract businesses
and investment to their communities only to be rebuffed due to the lack of housing.
witnesses on the panel before the committee relayed some disturbing trends in this market. According
to the panel, many real estate investors often fail to understand the cultural and economic conditions
of rural communities, which makes investment less attractive. Another hurdle for financing these
smaller projects is the growing cost of writing and servicing the loans due to increased government regulations. It
is clear to me that in order for Kansans to have access to housing, Congress must do its part and structure
lending requirements so that they do not disproportionately affect community lenders. I introduced
Relief Act, S. 1349, which would reduce the regulatory burden
on community lenders so that they can get back to doing what they do best: finance growth and create
jobs. I look forward to advancing this legislation and other commonsense reforms so that underserved
housing markets in Kansas can attract and retain jobs and the families they support.
FAA Decision to Close Aircraft Registry Office Harmful to Economy
As a result of the ongoing government shutdown, the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) closed its Aircraft Registry office, located in Oklahoma City. Due to its
crucial role in facilitating the certification and delivery of aircraft, the Registry Office has always
remained open during previous lapses in appropriations. As of today, the General Aviation Manufacturers
Association estimates that the delivery of more than 156 aircraft, valuing more than $1.9 billion, has
been halted due to the Registry’s closure. The longer the office remains closed, the more likely
it is to cause job losses in Kansas.
Wednesday, I joined Senator Roberts, Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma, and Senators Boozman and Pryor of Arkansas
in expressing concerns to FAA Administrator Huerta. With the FAA appearing to handle this current shutdown
in a manner different from previous shutdowns, we must make certain the agency is not inflicting unnecessary
hardship on aviation industries across America. Reinforcing the significance of this issue, the House
of Representatives moved quickly to pass legislation on Wednesday that would reopen the Registry office.
general aviation industry is a vital component to the Kansas economy and the nation as a whole, and it
is my sincere hope that the FAA will choose to utilize their full capacities under the law to limit the
negative impacts of the shutdown on the aviation industry. Click
here to read the letter we sent to Administrator Huerta. Click
watch my interview on KSN regarding this issue.
the Schumm Family as 2013 Angels in Adoption
As a member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I am
committed to promoting awareness of adoption and the children awaiting families, celebrating children
and families involved in adoption, and encouraging Americans to secure safety, permanency, and well-being
for all children. Many families in Kansas and across our nation have made a lasting difference in the
lives of thousands of children through adoption. I recently had the opportunity to recognize one of these
Kansas families by nominating them as 2013 Angels in Adoption through the Congressional Coalition on
Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) Angels in Adoption program. This program honors those who have made
outstanding contributions on behalf of children in need of loving homes.
and Allison Schumm of Topeka are vocal advocates for adoption, who strongly believe in the value of family
and keeping families together. Including their four biological children, Jonathan and Allison are the
proud parents of fourteen after adopting two sibling-sets of five each from the foster care system. The
Schumm family is also active in adoption advocacy organizations including Project Belong and the Kansas
Children’s Service League. As part of their advocacy efforts, the Schumm family regularly speaks
to others about the joys of providing a supportive, loving, and permanent home to children in need through
adoption. I had the opportunity to visit with them this week while they were in Washington, D.C., for
the Angels in Adoption ceremonies. Their compassion and commitment has given their children both a family
and a bright future. When dedicated individuals make a major difference in a child’s life through
adoption, families are strengthened and communities are enriched. I am pleased to have had the opportunity
to nominate them for this well-deserved honor.
Spends a Half-Million Dollars on Art
On Monday, I called on the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs
(VA) Eric Shinseki to justify the VA’s purchase of $562,000 in artwork in the final days of Fiscal
Year 2013. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs
Committee, and at a time when the nation’s crushing debt threatens the well-being of our veterans
and all Americans, I cannot comprehend the reason why this use of taxpayer dollars was authorized.
the overall fiscal stability of our country is not of sufficient concern, then the VA should have at
least prioritized service to veterans who continue to wait inordinate lengths of time to receive decisions
on their benefit claims. These funds also would have been better spent filling positions in Community
Based Outpatient Clinics in Kansas and other rural states where staffing remains an acute problem to
which the VA is struggling to respond adequately. I am appalled
by the VA’s complete failure to prioritize the spending of a half-million taxpayer dollars and
look forward to receiving a response from Secretary Shinseki. Click
here to read my full request of the VA.
Greeting Honor Flights
was able to greet two groups of veterans this week at the World War II Memorial. On Tuesday, I met Ernest
Leierer and his son Dennis who were here as part of the Oklahoma Honor Flight. Ernest lives in Enid,
OK, but has pastored numerous Kansas churches. Visiting with them gave me the chance to thank Ernest
for his service and encourage him to come back to Kansas! On Thursday, veterans and their guardians who
arrived on the Kansas Honor Flight encountered heavy rain, but it couldn't keep WWII veterans from visiting
the memorial built in their honor. It was my privilege to be with them and I enjoyed seeing my friend
Norm Karlin of Hutchinson. On both days, the Honor Flights were able to view the Memorial without any
obstruction during the shutdown. I am hopeful the shutdown will end soon so that the people’s monuments
may be open to the public for all to visit and appreciate. Click
see a photo of me and veteran Norm Karlin of Hutchinson.
Last week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed
Christopher Diehn of Olathe
Andy Huckaba of Lenexa
Stump of Hays
P.J. Reddy of Hill
Academy of Pediatrics
Dennis Cooley of Topeka
Pamela Shaw of Kansas City
Rob Manes of Topeka
Patty Reece of Alma
Veterinary Medical Association
Cary Christensen of Overland Park
Jeff Tamasi of Overland Park
George Vradenburg of Manhattan
Jonathan Schumm of Topeka
Allison Schumm of Topeka
Credit of Western Kansas
Mark Winger of Colby
Janet Barrows of Manhattan
Neil Wilson of Ness City
Impacting Public Policy
Pamela Kelley of Lenexa
Jennifer Geyoke of Lenexa
Eating Disorders Association
Lauren Breithaupt of Overland Park
Beth Hartman McGilley of Wichita
Laura Eickman of Overland Park
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.
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.