Welcome to "Kansas Common Sense." Thanks 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. Due to a software update, I was unable to distribute the newsletter yesterday. Thank you for your patience.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a health crisis of massive proportions. With no proven vaccine or treatment currently available and with the outbreak continuing to escalate, fear and concern have risen across the globe. The death Wednesday of the patient who was the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the United States reiterates the need to heighten coordination and vigilance to address this health crisis. While Ebola is not easily transmitted, it is important that we fully utilize our public health infrastructure to detect possible infections, as well as safely screen, isolate and treat any patients who may need care. Our health care providers have the training and equipment needed to control infections and protect themselves and others when caring for Ebola patients.
The West African Ebola outbreak is devastating and unprecedented, but it can be stopped now by helping Africans before it seriously threatens our country. The single most important thing that can be done to protect Americans is to stop Ebola at its source. But, as we fight Ebola abroad, we need to make certain our homeland is protected as well. On Monday, (CDC) Director Dr. Tom Frieden to implement Ebola-specific screenings at U.S. airports. I was pleased that the Administration announced on Wednesday that enhanced screening measures will be implemented at high-traffic U.S. airports. Given Ebola's long incubation period, entry screenings are not the full solution, but this is a step in the right direction.
Additionally, this week to be responsible for coordinating all U.S. agencies and policies involving the international and domestic response to Ebola. My letter to the President included several questions regarding the interagency coordination involved in the response efforts. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I want to make certain resources are being allocated efficiently across the agencies responsible for the Ebola response in West Africa and disease control activities at home. I am also concerned that a clear organizational structure and chain of command for this interagency mission have not been sufficiently established by the Administration and communicated to the American people.
Administration Needs to Consider Impact of Regulations on Rural Health Care Providers and Visiting Decatur Health Systems in Oberlin
On Thursday, I along with a bipartisan group of 33 senators that federal regulations for health care facilities do not adequately consider their impact on rural communities. CMS is the division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responsible for administering Medicare and Medicaid. As Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Health Subcommittee, I included language in the 2014 omnibus appropriations bill directing HHS to better account for the realities of delivering rural health care in its regulatory rulemaking. Since that time, I remain concerned with a number of regulations that have created problems for rural health care providers. In the letter, I pressed CMS for details about how the agency is incorporating rural health care experts in the regulatory rulemaking process. I also called on CMS to explain its process for accounting for the rural impact of such regulations as well as its engagement with rural health stakeholders during rulemaking. HHS must allow rural providers the flexibility necessary to adequately care for their patients, many of whom are older and live across wide areas.
On Tuesday morning I was in Oberlin to visit Decatur Health Systems (DHS). DHS is a 24-bed Critical Access Hospital (CAH) with a rural health clinic and 37-bed extended care unit. The hospital provides a wide-range of services to residents of Decatur County and the surrounding area. During my time representing Kansans in Washington, D.C., I have had the pleasure of visiting each of the 128 community hospitals in Kansas. Meeting with Kansas hospital administrators, physicians, nurses, and other providers gives me insight on the unique challenges they face caring for patients in rural settings across our state.
My discussion with DHS administrators and staff spanned various topics including concerns with the increasing federal regulatory burden on providers, proposed changes in Medicare reimbursements and the consequences to CAHs. Any policies that threaten the survival of these hospitals endanger Kansans' access to health care in their own communities and could severely ration care in rural America. I continue to oppose these and other policy proposals that would disproportionately affect health care access in Kansas and other rural states. Thanks to DHS CEO Johnathan Owens for hosting my visit.
This week, I, along with several of my colleagues on the Senate Banking Committee, to demand answers regarding a DoJ-led effort that is negatively impacting law-abiding and legitimate businesses by choking them off from the banking sector, known as "Operation Choke Point." Late last summer, I was made aware of reports regarding Operation Choke Point and how it has been targeting certain industries' ability to access banking services and the payments system without first demonstrating that a company is breaking the law. The effort is causing banks to deny or terminate credit lines, close bank accounts, and prevent payment processing due to fear of DoJ subpoenas or unjustified regulatory action by federal banking regulators.
We raised continuing concerns that the DoJ operation is inappropriately targeting certain business models and is politicizing the payment system and access to credit markets. The Obama Administration's use of financial regulators to harass industries it dislikes sets a troubling precedent. Rather than discussing the underlying concerns that led the DoJ to launch Operation Choke Point, this Administration has chosen to circumvent the process, using its tremendous power to pursue what looks to be a political agenda. It is time for our questions to be answered so that lawful American businesses can get back to working without fear of an unaccountable federal bureaucrat.
On Tuesday, I to explain operations and the authorization of military force in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in Iraq. With the deployment of 500 soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division headquarters – The Big Red One – of Fort Riley, Kan., I expressed my concern about their safety and security in an undefined campaign that does not appropriately recognize their participation and service in these operations. I requested that the Secretary provide concrete answers by October 21, 2014, pertaining to the roles and missions for Big Red One soldiers and other U.S. military forces serving in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
In addition, the DoD has made conflicting statements about this untitled campaign against ISIS. The back-and-forth messaging clearly draws attention to the Administration's haphazard planning, which wrongs our U.S. forces who deserve proper credit and recognition when they readily serve our country. When sending soldiers into harm's way, a clear path and plan should be defined for their service. Their desire to serve should be matched by the Administration's desire to define their roles and missions against a legal framework that authorizes their service in defense of our country. I will continue to press DoD and the Administration for an explanation on the use of military force in Iraq and Syria because our nation's bravest and their families deserve an honest understanding of what their loved ones must face on behalf of our nation.
Thursday afternoon, I joined Governor Brownback and members of his cabinet, State Senator Jeff King, Rep. Rich Proehl, Rep. Jim Kelly, Rep. Virgil Peck, Montgomery County Action Council Director Aaron Heckman, and an organized group of concerned civic and elected officials from across Montgomery County to discuss how to handle last week's announcement that Amazon is moving their operation from Southeast Kansas. It was a standing-room only crowd of about 150 area residents. Governor Brownback pledged his commitment to recovery, and members of his cabinet offered programs to help with job placement and training. I have reached out to the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Commerce, and will continue to look for ways to assist and help this rural community persevere. Thanks to Governor Brownback and State Senator Jeff King for inviting me to take part in the meeting.
On Thursday, I joined entrepreneurs from the Kansas City area as they hosted AOL Founder Steve Case and the Rise of the Rest Tour. In an effort to highlight entrepreneurial activity and encourage more collaboration in communities across the Midwest, Steve Case embarked on a five-day tour. He visited Kansas City on Thursday and he opened the day's activities with a round table discussion. My message to the participants is that we should work to foster entrepreneurship and innovation in Kansas City. With the power of technology and a broadband connection, entrepreneurs can pursue their ideas anywhere, not just in places most Americans traditionally think of startups existing like Boston, Austin, or Silicon Valley. Following the discussion, the group visited the Kansas City Startup Village, the Sprint Accelerator, and the Kauffman Foundation. The finale of the day's activities culminated in a pitch competition where Kansas City startups presented their ideas for a chance to win prizes. Congrats to search-based startup Leap.it for taking home the grand prize and a trip to SXSW 2015. To view photos from the Kansas City events, please . Thank you to Ryan Weber of KCNext for helping to arrange the visit, and to Steve Case for his endless support of helping entrepreneurs achieve success. Here, I'm pictured with Engine Executive Director Julie Samuels.
On Monday and Tuesday, I hosted six town hall meetings in Western Kansas including Logan, Wallace, Cheyenne, Rawlins, Decatur and Sheridan Counties. On Saturday, I also hosted a town hall meeting in Lyon County. See below a summary and photos from each stop. Thanks to all the area residents who came out to share their feedback on how to improve Kansas and the nation. For a full listing of my upcoming Kansas Listening Tour stops, .
My first stop was in Oakley at the Northwest Kansas Educational Services Center. We had a good discussion about overregulation, the threat of ISIS, the legislative process and the Ebola response. Thanks to Tricia Runkle for coordinating my visit.
In Sharon Springs, we discussed the need for a functioning Senate, veterans' issues and the importance of Critical Access Hospitals. Thanks to Jayne Pearce for helping to coordinate my visit.
In Saint Francis, we discussed a number of issues including agriculture, the Clean Water Act rule, education and costly EPA regulations. Thanks to Kale Dankenbring and Heidi Plumb for allowing me to host the event at their coffee shop, Fresh Seven Coffee.
The conversation in Atwood centered around immigration, Medicare, dysfunction in the Senate, overregulation, transportation, and keeping our freedoms alive and well. I appreciated Lee Skiles for allowing me to host the conversation with about 25 area residents at Mojo Espresso & Bistro.
In Oberlin at the Gateway Civic Center, the nearly 70 attendees included students from Decatur Community Junior/Senior High School. We discussed a number of issues facing Kansas and the nation, but the focus was the importance of education and affordable student loans. Thanks to John Sater for the hosting my visit. Here, I'm pictured with Sarah Fredrickson (upper right), Ralph and Norma Unger (upper left) and Decatur Community Junior/Senior High School Seniors who are members of Student Council. Thanks again to John Sater for the hosting my visit. (photos courtesy of the Oberlin Herald)
My last stop in Western Kansas was in Hoxie at JD's. We discussed the lesser prairie chicken, agriculture, transportation, access to health care, keeping rural America alive and the tax code. Thanks to Terry Feldt for helping to coordinate my visit.
On Saturday, I hosted a town hall meeting at PraireLand Partners in Emporia. Nearly 30 Lyon County area residents joined me to discuss important issues like education, rural broadband, health care, Ebola and the ISIS threat. We also shared an update on the progress of restoring Reading's post office. Thanks to PrairieLand Partners' Paul du Toit for hosting the meeting. Here, I'm pictured with Lyon County Commissioner Scott Briggs and State Senator Jeff Longbine.
On Tuesday over the noon hour, I spoke to members of Oberlin Rotary Club at the Gateway Civic Center and thanked them for their service to the community. I believe service organizations like Rotary Club improve Kansas communities. Thanks to John Sater for the hosting my visit.
I was in Southeast Kansas on Thursday where I visited with the Noon Rotary Club in Parsons. My keynote address touched on the importance of keeping rural communities thriving and my efforts to make certain veterans have access to health care. Thanks to Parsons Rotary Club President Peter Cook for allowing me to speak, Ann Charles of Great Plains Industrial Park for the kind introduction, and to Dr. Wayne Gilmore for setting up my visit.
More than 115 million boys have participated in Boy Scouts over its 100 year history, but only about four percent of them have become Eagle Scouts. I had the privilege of congratulating six of the newest Eagle Scouts over the weekend during an Eagle Scout ceremony in Leawood. To become an Eagle Scout, a scout must demonstrate his leadership, service and outdoor skills. He must earn a minimum of 21 merit badges, take on a leadership role in his Boy Scout troop and develop and complete a service project for his local community.
A recent Gallup survey of Eagle Scouts, former Boy Scouts and men who never joined scouting, found that America's Eagles are far more engaged with the world around them in almost every way—in community service, club membership, attending church, outdoor recreation, and in the fields of education and health. That is precisely what the Boy Scouts of America aims – to develop responsible and engaged citizens. Through the Boy Scouts, young men are being equipped with skills that will help them become successful in life. I enjoyed being a part of this special ceremony and want to congratulate Isaac, William, Andrew, Calvin, Jacob and Dane on a tremendous and impressive achievement.
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 . 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: xxx.
Moarc and Kansas City Industrial Council
John Patrick of Lenexa
Scott Brown of Fairway
Margaret Nacke of Concordia
Mary Savoie of Concordia
Brandon Kauffman of Topeka
Tristan Kauffman of Topeka
Jolene Barth of Natoma
Della Richmond of Natoma
Steve Malin of Baldwin City
Emily Malin of Baldwin City
Susan May of Oberlin
John Schwartz of Blue Rapids
Pat Schwartz of Blue Rapids
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.