Before I stepped foot on a plane to get sworn in to Congress, I made a commitment to you - the folks of Kansas – to make constituent services my top priority. So many politicians in Washington think they can simply read news reports about what is going on back in their district and then call that good. For Kansans, that is not good enough.
Each week, after the last vote is cast in Washington, I get on the first flight to Kansas. I firmly believe the only way I can represent you is by talking to you, listening to you, and meeting with you face to face, town by town, and county by county. During the days I am in Washington I frequently host telephone town hall meetings to stay in touch with constituents in Kansas. When I am back in Kansas, which is nearly every weekend, I host a variety of events and meetings to stay informed. Town halls, constituent one-on-ones, site tours and meet-and-greets are examples of some of the events I frequently attend.
However, communication with constituents is not enough. My staff and I work diligently when a constituent has an issue with the federal government. From Social Security checks to services issues with the VA, I can assure you we work each case as if it were our own family member facing the issue. Helping Kansans navigate the federal bureaucracy is the most fulfilling and enjoyable part of my job.
Securing NBAF: After Manhattan was selected as the site of the new National Agro- Bio- Defense Facility (NBAF), I made a commitment to see this project moved forward. I have met with local officials in Manhattan and worked with my colleagues in both the House and Senate to secure necessary funding for the NBAF. That’s why I voted for the Homeland Security Appropriations, which included $32 million for the facility. The NBAF will be a tremendous asset to Manhattan, bringing jobs and economic development, as well as making Kansas a leader in bio and animal disease research. While there is still work to be done, the project is moving forward and K-State and Manhattan officials are hoping to break ground in the summer of 2010.
Helping Treece Residents: The folks in Treece, Kansas are living under harmful conditions due to the leftover remnants of the mining industry. I have been working hard with Senator Brownback and Roberts and the rest of the delegation to see that the folks of Treece have assistance in relocating to safer conditions. I have visited Treece and led a delegation from the Environmental Protection Agency to see the conditions on the ground. On October 30, 2009, both Houses of Congress approved funding for the buyout of Treece and was signed into law shortly after. I was glad to be a part of this solution and that the people of Treece will now get the assistance they need. Whether large or small, every community in Kansas is valuable and you can be sure I will continue to fight for each and every one.
Fighting for Local Hospitals: When I heard that hospitals in Wamego and Onaga were in danger of losing their critical access status, which brings in vital dollars, we worked to ensure that did not happen. Both of these hospitals provide vital services to folks in Kansas. I sent a letter to both HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Charlene Frizzera to encourage them to make an exception for the Onaga and Wamego hospitals. In the end, they were granted that exception and were able to continue their good work for the people of Kansas.
Keeping Guantanamo Terrorist Detainees Out: On my second day in office, I introduced H.R. 148, which would prohibit funds from being used to transfer terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I have met with officials from Leavenworth and other members of Congress, including Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton, to gain support in opposing these terrorist detainees in Leavenworth. Earlier this year, I took a trip to Guantanamo Bay to see the facility first-hand and am more confident than ever that those detainees should not be in Kansas.
While I am opposed to these terrorist detainees coming to the United States at all, we were pleased to see the Obama Administration did not choose Fort Leavenworth for their relocation. Fort Leavenworth houses the best and brighest our military has to offer and I will continue to fight to support that tradition of excellence.
When I arrived in Washington the Democrats had a power monopoly, but instead of sitting on the sidelines, I worked to present alternatives to the big government, big spending ideas that they championed. Today, we have a split government which has resulted in a legislative stagnation. The standard operating procedure over the past two years has involved the House of Representatives passing legislation on to the Senate where it sits untouched without ever being worked or voted on. Further evidence of this is appalling fact is the Senate has failed to pass a budget in more than 3 years.
Health Care: As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee I am working to repeal Obamacare and create real health care reforms. Our plan includes weeding out waste and fraud, giving tax credits to allow people to buy their own insurance, ending denial of care based on pre-existing conditions, tort reform, letting businesses band together to offer affordable insurance and allowing citizens to buy insurance outside of their state of residence.
At the heart of our health care problems is cost. The plan we are developing specifically targets the aspects of the health care system that escalate costs. Unfortunately, the President’s health care law ignores solving the problem of cost; rather it cuts $716 billion from Medicare and raises taxes to pay for new bureaucracy insurance mandate.
I believe if you lower the cost of health care, more people will be able to purchase insurance thus addressing both concerns. The President has failed to prove that by mandating the purchase of insurance, costs of health care will fall. In fact, I believe the opposite will happen and millions of Americans will have diminished health care or denied it entirely.
Energy: Kansas has a long and proud tradition of being a national leader in the energy sector. From oil, to natural gas, to bio-fuel, to wind, to hydro and nuclear, Kansas needs to lead the way for the energy industry.
I support an “all of the above” approach to energy. For decades both parties failed to produce comprehensive energy policy that would allow America to become energy independent. With vast supplies of fossil fuels, wind, solar, bio-fuels, etc. we have no excuse for our dependence on foreign resources.
I am a member of the House Energy Action Team (HEAT). This past spring I hosted a HEAT regional conference and site visit in Southeast Kansas where I and other members of Congress and staff discussed energy policy with local energy producers and experts.
Creating Jobs: The first thing I believe about the relationship between government and job creation is: government does not create economic growth; government creates an environment that allows the economy to grow and the private sector creates jobs. According to the Department of Labor, under the current administration 145,000 government jobs have been created. The flip side to this equation is FactCheck.org’s report that since President Obama’s term we have lost a total of 552,000 jobs overall.
Following the passage of the 2009 stimulus package President Obama proclaimed the legislation would create or save 3.5 million jobs and the unemployment rate would not rise above 8%. He also promised the unemployment rate would fall below 7.25% by the end of 2010. Nearly four years later, our unemployment rate hovers about 8.3% and the millions of jobs promised by the stimulus seem to be more hope, than change.
While the President was handing out stimulus packages and bailouts, I went straight to the job creators and job seekers. Over the past three years I have hosted 3 Job Fairs that provide direct access to those looking to hire people with those looking for jobs. Staying true to the idea that government does not create jobs, government creates an environment that allows businesses to create jobs and hire people.
In addition to my work in the 2nd District, while in Washington I have been a proud supporter of 33 jobs bills that create an environment for job creation instead of handing out money to special interest groups. Instead of providing alternative solutions, Harry Reid and Senate Democratic leadership refused to even vote on nearly every single jobs bill that passed through the House.Saving Local Post Offices: The Kansas 2nd District is a largely rural district. Post offices play an integral role in the quality of life in small towns. Losing a post office has a massive impact on the long term prospects of a small town prospering or surviving.
In 2011 the USPS began a study in the hopes of closing down 36 post offices in Eastern Kansas. During this process I was an outspoken opponent to the final goal of the Postal Service. With the help of other members of Congress we were able to find a solution to the Postal Services problems without closing small town post offices.
Transparency & Accountability: I have introduced two different pieces of legislation that aim to keep Washington more open and accountable. I introduced H.R. 3350, the Debt Accountability Act, to require Congress to vote each time to acknowledge when a bill will increase the debt. This would give members a chance to definitively stand on the side of fiscal restraint of fiscal neglect.
I also introduced House Resolution 835 to require congressional committees to post changes of bills 24 hours after the changes had been made. Changes to legislation need to be made open and available to the public. I am also an avid supporter of H.R. 1207, which would require the Federal Reserve to be audited. I spoke in favor of this bill and am hopeful we can get a vote in it soon.