Ways and Means Hearing with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
This Tuesday, the Ways and Means Committee had the opportunity to question former Kansas Governor and current Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a hearing on the President's FY 2013 budget. Nearly two years ago, the immensely unpopular and incredibly partisan Obamacare package was forced through Congress in the face of bipartisan opposition. This week, however, mere months before the Supreme Court decides whether the individual mandate in the President's healthcare overhaul is unconstitutional, I was disappointed to hear Secretary Sebelius doubling down on this flawed program during her defense of the President's budget proposal.
The entire Obamacare package represents an offensive and likely unconstitutional overreach by the Federal Government. Yet, the administration's power grab has continued as they begin implementation. The law makes clear health insurance subsidies are only available to individuals and families enrolled in an American Health Benefit Exchange; which is defined in the law as a state-based exchange. However, while many states are choosing to not set up exchanges, resulting in federal government running them, the IRS has moved to amend the health care law through the regulatory process by creating tax credits and government subsidies that Congress has not authorized -- undermining Congress' constitutional authority to write tax policy.
During questioning, Secretary Sebelius failed to respond to my questions on where the term "federally-facilitated exchange" is used in the law and how the Administration has the authority to expand subsidies to these exchanges. She promised to respond to me in writing. Former-Speaker Pelosi once famously said, we had to pass the healthcare law to find out what was in it. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate to say, we have to pass the bill to find out how regulators are going to write it. I look forward to learning how Secretary Sebelius plans to justify her authority to circumvent the legislative branch.
NBAF Shines in DHS Safety Study
This morning, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released their updated site-specific risk assessment (SSRA) for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) being constructed in Manhattan, Kansas. This most recent study is a comprehensive look at the NBAF design taking into account all the proposed safety and mitigation plans that will be put into place when the facility is operational. The SSRA found that in the 50-year operating lifetime of the NBAF there is less than a 0.11% chance of an accidental release and subsequent outbreak of a virus when catastrophic events such as tornados and earthquakes are taken into account and less than a 0.008% chance when catastrophic events are excluded.
This study by the Department of Homeland Security confirms, yet again, what the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration, Congress and the Kansas Delegation have been saying for years. Manhattan, Kansas is the best, safest, and most cost effective place to build the NBAF. The Bio-Safety Level 4 lab at the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is a crucial and immensely safe facet of our national security plan. And, most importantly, we must ensure the NBAF's completion as soon as possible, so the American people and our food supply can be better protected. This study demonstrates the hard work the people at K-State and across the state of Kansas have put in to ensure the safety of our citizens and livestock. I am proud to see the NBAF cross this hurdle, and look forward to seeing the project completed in the near future.
Air Force to Re-Examine LAS Contract
This week, the Air Force announced it would take corrective action on the Afghanistan Light Air Support Contract, setting aside the contract awarded to Embraer/Sierra Nevada, who would build the aircraft in Brazil, and investigate what went wrong with the process. This decision may allow Kansas based Hawker Beechcraft, who was inexplicably disqualified in the head to head award process prior to its conclusion, to compete in a fair and transparent contract award process.
I am pleased to see that the Air Force has recognized and moved to correct the flaws in their contracting process for the Afghanistan Light Air Support Contract. All that is asked of the contract award process is transparency and fair competition, and the unexplained exclusion of Hawker Beechcraft's bid, so late in the process, failed to meet both of these standards. I am confident that when allowed to compete on a level playing field the American made aircraft will prevail over foreign competitors. I look forward to the results of the Air Force's investigation and the re-opening of a fair competition for this important contract.
Congress to Kansas Tour Continues in March
As we enter March, I am pleased to announce that my Congress to Kansas tour will be continuing with several events over the next few weeks. First, this month's Open Office Hours in Topeka have been scheduled for this coming Monday, March 5th at 9:00am. Remember "Open Office Hours" are one-on-one meetings with me. They are open to any resident of the 2nd district on a first come first served basis. The meetings will last between 5-10 minutes depending on demand. Members of my staff will be on hand before and after the private meetings to handle any additional casework requests. To make a reservation please contact my Topeka office at 785-234-5966. Walk-ups will be allowed only if the meeting slots are not filled.
However, Open Office Hours aren't the only thing on the agenda. This week I announced I will also be hosting two listening sessions, my 56th and 57th Congress to Kansas events of the 112th Congress, on Monday, March 12th. First, I will visit the Memorial Building in Chanute for a listening session at 9:00a.m. Then I will be hosting a listening session at the Oswego High School Auditorium at 2:00pm.
Listening to and serving Eastern Kansans is my top priority as your representative in Congress. These open office hours and listening sessions provide an excellent opportunity for us to listen to each other, voice concerns, ask questions, and work together to find solutions to get this Country back on the right path. I hope I will see you all at a Congress to Kansas event in the coming weeks!