Each month I want to provide you with regular updates about what’s going on in our nation’s capital and throughout the 4th District of Kansas. Here’s what has happened in August.
Stopping Bad Robocalls Act
If you have a phone, you’ve likely received a call informing you that you’ve won a cruise, the Social Security Administration is suspending your number, or your bank needs you to verify your personal information.
Do those examples ring a bell? Hopefully, you’ve hung up or didn’t answer.
These spam calls can not only be aggravating but dangerous to individuals who are not tech savvy. Bad actors prey on our connection to our phones and the chance that we might be confused and give up sensitive information. And with modern technology, making thousands of calls in the hope of finding one victim is a cost- and time-effective way for them to carry out their nefarious spoof. It’s a problem that many Kansans have voiced concern over, and recently, the House took a step forward to address it.
In a broad bipartisan vote of 429 to 3, H.R. 3375 – the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act – cleared the House and is headed to the Senate. The bill directs the FCC to tighten regulations on phone carriers and businesses, doubles the statute of limitations for robocall violations, and calls for transparent authentication methods so that phone customers can distinguish between legitimate and counterfeit calls.
The annoyance of unacceptable robocalls rings true for many Kansans. While this is just a first step to combat the problem, I hope the news of this bill is music to your ears.
Government Spending and Debt
Before returning home for the August District Work Month, the House voted to increase budget caps and suspend the debt ceiling until July 31, 2021.
The spending bill adds nearly $2 trillion to the federal debt over the next decade, increasing our nation’s debt to 97% of GDP by 2029 and opening the door for another trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill this fall. By raising budget caps $322 billion and suspending the debt ceiling until 2021, this deal gives Washington free reign to increase government spending at will for the next two years while kicking the can down the road.
Despite the Trump administration proposing $574 billion in cost offsets, the final deal includes just $77 billion in offsets; not enough to justify this massive increase in spending.
Although I’m glad this bill included important investments in our military and protections for pro-life policies, the overall spending levels are dangerous and irresponsible.
While I voted against this budget, I am committed to working with President Trump to cut government spending and grow our economy to protect future generations of Kansans and Americans.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released details of a $16 billion package to support farmers and ranchers affected by trade disruptions. In May, the USDA first announced the authorization of aid programs through the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), Food Purchase and Distribution Program (FPDP) and Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP).
I applaud the Trump administration and USDA for working to correct some of the current hardships for our farmers and ranchers through this program, but will continue urging passage of the USMCA and other trade deals so that Kansans can have full access to open markets through free and fair trade.
MFP signup began in late July at local Farm Service Agency offices and will run through Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Details on MFP, FPDP and ATP programs can be found on the USDA website.
A Win for Life
Planned Parenthood has placed abortion profits over women’s health again.
Instead of abiding by new, common sense rules for the Title X Family Planning program that require a clear separation between abortion providers and actual health care for women, the abortion provider announced last week that it will no longer participate in the Title X program which has granted the organization $60 million annually.
Last April, I lead efforts in Congress to urge the Trump administration to issue new guidelines for Title X that would require Title X service sites to be physically and financially separate from facilities that provide abortion, eliminate the mandate requiring Title X providers to refer abortions, and increase accountability and oversight in cases of suspected sexual abuse of minors. Nearly 200 Members of the House and Senate joined the effort.
Last May, the Trump administration listened and announced the Protect Life Rule to prohibit Title X funding from going to any clinic that performs abortions.
HHS issued the rule following a lengthy and comprehensive public comment period, showing a commitment to hearing from the public and interested groups.
Starting July 15, 2019, Title X recipients are no longer allowed to refer mothers for abortion services and must keep finances separate from facilities that provide abortions. Then, starting in March 2020, abortion facilities will no longer be allowed to co-locate with clinics that receive Title X funding.
These rules do not cut Family Planning funding at all, but will instead be used to provide exceptional care for women through clinics that value their patients and the unborn.
Japanese Trade Agreement in Principle
Farmers and ranchers in Kansas will benefit greatly from the recently-announced trade agreement in principle between the U.S. and Japan, opening up the Japanese market for American beef, pork, dairy, and ethanol.
Since entering Congress, I’ve witnessed Japan’s eagerness to forge a bilateral agreement with us, and I’m pleased with this progress by President Trump and Trade Representative Lighthizer. This trade deal reinforces our commitment to free and fair trade and is yet another call for other nations to come to the negotiating table.
Connect with Me
Interested in receiving regular updates about what’s going on in Congress? Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter at estes.house.gov and please don’t hesitate to reach out to my District Office in Wichita at 316-262-8992 if you have questions, concerns or need help with a federal agency.
Ron Estes is a 5th generation Kansan and represents Kansas’ 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means