Kansas Common Sense
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Addressing the National VFW Convention in Kansas City
On Monday, I spoke at the opening ceremony of the 119th Annual Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Kansas City. I appreciated the opportunity to address those who served their nation selflessly during a time when our nation was in need. The needs of our country and our nation’s heroes remain great, and the VFW is making a significant difference as veterans serving other veterans. We cannot thank those who have served enough, and making certain they have access to the benefits they have earned is only a small way we can show our gratitude for their service. I’m grateful to have an organization like the VFW to partner with in caring for our nation’s heroes. To watch my full address, click here.
After the VFW Convention on Monday, I returned to Washington, D.C. where the Senate voted to confirm Mr. Robert Wilkie as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. I am pleased this vital position is filled and am eager to work with the new secretary on many pressing issues within the VA including implementation of the VA MISSION Act and the enactment of much-needed reforms across the department. The MISSION Act, if implemented correctly, will be transformative for the department and will make certain the VA can continue to serve veterans for generations to come. I look forward to working with Mr. Wilkie to accomplish that goal and I appreciate the interest that the Trump administration has had in regard to the MISSION Act. Additionally, Mr. Wilkie’s desire to rid the VA of complacency is a much-needed change as we work to make certain veterans are given the care they deserve. Click here to watch my floor speech regarding Mr. Wilkie’s nomination prior to the Senate’s vote to confirm him to this post.
I also spoke with Fox News following President Trump’s speech at the VFW Annual Convention to discuss the VA MISSION Act, veterans’ healthcare and what I expect from our new VA secretary. Click here to watch my full interview.
As the chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the health and safety of amateur athletes, I convened my third hearing on Tuesday as part of my ongoing investigation into systemic failures to protect athletes from sexual abuse within the Olympic movement. The focus of this hearing was on current leadership at the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University regarding policies that have already been implemented to prevent and report abuse and what changes still need to be made to provide a safe environment for amateur athletes. Additionally, we heard from the chairman of the Athletes’ Advisory Council on what policies could be further prioritized to ensure the safety of our nation’s amateur athletes.
We were honored to be joined by more than 80 survivors of abuse in a press conference prior to the hearing as well as in the audience during the hearing. The brave actions of those survivors and others who shed light on their painful pasts have invigorated a national calling for change and I was glad to have so many of them with us in Washington D.C. Our work on this important issue is far from over. I am dedicated to continuing the bipartisan approach that this subcommittee has taken in its comprehensive investigation. In consultation with law enforcement, survivors and advocates, we will work closely together to identify meaningful reform in the best interests of athletes and their families.
Chairing Hearing with USTR Ambassador Lighthizer
On Thursday, my Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to discuss the administration’s trade policies and actions. In Kansas, exports are the way we make a living. Farmers and ranchers depend on the ability to sell the food, fuel and fiber they grow to consumers around the world. I expressed my concern to Ambassador Lighthizer that a prolonged global trade war will raise the price of goods for consumers, result in more retaliation against Kansas ag producers and manufacturers and weaken our ability to work with our allies to challenge China’s unfair trade practices. Approximately $361 million worth of Kansas exports are already being targeted in trade disputes with China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union. I am pleased the administration is working toward a deal with the EU and continue to urge the administration to successfully conclude NAFTA negotiations and pursue new agreements with countries such as Japan.
Prior to my Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Thursday, I joined CNBC’s Squawkbox to emphasize the significant harm a trade war could cause farmers, ranchers and manufacturers. We need certainty and reassurance in our trade policies, and I’m making that clear to my colleagues and administration officials. Click here to watch the full interview.
I also spoke on the Senate floor this week about the importance of trade to Kansas, as well as China’s unfair trade practices. While I remain unconvinced that tariffs are the best tool to change China’s behavior, it does not mean we should not pursue strong enforcement of global trade rules. However, I’m concerned that picking a fight on trade with the rest of the world reduces our ability to win the fight with China – the country most deserving of strong trade actions from the United States. I will continue to urge the president to work with allies to influence China and change their behavior rather than pursue additional tariffs. Click here to watch my full remarks.
Participating in a Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on Spectrum and 5G Deployment
On Wednesday, I joined my Senate Commerce Committee colleagues during a hearing entitled, “The Race to 5G: Exploring Spectrum Needs to Maintain U.S Global Leadership,” to discuss what policies need to be put in place to maintain U.S. competitiveness in fifth generation (5G) wireless technology and the associated economic growth benefits of doing so. The witness panel of industry experts described to the committee the spectrum needs of the commercial sector to effectively deploy this technology.
I had questions for the panel on the utilization of unlicensed spectrum, spectrum leasing arrangements and the Spectrum Relocation Fund being used for research and development regarding the use of commercial spectrum. It is clear that rapid deployment of a nationwide 5G wireless network means more than just improved technical broadband capacity and speeds; it also means economic growth and jobs, which is why I will remain actively engaged on these critical issues. Click here to view my questioning.
Supporting the Future of the Southwest Chief
This week, I filed an amendment to the 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill to ensure continued service by Amtrak along the entire Southwest Chief route. Earlier this year, after it was announced the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded $16 million in TIGER grant funding for the Southwest Chief Route Stabilization Project, Amtrak indicated that it does not intend to fulfill its committed share of project costs to preserve the Southwest Chief passenger train – absolutely unacceptable. Support for passenger rail routes in regions like the Northeast Corridor is well established, but rural transportation alternatives are also imperative. Many in rural communities are long distances from aviation hubs and rely on passenger rail to reach their destinations.
As a government-sponsored enterprise established by Congress, Amtrak provides an important public service, but the input of Amtrak-served communities must be taken into account before any decisions regarding changes in service are made. Serving on both the authorizing and appropriating committees for Amtrak, I will continue my efforts in the Senate to urge Amtrak to make good on its commitment to Kansans and the Southwest Chief.
Holding a Townhall Meeting in Douglas County
On Friday, I visited Baldwin City to listen to Douglas County residents on a Kansas Listening Tour stop. Our discussion included healthcare, veterans’ healthcare, campaign finance, Russian interference in our elections and Chinese trade practices, and I shared updates on the Southwest Chief. Many attendees expressed to me their concerns with the current administration – while I have disagreed with the president on tariffs, family separation at the border and rhetoric, I explained that it is important to continue talking to and working with the president to make Kansans’ opinions known and to affect change on these important issues. Thanks to the many area residents for attending.
Meeting with Major General John Kolasheski
Saturday morning I had the honor of meeting Major General John Kolasheski, the newest commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley. The Big Red One welcomed back Major General Kolasheski and his wife, Buffy, just one month ago; from 2015-2016, he was the deputy commanding general for the division. We discussed the importance of caring for our military families while stationed at Fort Riley and how it impacts readiness. I look forward to working with Major General Kolasheski and continuing the tradition of success from our soldiers at Fort Riley.
Attending the Riley County Fair
On Saturday, Robba and I attended the Riley County Fair in Manhattan where we had the chance to admire different 4-H exhibits and visit with fair-goers. County fairs are important to our way of life in Kansas, and attending the many fairs across the state during the summer has been and continues to be something I look forward to.
EPA Sorghum Announcement
After two years of pressuring the EPA, I was glad to participate in an event announcing the EPA’s approval of utilizing sorghum oil for renewable fuels, including for advanced biofuels and biomass-based diesel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. Kansas farmers are hurting – low commodity prices and falling farm revenue have made it increasingly difficult for producers to make ends meet. Our farmers need as many markets as possible for their products. Approving the pathway is long past due, and I applaud Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler for prioritizing approval of the pathway after assuming leadership of the agency. It is critical for the EPA to recognize the challenges faced by farmers and to make certain it pursues environmental and biofuel policies that do not undermine rural economies.
The newly-approved pathways include biodiesel, jet fuel, heating oil and liquefied petroleum gas produced from sorghum oil, a by-product of ethanol produced by using grain sorghum as a primary feedstock. These pathways meet the greenhouse gas emissions reductions requirements to qualify to generate credits or Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) for biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels under the RFS program. This new feedstock is estimated to produce around 21 million gallons, providing flexibility in meeting volume standards of the RFS program while adding diversity to the biofuel mix in the country. As the highest sorghum-producing state in the country, this is an important development for our farmers and the renewable fuels industry.
Now Accepting 2018 Service Academy Applications
Appointing Kansans to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.; the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo; and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. is one of my favorite duties as a U.S. Senator.
To review requirements and move through the application process, please download an application from my website or contact my Olathe office at 913-393-0711. All application materials are due to my Olathe office by September 7, 2018. After applications have been reviewed, applicants will be notified of interviews with my Service Academy Selection Board, which will take place on Saturday, September 22, 2018, at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.Honored 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.
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