Kansas Common Sense
Dec 16 2019
Statement Regarding Articles of Impeachment Advanced by the House Judiciary Committee
Democrats have been trying to overturn the results of President Trump’s election and delegitimize his presidency for three years. The impeachment hearings led by House Democrats have been purely partisan and the entire process has been flawed. I do not support the articles of impeachment advanced by the House Judiciary Committee. Should these articles of impeachment be sent from the House, President Trump will finally have a fair trial in the Senate.
Under the Constitution, the role of a Senator is to act as a juror. Therefore, unless and until the House impeaches President Trump, and the Senate has concluded its review of the impeachment charges, it is inappropriate for me to say how I would vote. But I’ve seen no evidence that President Trump should be removed from office
Encouraging U.S. Competitiveness
As co-chair and founder of the Senate Competitiveness Caucus, I was pleased to join the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and the Brookings Institute to discuss their newly-released report “The Case for Growth Centers: How to Spread Tech Innovation Across America.” The findings show that from 2005 to 2017, 90 percent of the nation’s innovation sector growth occurred in only five metropolitan areas, all of which are located on the coasts. This type of concentration does not allow us to capitalize on the potential of all regions, including Kansas.
I founded the Competitiveness Caucus with the core focus of generating awareness on issues pertinent to U.S. economic growth, and what it means for our national security, prosperity and role as a worldwide economic leader. As the global economy continues to become increasingly integrated and automated, it will take our entire nation to maintain the United States’ position as an innovative leader. By removing federal barriers and providing targeted federal resources, we can foster an environment where innovation can flourish and cement America’s role as a global economic power. Thank you to the ITIF and Brookings for their work to examine this issue. I remain committed to working with them and my Senate colleagues to do more to expand these growth centers across the country.
Recognizing Major Kelly McManus
On Wednesday, I spoke on the floor in tribute of my Congressional Army Fellow, Major Kelly McManus. Over the past year, she has worked to serve Kansans, service-members and veterans in my Washington, D.C. office demonstrating her leadership and professionalism. After spending time in our state and having personal conversations with Kansans, she led efforts to secure maternity leave for those serving in the National Guard and Reserve and sought to increase access to suicide prevention programs and destigmatize the notions surrounding mental illness. A testament to her leadership over this past year was her promotion to Major in July, which I had the honor and privilege of attending and participating in. Kelly has had an outstanding career in the Army over the past ten years, deploying abroad and serving stateside, and I look forward to following her future accomplishments in service to our nation. Thank you, Kelly.
Sending a Holiday Card to our Troops
This week, I stopped by the American Red Cross’ Holiday Mail for Heroes event to write a card for a service-member serving overseas during the holiday season. The holiday season provides a time for us to show our appreciation for others, and there is no one we should appreciate more than the men and women serving our country. Thank you to all our brave service members, and their families, for your sacrifice while spending time away from loved ones this holiday season.
Applauding Agreements Reached on Trade
I have long advocated for movement on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and I applaud the White House and Congress for reaching an agreement this week and advancing this deal. Canada and Mexico are Kansas’ top two export markets, and over the last two years, I have heard directly from Kansans how vital a modern trade deal like USMCA would be for our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers to compete and succeed in the 21st Century economy. Now is the time to get USMCA across the finish line, and I urge the House to quickly bring USMCA up for a vote.
President Trump also announced a “Phase One” trade deal with China. I have advocated for an agreement that addresses China’s bad behavior on trade, while restoring markets for American products, especially agricultural goods. According to the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the agreement will address much of China’s misbehavior on trade, including intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer. China also agreed to purchase $200 billion in additional goods from the United States, including $40-$50 billion in agricultural products annually for the next two years. In return, the U.S. has indefinitely suspended enacting additional rounds of tariffs on imports from China and lowered certain tariffs currently in effect. While I look forward to reviewing the details of the agreement, this appears to be a positive step toward reducing trade tension and expanding market access to China.
National Suicide Hotline Designation Act
On Wednesday, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act passed out of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and is now up for consideration by the full Senate. I am a cosponsor of this legislation that would provide increased and expedited mental health support to those who need it by designating 9-8-8 as the number dedicated solely to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, similar to 9-1-1. According to a 2017 report by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of 47,000 people that year. This tragic public health pattern is more prominent in particularly vulnerable populations like that of our veterans’ community. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) recent National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report indicated that the suicide rate for veterans in 2017 was 1.5 times the rate for non-veteran adults.
While Americans currently have access to a ten-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a report produced by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), VA and others found the designation of a three-digit hotline, specifically 9-8-8, dedicated solely to national suicide prevention and mental health crisis management would significantly increase Americans’ access to potentially life-saving services. As a member of both the Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Commerce Committees, I remain committed to ensuring veterans and all Americans have timely access to professional-level resources for suicide prevention and mental health.
The CONTRACT Act
Also during Wednesday’s Senate Commerce Committee meeting, I was pleased the Continuity for Operators with Necessary Training Required for ATC Contract Towers (CONTRACT) Act, passed out of committee. I am an original cosponsor of this legislation which supports our aviation industry by removing an unnecessary barrier in the hiring pipeline for air traffic control facilities participating in the FAA’s Federal Contract Tower (FCT) program. With 256 air traffic control towers currently participating in the FCT program, including eight located in Kansas, these towers are imperative to managing the safety and efficiency of our nation’s complex airspace and are often staffed by retired FAA controllers. Due to changes in the Federal Employees Retirement System, retired FAA air traffic control specialists face an offset penalty that subtracts from their retirement payments when they earn more than a set amount annually. Given that FAA controllers face mandatory retirement at age 56, these experienced controllers should not have to choose between continuing to use their skills at a contract tower or the retirement benefits they earned. I look forward to working with my colleagues on this important issue and further supporting our nation’s contract towers.
The FIRST Act
On Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced my bill, the FIRST Act, to be considered by the full Senate. The FIRST Act would allow the names of fallen First Infantry Division soldiers who were killed in Operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn, and Enduring Freedom to be added to the First Infantry Division Monument located on the grounds of the White House. This monument currently honors the service, dedication, and ultimate sacrifice of each individual soldier who was Killed in Action while serving in the Big Red One during World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. It is imperative that we continue to honor the service and sacrifice of our First Infantry Division soldiers, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to send this bill to the President’s desk.
Confirming the Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services
On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Aurelia Skipwith to be the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Director Skipwith is an effective leader and recognizes the value of working with local stakeholders to find sensible solutions. In October of this year, I met with Director Skipwith in her previous capacity as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior to discuss the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge water rights dispute. I explained the need for farmers and ranchers to be able to utilize groundwater in the basin and the importance of agriculture to the rural economy. In the meeting, Director Skipwith committed to working with local stakeholders to find a voluntary solution to the dispute, and the first meeting between FWS and stakeholders in Kansas has taken place since then. I am pleased the Senate voted to confirm her, and I look forward to continuing to work with her and Kansans to find a resolution to the Quivira water rights dispute.
Confirming U.S. Ambassador to Russia
On Thursday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved John Sullivan to be our nation’s new ambassador to Russia. This important position has been vacant for two months, and I am pleased the Senate moved quickly to fill it. Russia remains a key threat to the United States, and it is essential to have a diplomat in place to defend American interests and explore, if possible, ways to improve the relationship. Sullivan pledged “resolute opposition” where Russia undermines American interests, including threatening election security. I am confident Ambassador Sullivan will serve the United States well in Moscow.
Discussing Flood Corp Pools
On Friday, I hosted a meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District (USACE KC), Kansas Farm Service Agency (KFS), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRSC), Risk Management Agency and Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) to discuss the Tuttle Creek Reservoir and the impact of the 2019 flooding within the area. This was an opportunity to explore solutions for those negatively impacted by flooding north of the reservoir and to hear from the agencies with a role in providing financial relief and resiliency measures in response to flooding events. I want to thank the farmers and landowners who joined the meeting to share their stories and how their operations have been affected, as well as the agency representatives USACE KC District Commander Col. William Hannan, KSF Executive Director David Schemm, USDA NRSC State Conservationist Karen Woodrich, Risk Management Agency Regional Office Director Collin Olsen, and KDWPT Secretary Brad Loveless for attending.
Touring Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company
On Friday, I toured the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company commercial manufacturing plant in Topeka. This site was originally constructed in 1944 as part of a federal government program during World War II, and then purchased the next year by Goodyear. The plant will soon be celebrating its 75th Anniversary, demonstrating the long commitment Goodyear has made to employment in Kansas. During the tour, I was able to see the manufacturing process and learn about the strong partnership they have with the Topeka Chamber, who also joined us for the tour. Thank you to Brian Riley and Nathan Facey for hosting the tour and Matt Pivarnik, Curtis Sneden, and Molly Howey from the Topeka Chamber for joining.
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 letter, a Facebook comment, or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
Very truly yours,
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