Kansas Common Sense

Wishing You Happy Holidays

Happy holidays to you and yours! Robba and I hope that you are able to spend quality time with loved ones during this joyous season. May God bless you and your families in the New Year!

As we gather with loved ones to celebrate this season, we are also thinking of the many men and women in uniform at home and abroad who are unable to be with friends and family as they fight to protect our homeland. Missing the holidays represents one of the many sacrifices our servicemembers and their families make, and I am grateful for their dedicated service to their fellow Americans.

Safeguarding our Freedoms

On Tuesday, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is critical to safeguarding our freedoms and supporting our servicemembers and their families. This legislation further modernizes our military and includes the largest pay raise for our troops in nearly a decade. I applaud my colleagues for working to create a bipartisan bill that we can send to the President’s desk.

I was particularly pleased to see several of my priorities included in the final legislation. This includes the Cyber Red Team Assessment to increase security against new and emerging cyber threats, which will help support missions related to the 177th Information Aggressor Squadron of the Kansas Air National Guard Unit stationed at McConnell Air Force Base. In addition, the NDAA includes my bill, the Global Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing Act, to strengthen Kansas manufacturers, specifically within aerospace, defense, technology and agriculture. I’m also pleased that this bill will secure a Military-Type Certification for the Textron AT-6 Light Attack Aircraft, which will have a significant impact on the Kansas aerospace community. To read more about my priorities included in this legislation, please click here.

Funding our Government

Passing the CJS Appropriations Package

On Thursday, the Senate passed my FY2020 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill. As Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee who authored this legislation, this fiscally responsible bill includes essential resources to further our nation’s priorities in scientific innovation, law enforcement and economic development. This legislation will not only benefit Kansans with federal programs aimed to keep communities safe and invest in infrastructure, but it also accelerates the goal of returning American astronauts to the moon and cementing our country’s leadership in space exploration.

This legislation also strengthens trade enforcement and invests in advancing severe weather forecasting. I am grateful to have worked closely with Ranking Member Shaheen to pass a good government, bipartisan bill that enables numerous agencies within our jurisdiction to accomplish their missions and address the needs of our nation. I look forward to President Trump signing this legislation into law and seeing the ways in which these federal resources impact communities in Kansas and across the country.

NIH Appropriations Increase

Throughout my time in Congress, I have been an advocate for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its mission to save lives, invest in the next generation of Americans and help to establish the United States as a world leader in health research and innovation. This week Congress provided additional resources that will serve to assist our nation’s top minds and researchers in new discoveries, including treatments and cures for diseases. In addition, deadly and devastating diseases result in large financial pressure on families and our healthcare system. NIH’s research serves to find new treatments and therefore reduces costs, serving to benefit all Americans.

Appropriations Increase for International Food Aid

Within the FY2020 Appropriations package that passed last week were increases to international food aid resources. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I work to prioritize funding for our international food aid programs and I was pleased to see that both the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program and the Food for Peace Title II Grants received increases in funding to further their missions and assist in reducing global food security, and benefits Kansas farmers in moving commodities, such as grain. This is an issue in which the morally correct thing to do is also what’s in the best interest of our country. By continuing to invest in Food for Peace, McGovern-Dole, and other international food aid programs, food grown by U.S. and Kansas farmers will save lives around the world and reduce conflict by promoting greater social and economic stability.

Promoting Advancement in Technical Aviation Training

Recently, I introduced The Promoting Aviation Regulations for Technical Training (PARTT) 147 Act of 2019. This legislation would establish performance-based regulations to ensure aviation maintenance education institutions have the flexibility to teach core curriculum reflective of the ongoing technical advances and innovation happening across the aviation and aerospace industry. Updated 50 years ago, these regulations are no longer reflective of the modernized industry, and updated curriculum requirements are critical in ensuring our future workforce of highly-skilled aviation maintenance technicians.   

Providing Better Care for Our Veterans

On Wednesday, I introduced the Competitive Pay for Leaders in Veterans Health Care Act to make certain we have the best possible workforce at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) delivering the best possible care to our veterans. Nine years ago, we passed a law to help VA recruit and retain the best and brightest leaders to manage the many different specialty care functions that VA provides. This bill will make certain that VA retains the ability to provide competitive pay to attract and keep highly specialized and highly competent leaders serving our veterans in the nation’s largest integrated healthcare system. Without this change, VA would need to collect the higher payment amount back from current and past employees and would face significant challenges hiring qualified healthcare providers.

Honoring Kansans at Arlington National Cemetery

This Tuesday I attended the funeral of Colonel (Ret.) Clyde and Sadie Tate at Arlington National Cemetery. Clyde and Sadie were the parents of one of my law school classmates, Butch, who went on to serve as the Deputy Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army before retiring in 2013. Clyde had a distinguished career in the United States Army, enlisting in 1948 and rising to the rank of Sergeant First Class before commissioning as a second lieutenant in 1953. Throughout his career, Clyde served two combat tours in Vietnam, once deploying from Fort Riley, Kansas. His final posting allowed him to serve as the Director of the Department of Tactics at the Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a school that his son would eventually graduate. Throughout Clyde’s military career, Sadie made certain the family was happy and healthy after braving 37 moves.

Attending Clyde’s funeral and catching up with Butch was a somber occasion, but one that filled me with gratitude. The funeral was just days after Wreaths Across America took place, an event in which thousands of patriotic Americans across the country place wreaths on the gravestones of our fallen service members in national cemeteries, including the 400,000 in Arlington alone. Walking through Arlington National Cemetery and seeing every memorial stone adorned with a carefully-placed wreath highlighted the impact of these veteran’s sacrifices and the debt we owe them for their service. As we look forward to Christmas, I ask you to keep the men and women serving in uniform in your prayers during this holiday season.

Judicial Nominations Reach Record Numbers

At of the end of this week, the Senate confirmed the 187th Article III judge appointed by President Donald Trump. This includes the appointments of Judges Holly Teeter and John Broomes to the court for the District of Kansas, 50 circuit court judges, 133 district court judges and two international trade court judges. Working together, President Trump and the Senate sat more appellate court judges than any president in history. There is still work to be done with another 84 total judicial vacancies in the US and I will continue to work with my colleagues to fill these seats and ensure timely court access for all Americans.

Confirming Kansan Michael Graham

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Michael Graham to serve as a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board. A Wichita native, Mr. Graham currently serves as the Director of Flight Operations Safety, Security, and Standardization at Textron Aviation, where he has worked since 1997. Prior to his work in the aviation industry, he spent nine years as a Naval Aviator flying A-7’s and F/A 18’s as well as being an F/A-18 Aircrew instructor for Boeing/McDonnell Douglas. With a long and decorated career of service and safety, both in the military and as a civilian, Mr. Graham is well suited to be a member of the National Transportation Safety Board and I am proud to call him a Kansan. I appreciate his willingness to continue to serve our country and look forward to continuing to work together here in Washington. To watch my introduction of Mr. Graham to the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this year, please click here.

Paying My Respects to Ben Bennett

On Friday morning, I attended the funeral service for a longtime public servant and friend, Ben Bennett.  Ben began serving the community of Junction City in 1965 when he accepted a position as a high school government teacher and head wrestling coach, quickly establishing himself across the country for his positive impact on student-athletes. After his teaching and coaching career, Ben continued his public service as the Geary County Commissioner for over a decade. From my first days as a Congressman, I was lucky to know Ben and his desire to give back to his community. He served those around him loyally, and truly embodied the Kansan way of life. Ben’s impact on the community will be remembered by many.

Visiting Mitchell County

Also on Friday, I was in Mitchell County for a Kansas Listening Tour Stop in Beloit. I was able to hear directly from Kansans on the issues most important to them, ranging from the impeachment articles currently being held in the House, USMCA and our nation’s border to government spending. Thank you to everyone who joined me for sharing your thoughts and opinions.

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,
Jerry

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