Kansas Common Sense
Oct 11 2021
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The Biden Administration’s Plan to Expand the IRS Intrudes on the Privacy of Working Americans
On Thursday, I spoke on the Senate floor about a proposal to give the IRS unfettered access to nearly every American’s financial accounts. Knowing how much money a Kansan earns isn’t enough; now the IRS wants to know how you spend your money. This invasive plan would put the privacy and financial data of taxpayers at risk while imposing burdensome reporting requirements on every local financial institution with the associated costs ultimately borne by the customers. Kansas relies heavily on local banks and credit unions to provide communities with lending services to finance a small business expansion or mortgage. The personal relationship between a banker and their customers is one based on trust, and mandating these banks report their customers’ account activity wholly breaches that trust.
Americans are more wary than ever of the federal government and the financial system; Congress and the Biden administration should prioritize strengthening faith in the financial system, not pursuing policies that will push people away. Rather than listen to the enormous pushback from Americans and eliminating consideration of this invasive mandate, Democrats are pushing through the taxes needed to fund their massive spending spree. Listen to my remarks by clicking here or below.
Opposing a Debt Limit Increase
As inflation rates continue to climb, burdening American families with higher prices at the gas station and grocery store, Congress should be working on an enduring solution to rein in federal spending, not passing short-term proposals that kick the problem down the road. I did not support the Democrats’ efforts to raise the debt limit to facilitate their out-of-control spending that is jeopardizing our economy and hurting American families.
Questioning the Facebook Whistleblower
At a Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security hearing, I questioned Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen regarding protecting children online. During the hearing, I asked Ms. Haugen about instances in which Facebook knew its decisions would be harmful to users but still proceeded with the harmful behavior. Unfortunately, her answer confirmed my concerns that Facebook failed to address the issues its internal research identified.
People should be able to connect with one another online without being manipulated by secret algorithms created by Big Tech that can exacerbate mental illness and thoughts of suicide. In addition, there must be increased transparency provided by these tech giants so that Kansans have the information necessary to choose what services to use and have better control over their personal data and privacy information. Click here or below to watch my questioning.
Supporting Data Security and Telehealth Access
At this week’s Senate Commerce Subcommittee hearing on “Removing Barriers to Access and Improving Patient Outcomes,” I discussed my bill, the Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act, and the value of allowing payment parity for audio-only telehealth visits. While this legislation would benefit thousands of civil Americans, through my role as Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I also understand the significance of audio-only and access to telehealth services for our nation’s veterans, especially those residing in rural areas. The Department of Veterans Affairs must ensure its telehealth services are being effectively implemented at the local level. I remain committed to further strengthening this method of care for our nation’s heroes and all Americans.
Requesting Information from Secretary Mayorkas Regarding the Humanitarian Crisis at the Border
This week, my Senate colleagues and I urged Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to address reports that thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, were released into the interior of the U.S. instead of facing removal as the administration had previously pledged. This request comes after I requested similar information last month from Secretary Mayorkas regarding the processing of migrants at the border, which has received no response.
While I applaud the administration’s original stated intent to expel the majority of migrants under the CDC’s Title 42 order or to expeditiously remove them, I am concerned that DHS did not actually carry out this plan, deployed resources in a manner that weakened border security and undermined the deterrent effect of any future statements that the Biden administration will enforce our immigration laws at the border.
DHS has openly admitted that the rapid influx of Haitian migrants into the interior was orchestrated by smuggling organizations, which only makes some aspects of the agency’s response more puzzling. The administration’s response to the ongoing border crisis only makes it more likely that we will continue to experience surges like the one in Del Rio. Read the full letter by clicking here.
Protecting First Amendment Rights
The move by the Biden administration and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to intimidate parents from exercising their First Amendment rights following its school board intervention is troubling. President Biden assured the American people he would not politicize the DOJ, yet this action is a clear attempt to use the DOJ to exact political pressure on American citizens who oppose his agenda.
Every parent should be able to exercise their First Amendment rights to voice legitimate concerns with those in charge of their children’s education without fear of an FBI investigation or federal prosecution.
I urge the AG to take swift and appropriate action to assure the American public that the DOJ will not, in any way, restrict or discourage parents from exercising their rights to free speech.
Meeting with Kansas Leaders in Washington, D.C.
Kansas City Kansas Community College
On Tuesday, I met with Kansas City Kansas Community College President Dr. Greg Mosier and Dr. Tami Bartunek, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Outreach, where we discussed KCKCC’s ongoing fundraising campaign for a Downtown Community Education Center. I appreciate their focus on expanding educational opportunities for Kansas City and surrounding areas to meet heightened employer demand. I regularly hear from business leaders across our state who identify the shortage of skilled workers as a primary concern. KCKCC’s new center and overall concentration on workforce development will yield important economic benefits not only for Wyandotte County but Kansas at large.
Kansas Municipal Utilities
This week, I met with Kansas Municipal Utilities to discuss comparable tax incentives for renewable energy and the harm House Democrats’ proposed Clean Electricity Payment Program would have on energy affordability and reliability. We also discussed the importance of the federal funds being allowed to assist Kansas energy consumers who face extraordinarily high energy bills as a result of Winter Storm Uri and the subsequent, severe natural gas shortage that occurred earlier this year.
In June, I worked to secure clarification from the U.S. Treasury that Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds may be used as grants for households, small businesses and nonprofits with inflated utility bills from the natural gas shortage during Winter Storm Uri. This clarification follows my questioning of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in March regarding the flexible use of federal funds provided to state and local governments to address the distressing circumstances many Kansans faced as a result of the extreme weather. Thank you to Kansas Municipal Utilities delegation for your time and for sharing their insights into these issues.
Meeting with Food and Ag Leaders
Hilmar Cheese and International Dairy Foods Association
This week, I met with David Ahlem, President and CEO of Hilmar Cheese, Scott Graham, Chief Operating Officer at Hilmar Cheese and Michael Dykes, President and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association.
In May of this year, Hilmar announced its decision to build a new state-of-the-art cheese and whey protein processing plant in Dodge City. The new facility is expected to create 247 new jobs, represents $460 million in capital investment and will expand southwest Kansas’ job market. During our meeting, we discussed the importance of trade and export markets to the dairy foods industry, especially in Asia. Additionally, as a member of the Senate Ag Appropriations Subcommittee, I discussed the subcommittee’s oversight of critical funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture research on dairy products and efforts to modernize food safety and labeling regulations at the Food and Drug Administration. I thank David, Scott and Michael for meeting with me in Washington, D.C. this week and their work growing the dairy industry in Kansas. Click here or below to learn more from the Dodge City Daily Globe about Hilmar’s plans in Dodge City.
This week, I met with National Beef and U.S. Premium Beef to discuss issues facing the cattle industry. Established by cattle producers in the 1990s, U.S. Premium Beef offers cattlemen the opportunity to increase profits through market incentives for high quality cattle. We discussed the current need for increased packer capacity to ensure that revenues from meat sales at the grocery store are flowing back to cattle producers. Additionally, we discussed efforts by National Beef to keep workers safe at their Dodge City and Liberal facilities during the pandemic, as well as to continue to produce meat for Americans to eat. As the third largest cattle-producing state in the nation, the success of the Kansas cattle industry is critical to our state. Thank you to Tim Klein of National Beef, Stan Linville of US Premium and Carmen Rottenberg for their rime this week.
Bolstering Fort Hays State’s Law Enforcement Capabilities
This week, I announced a $1.25 million grant to Fort Hays State University (FHSU) from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. This Community Policing Development Program (CPD) grant will support the recently established De-Escalation Regional Training Center that will provide national level training for law enforcement in Kansas and surrounding states.
As the chief appropriator for the Department of Justice, I work to make certain law enforcement officers have the tools and resources necessary to keep our communities safe. I am pleased this federal grant will support the establishment of a regional training center in Hays for law enforcement across the Midwest to learn and develop the skills necessary to effectively and appropriately de-escalate challenging and dangerous situations they encounter in the field.
Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing
This week I chaired a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing to consider the nominations for positions at the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor. Guy Kiyokawa is VA’s nominee to lead the Office of Enterprise Integration, which handles strategic planning, policy development and interagency coordination for the department. He is a retired Army Colonel and Deputy Director of the Defense Health Agency. I asked Mr. Kiyokawa about his plans for VA’s Office of Enterprise Integration and noted that his experience working at the Defense Health Agency would greatly improve VA’s capacity to undertake multiple modernization efforts.
James Rodriguez is the Department of Labor’s nominee to lead the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, which provides states with grants to help veterans, including those facing homelessness, to find employment. DOL VETS’ also provides employment training for servicemembers before they leave the military. I asked Mr. Rodriguez, who served 21 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, how his own experience transitioning out of the military informs his view of the biggest challenges in the Transition Assistance Program. A successful transition from active service to civilian life is critical to the overall well-being of veterans, especially their mental health.
This hearing demonstrated the numerous pieces of our federal government that all play a role in helping our nation’s veterans achieve success after service. It is critical that these efforts be coordinated and complement one another so VA, DOL VETS and any other federal efforts can produce measurable outcomes that reflect a return on our investment in our veterans.
Thanking NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins for His Leadership
This week, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins announced he will step down by the end of the year. Dr. Collins has been a steady and strong leader at the NIH through three presidential administrations and the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, I greatly appreciate Dr. Collins for taking time to travel to Kansas to learn about the research being conducted in our state and, more recently, meeting with and thanking staff at The University of Kansas Health System for their tireless work during the pandemic. Over the last decade it has been my pleasure to work alongside Dr. Collins, and I thank him for his commitment to supporting public health and research.
National 4-H Week
Last week was National 4-H Week, and I appreciate all the students, staff and volunteers who help young people grow their confidence and life skills through 4-H. A special thank you to members of Kansas 4-H for the role they play in youth development and education in our state.
The U.S. Navy Celebrates 246 Years
The United States Navy celebrated its 246th birthday this week. Kansas has a rich naval history despite our central geographic location. During World War II, Olathe Naval Air Station and Hutchinson Naval Air Station were built to house and train Navy pilots. John Glenn, who became the first American to orbit the Earth, trained in Olathe and had his first solo flight there. More than 40 Navy ships have been named after cities, places, and people from Kansas, including the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Happy Manufacturing Month
To the manufacturers in Kansas and across the country, thank you for your contributions. The work you do each day builds our economy and keeps us at the forefront of innovation.
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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