Kansas Common Sense
Feb 16 2021
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Concluding the Senate Impeachment Trial
The violence at the United States Capitol on January 6 was an attempt to subvert democracy, and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms. Rioters and extremists sought to prevent Members of Congress and Vice President Pence from performing their constitutional obligation to affirm the results of an election, and President Trump was wrong to continue to spread allegations of widespread fraud and not immediately discourage the reprehensible and unpatriotic behavior.
The Constitution does not clearly state whether a former president can be tried for impeachment by the Senate, but I believe the impeachment process is intended to be used for considering whether or not “The President” should be removed from office. Because former President Trump is no longer in office, I voted to acquit. Establishing the precedent that the Senate has jurisdiction to convict a former president would cause extreme damage to our country and the future of the presidency.
Celebrating Black History
February is a month to reflect on Black history, to both understand its struggle throughout American history and celebrate the lives and contributions of Black Americans. This past week, I’ve introduced two pieces of legislation that aim to highlight, uplift and preserve our collective knowledge of Black history.
Expanding the Brown v. Board of Education Sites
This week, I joined my Senate colleagues in introducing legislation to honor and commemorate the historic sites that contributed to the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
As one of the cornerstones of the civil rights movement, Kansan Linda Brown and her parents took their case all the way to the Supreme Court, leading to the unanimous overturning of the “separate but equal” doctrine which was established in 1896’s Plessy v. Ferguson that discriminated against school children because of their skin color. This legislation will expand and preserve the historic sites in Kansas and around the country connected to this case. Kansas has played a key role in the civil rights movement, and we must seek to preserve this legacy that calls on all Americans to uphold the self-evident truth that all men and women are created equal.
Honoring the Women of the “Six-Triple-Eight"
Additionally, I introduced legislation to honor the brave women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. Seventy-six years ago, the women of “Six-Triple-Eight,” the only all-female, all-black battalion to serve overseas during World War II, arrived in the European Theater of Operations on February 12th, 1945. Upon arrival, they were faced with warehouses full of millions of pieces of backlogged mail. This unit did the essential work of sorting and directing mail for the 7 million Americans that worked or served in Europe during the war. They cleared that backlog in just three months, making certain that troop morale remained high at a pivotal point in the war, so that troops on the front lines were able to receive mail from home, strengthening their resolve to remain in the fight.
I have had the opportunity to recognize the brave service and sacrifice of these women on multiple occasions in the past, and it is my honor to advocate for this final award. In 2018, I helped lead the effort to place a monument commemorating the women of the Six-Triple-Eight in Buffalo Soldier Memorial Park at Fort Leavenworth (pictured below). I then championed an effort to award the unit the Army Meritorious Unit Commendation: this was the first unit award the 6888 ever received and was well overdue.
Their contributions to the war effort cannot be overstated and my “Six-Triple-Eight” Congressional Gold Medal Act further recognizes their tremendous service and sacrifice.
Remembering Ike this President’s Day
On President’s Day, we recognize the contributions our American presidents have made to our freedom and to the greatness of our nation. Yesterday, I was thinking of Abilene native, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike, a five-star general in the United States Army and the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, represents the best of our country. His name, adorned on schools, memorials and hospitals across our nation and abroad, lives in our memory, and we are inspired by his selfless service and sacrifice to our nation.
I encourage all Kansans to visit Abilene’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum (pictured below) to learn more about the incredible life and legacy of Kansas’ favorite son.
Combatting Global Hunger
Joining CARE’s U.S. Leadership Forum
This week, I joined CARE’s Global Hunger and U.S. Leadership Forum to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on global food systems. This forum highlighted opportunities where Americans can work to meet the challenge of ending global hunger. I believe that fighting hunger is not only the morally right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do.
International food aid programs provide a valuable market for Kansas agricultural producers, as well as strengthen America’s national security by promoting greater stability in the world. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I work to prioritize funding for our international food aid programs, including Food for Peace and Dole-McGovern Food for Education. The Food for Peace law was signed into law by President Eisenhower and Dole-McGovern was established by Senator Dole, and I am proud to carry on the strong Kansas tradition of fighting against global hunger.
Urging Replenishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development
As co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I led a group of senators this week in urging Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to pledge support from the United States for the 12th replenishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to help reduce global hunger. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated global food insecurity and poverty, which had been made worse in recent years due to widespread incidences of conflict and economic disruption. In order for the United States to continue to demonstrate strong leadership, I urged Secretary Yellen to make a robust pledge to IFAD at the pledging conference on February 16, 2021. Taking such action will benefit and enable the world’s most vulnerable populations to generate more income and improve nutrition and food security.
Billions of Dollars in COVID-19 Relief Still Left to be Spent
Last year, Congress spent $4 trillion on bipartisan COVID-19 relief packages to support Americans as our country faced the challenges of this pandemic. The latest COVID-19 relief package provided $900 billion in additional resources and was signed into law on December 27, 2020. Much of that assistance is only now being disbursed.
Federal funds that remain unspent as of late January include $14 billion for COVID-19 testing, $11 billion for the Department of Veteran Affairs, $64 billion for K-12 schools and over $200 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Before authorizing additional funding, Congress must make certain these existing resources are being used efficiently to combat the ongoing effects of this pandemic.
Discussing Rural Health Care with Kansas Medical Students
This week, I met virtually with a group of Kansas medical students who want to serve rural communities after completing their doctorate degrees.
During our meeting, we discussed COVID-19 relief for hospitals through the Provider Relief Fund and allocating 20% for rural hospitals; ensuring pharmaceutical manufacturers do not undermine the role of contract pharmacies in the 340B Drug Pricing Program; and the staffing recruitment difficulties rural hospitals continue to face, especially throughout the pandemic. Ensuring rural communities have access to quality medical care has never been more important, and I thank these students for their commitment to providing medical care in hard-to-reach places. I was pleased to see these students promise they will come back to serve Kansas communities following graduation.
Thank you to Landon Fulmer for organizing this meeting.
Ensuring Veterans Have Access to COVID-19 Vaccines
As the top Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have worked with my colleagues in Congress and in the administration to make certain that veterans in Kansas have access to the best COVID-19 care possible. This included providing PPE and ventilators to health care workers and hospitals during the onset of the pandemic and has now transitioned to efficiently administering vaccines across our state. I was with the leadership of the Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita when they received their first shipment of vaccines in December, and I am encouraged that we are able to vaccinate vulnerable veterans. More than 23,000 veterans have been vaccinated between the Kansas City, Topeka, Leavenworth and Wichita VA Medical Centers and their associated Community-Based Outpatient Clinics.
Currently, veterans who have existing health risks or are over 75 years of age are eligible to receive the vaccine. The VA is reaching out to those individuals personally to notify them of their eligibility and coordinate their vaccines. If you are a veteran, you can click here for more information about the VA’s COVID-19 testing and treatment resources. You can also sign up for updates about vaccine availability here.
As ranking member of the Senate VA Committee, there is no group of individuals whom I hold in higher regard than those who served in uniform. My work in Congress will continue to ensure that veterans are able to access these vaccines.
Meeting with National Sorghum Producers
I met virtually with members of National Sorghum Producers this week to discuss a number of issues facing farmers. We discussed the negative impact the Biden administration’s proposed changes to step up basis rules and capital gains tax rates would have on family farms; the role sorghum and agriculture will play in carbon sequestration in the future; resource conservation and sustainability; and the importance of trade for the success of Kansas farms. Kansas leads the nation in sorghum production, and exporting the crops we grow to consumers around the world is vital for the success of our farmers. It was great to hear from sorghum producers both in Kansas and throughout the nation as I work to advocate on behalf of farmers and ranchers.
Hearing from Kansas Independent College Leaders
This week, I was grateful for the opportunity to hear from several of our Kansas independent college presidents, including Sterling College, Tabor College, University of St. Mary, Central Christian College and Friends University. The funding provided by the CARES Act and other coronavirus relief measures passed by Congress has allowed Kansas higher education institutions to safely reopen for in-person learning.
In addition to providing a strong college experience in the midst of a pandemic, these institutions and their students are helping retain a low unemployment rate in their institutions’ towns. The educators at Kansas’ independent colleges, like the rest of our state, will benefit from an accelerated vaccine distribution process, and I remain committed to securing the necessary funding and resources to get more shots in more arms. Thank you to these leaders for your dedication to Kansas students despite the many challenges you are currently facing.
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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