Kansas Common Sense

Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. Please feel free to forward it on to your family and friends if it would interest them.

Hosting the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program Information Session in Wichita

Congressman Estes and I hosted an information session at Wichita State University on the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection (AMJP) Program to help aviation manufacturers learn more about the federal aid that is available to them.

This program was created by legislation I introduced with Congressman Estes to help protect the aviation manufacturer workforce as the entire aviation industry continues to weather the effects of the pandemic. This program provides funding to eligible businesses to pay up to half of their compensation costs for certain categories of employees, for up to six months.

The aviation manufacturing industry in Wichita plays a critical role in providing Kansans high-paying jobs and supporting commercial and general aviation across the country. I’m pleased this program is now available to support this industry and their invaluable workforce while recovering from the pandemic. I appreciated U.S. Department of Transportation AMJP Program Director Elliott Black for attending and answering questions from industry leaders. Thank you also to Tom Gentile, CEO of Spirit AeroSystems, Paul Feldman, Vice President of Government Affairs at General Aviation Manufacturers Association and Dr. Sheree Utash, WSU Tech President, for welcoming us to the world renowned National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT). 

The AMJP application process is open and closes at 5:00pm ET on Tuesday, July 13th. I urge any eligible business interested in applying to visit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s webpage for more information here.

Additionally, anyone is free to submit questions, particularly about the application process, to AMJP@dot.gov. An overview of the AMJP application process is available here.

Infrastructure Should Be a Bipartisan Effort

Improving our infrastructure is vital to our nation’s economy, safety and to our ability to compete in the global economy. We can pass an infrastructure package in a bipartisan way without raising taxes, without recklessly spending trillions of dollars and without eliminating the filibuster.

On Tuesday morning, I joined Squawk Box on CNBC to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure framework. Watch by clicking here or below.

For the People Act Was Designed to Fail, Underscored the Importance of the Filibuster

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats forced a vote on S.1, the partisan "For the People Act" on the U.S. Senate floor. This legislation is an unprecedented power grab that will undermine the sanctity of our elections. I’ve said it before: this is one of the most monstrous bills I’ve seen during my time in Congress, and it is an affront to the United States Constitution.

On Wednesday, following the vote, I spoke on the Senate floor regarding S.1 and its role in underscoring the importance of maintaining the filibuster, the 60 vote threshold needed to pass legislation.

The Democrats attempted an unprecedented power grab in the Senate that in my view clearly would have impacted the sanctity of our elections and violated the Constitution. The vote was designed to fail in order to pressure Democratic Senators into altering the rules of the Senate and render this place a majority-run institution.

This 60-vote rule is designed to moderate both sides of a question to something that is more acceptable to the American people than anything we might decide on our own, Republican or Democrat. America is better when we work together, and 60 votes requires us to do just that.

Securing a Commitment from Treasury for Utility Bill Relief following Winter Storm Uri

This week, the United States Treasury made clear that the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds – the federal funding distributed to states, counties and municipalities in May – may be used for grants to local businesses and households to pay extraordinarily costly utility bills resulting from the natural gas supply shortages in February. After calling on the Treasury Secretary to work with me to ensure this was a permissible use of the funds in March during a Senate Banking hearing, the Treasury made this clear in updated guidance, and I confirmed this with the Secretary during an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday. Small businesses, households and local government leaders across affected communities in Kansas and the central U.S. should now have confidence in using this funding to resolve exorbitant February utility bills.

Increasing Opportunities for Meat Processors

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant (MPIRG) program is now accepting applications to help small and midsized meat processors increase market opportunities. This program was created by my legislation, the Requiring Assistance to Meat Processers for Upgrading Plants (RAMP-UP) Act, and provides $55.2 million in grants for small and midsized meatpacking plants to make the necessary investments to become federally inspected. Currently, meatpacking facilities can only make sales across state lines if they are federally inspected.

Small meatpackers in Kansas play an important role in providing new markets for livestock producers and meeting a growing, nationwide demand for quality meat. I’m pleased to see the RAMP-UP Act become a reality, giving meat processing facilities the tools they need to increase their market opportunities while strengthening our food supply chain for consumers. I encourage meat and poultry processing facilities in Kansas and across the country that qualify to utilize this program to meet the standards necessary to sell their products across state lines, and I will continue to work to make sure our food supply chain is more resilient and provides greater market opportunities for producers.

MPIRG applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, August 2, 2021. For more information about grant eligibility and program requirements, visit the MPIRG webpage, or contact mpirg@usda.gov.

Working to Strengthen Network Resiliency

On Tuesday, as a member of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband, I participated in a hearing regarding network resiliency and broadband deployment. I questioned witnesses about the structure of current and future federal broadband initiatives and about the importance of the Universal Service Fund. There is a persistent “digital divide” in the United States, as an estimated 14.5 million Americans lack access to broadband, with the majority of these people being in rural and tribal areas. Congress has worked to close this gap, but additional support is being considered as part of infrastructure package negotiations. I asked witnesses about how they believe broadband funds included in infrastructure should be spent, ensuring that currently unserved areas are able to access quality broadband service efficiently, without wasting limited federal resources. I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to ensure that more Kansans have access to the broadband service they need for telemedicine, distance learning and to connect to the online economy.

Improving Veterans’ Access to Health Care

Reviewing Legislation at a Senate VA Committee Hearing
On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a legislative hearing to consider and solicit views on 21 pieces of legislation. A number of these bills address critical topics such as patient safety in VA medical centers, VA’s Solid Start program, alleviating veteran homelessness and VA provider accountability. Among the bills considered were my Guaranteeing Healthcare Access to Personnel who Served Act, or GHAPS Act, that would work to increase certainty and consistency for veterans who get their care from VHA and my VA Supply Chain Resiliency Act that would address VA’s supply chain processes during emergency periods. In addition to representatives from VA, I appreciated hearing from three of our VSO partners on these bills, including the American Legion. I am grateful to have the support of the American Legion, and multiple other VSOs and stakeholders, for the GHAPS Act. I look forward to its continued progress through the legislative process. Click here to watch the full hearing.

Addressing Roadblocks to Mental Health Services
This week, I introduced a bill in the Senate that would address some recently identified issues with the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL). While Congress has made substantial improvements to the VCL in recent years, deficiencies remain that must be addressed to ensure every veteran receives the care they deserve when in crisis. This legislation directs the VA to implement key recommendations made by the Office of Inspector General including improved VCL staff training, an extended safety planning pilot program, as well as a requirement for VA to develop enhanced guidance based on recent research to appropriately assist veterans in crisis with substance use disorders who are at an increased risk for overdose. Additionally, this bill ensures a smooth transition for veterans to 9-8-8 as the national three-digit suicide crisis hotline. Making certain our veterans have the best crisis intervention and suicide prevention services remains a top priority of mine with my work on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.   

Developing Apprenticeships in Tech

This week, I introduced the Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees in Technology (CHANCE in Tech) Act with Senator Heinrich, which would work to alleviate the skills gap that may slow the continued growth of the technology sector. Specifically, the legislation would provide industry intermediaries, like state tech associations, the ability to receive federal grants to develop apprenticeships within the technology sector. Apprenticeships give people hands-on learning opportunities to learn technical skills to benefit them in their careers, and aligning tech training with industry demands will help meet local workforce needs in Kansas and across the nation. I urge my Senate colleagues to support this legislation and will continue to work to fill the tech sector skills gap.

Evaluating FY2022 Budget Requests

Army, Navy and Marine Corps
On Tuesday and Thursday, I attended Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearings for the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. Prior to the hearing, I had the chance to meet with Secretary Wormuth and General McConville to discuss their priorities and Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth’s unique history and contributions to our Army. During the hearing, I highlighted the importance of the Army’s Abrams program to make certain that Big Red One soldiers have the best possible equipment on the battlefield. I also discussed the research and development that is taking place in Kansas to develop digital design capabilities. Digital design will allow soldiers to utilize new technologies to maintain legacy weapons systems and design the next generation of Army programs.

During the Navy and Marine Corps hearing, I also had the opportunity to highlight the CH-53K program and its importance to the Marine Corps as Kansas contributes significantly to the research and manufacturing priorities of the Navy that provide key capabilities to the CH-53K.

FBI
On Wednesday, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science welcomed Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray to discuss the funding priorities for the FBI and the critical issues facing our country. Among those issues was the rising prevalence of violent crime across the U.S., including in Kansas. I asked Director Wray how he planned to lead the FBI in addressing this surge in violent crime and if he would consider providing personnel and resources to cities and communities that are the worst affected. I also shared with him an update on violent crime in Wichita from Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay to ensure Director Wray was aware of the situations we are facing in Kansas communities. We also discussed the rising threat of ransomware and cyberattacks to national security. I spoke to Director Wray about the methods the FBI plans to use to address the threat of ransomware and cyberattacks and what level of resources are needed so the bureau can adequately investigate and protect our country from these types of attacks. 

As the lead Republican of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science that provides oversight to the FBI, I’m committed to working with Director Wray and my colleagues to make certain our nation’s law enforcement have the support and tools necessary to keep us safe.

Supporting Hotels’ COVID-19 Recovery

This week, I introduced the Restored, Equitable, Coronavirus Adjusted Lodging (RECAL) Act. This bipartisan legislation would support the hotel industry’s recovery from COVID-19 by freezing government per diem rates at pre-pandemic levels. The General Services Administration (GSA) establishes the per diem rates, which are the maximum allowances federal employees can be reimbursed for expenses incurred during official travel. Federal travelers are a significant part of the hotel industry’s customer base, and federal travel allowances should reflect a fair price for both travelers and hotels. Freezing these allowances so they are based off of lodging prices prior to the pandemic will provide much needed certainty to help the hotel industry’s recovery while also providing a fair price for their services. I will continue to seek out common sense policies that will further aid our nation’s economic recuperation.

Meeting with Taiwan Ambassador Bi-khim Hsiao

On Tuesday, I met with Taiwan’s Ambassador to the United States, Bi-khim Hsiao. We discussed the robust trade relationship between Taiwan and Kansas, the United States sharing COVID-19 vaccines with Taiwan and the threat China poses to Taiwan, its people and the world. I also had the opportunity to personally thank the ambassador for the 100,000 surgical masks Taiwan donated to Kansas in May of last year that helped protect our frontline medical professionals and those working in our vital food supply chains. I am grateful for the friendship between the United States and Taiwan, and I thank Ambassador Bi-khim Hsiao for our conversation.

Shaking Hands with David Boose

Retired EMT, firefighter and Vietnam veteran David Boose of Lecompton called into my office recently and asked me to stop by his home so he could shake my hand. Happy to report we got it accomplished this weekend!

Thank you for your lifetime of service, David. It was great to meet you.

Bolstering Kansas’ Aviation and Transportation Initiatives

Discussing the Supersonic Transportation Corridor with FAA Administrator Steve Dickson
This week, I met with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson to discuss the recently established Kansas Supersonic Transportation Corridor, an agreement finalized between the Kansas Department of Transportation and the FAA. As the first and only such commercial supersonic flight test route in the nation’s interior, we look forward to the partnerships and research that will stem from the corridor. Additionally, we discussed the 737 MAX and its movement forward after returning to service last November.

I also invited Steve Dickson to Kansas to see the strengths of our aviation state firsthand, and I look forward to continuing our working partnership.

Meeting with Robbie Makinen and Kansas City Area Transportation Authority
It was great to see Robbie Makinen, Terri Barr and Bryce Shields on Wednesday to discuss RideKC Transit services and Kansas City Area Transportation Authority’s (KCATA) ongoing initiatives to connect people to jobs, education, health care and housing. Robbie, Terri and Bryce also shared RideKC’s accomplishment of implementing a Zero Fare transit program, which has increased ridership and improved operator safety by eliminating 90 percent of driver-involved disturbances.

I was also pleased to announce a $3.3 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to continue transitioning its fleet to zero-emission buses and expand its electric charging infrastructure this week. It was great to discuss this grant in person and hear more about the extension during our meeting. The need to improve service has long been identified as critical to creating and sustaining a robust transportation system in Kansas City, and I am glad that our community leaders have used innovative methods for addressing this need.

Speaking with the Kansas Electric Cooperative Youth Tour Conference

On Wednesday, I was pleased to speak with a group of students participating in the Kansas Electric Cooperative Youth Tour Conference, where we discussed a variety of issues important to Kansans and our nation. Our conversation centered around the negative impact changes to the inheritance tax and the step-up in basis would have on the ability of family farms and businesses to pass on their operations from one generation to the next, the importance of growing our nation’s export markets for Kansas commodities in places such as Cuba to avoid an overreliance on trade with China, and ways to better support our military families who sacrificed so much for our county. I appreciate hearing from students across Kansas and look forward to this group’s return to in-person trips to Washington, D.C.

 

Touring Kraft Telerobotics in Kansas City

This week, I visited Kraft Telerobotics in Kansas City. Founded in 1982, Kraft is a leading manufacturer of manipulator systems and remotely operated vehicles for use in hazardous environments. Their manipulator arms are used to complete difficult subsea tasks in support of offshore oil exploration, deep water drilling and underwater construction.

On land, their systems are used to demolish nuclear power plants, repair power lines as well as support the maintenance of the Space Station and other NASA programs. I appreciated learning more about Kraft’s impressive operations, and thank Owner Brett Kraft for his time.

Sons of American Legion Biscuit and Gravy Breakfast

I had a great breakfast on Saturday morning at the Sons of American Legion Biscuit and Gravy Breakfast at Pearce-Keller Post No. 17 The American Legion! Seeing so many familiar faces was a great way to start the weekend. I enjoyed catching up with those in attendance, including National Executive Committeeman of the Kansas Department of the American Legion Dan Wiley of Leavenworth.

Newsletter Sign-up Form

Note: Fields marked with an * are required.