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.
Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Each January, as we celebrate the life and legacy of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., we are called to keep striving towards a more perfect union. May we all commit ourselves to keeping his dream alive, to helping others and to building a better future for our children.
The Filibuster Protects Rural and Minority Views
This week, I joined my colleagues in speaking about the importance of the filibuster in the United States Senate. The filibuster protects the minority – whether Republican or Democrat, rural or urban, or an unusual idea – and the ability for a member of the Senate to speak on behalf of his or her constituents and advocate for their views.
Kansas, a largely rural state, benefits greatly from the deliberative nature of the Senate and the institution’s longstanding respect for the minority. It allows every Senator to have the opportunity to garner more information, to seek out the sponsors of a bill, to have a conversation, and to pull people together before we decide to proceed on legislation. But the filibuster does more than that – it forces us to work together. Freedoms and liberties are protected by process – by the Constitution and by the 60-vote rule in the United States Senate. In the circumstance that those are eroded, the personal freedoms of Kansans and all Americans will disappear.
Last year voters gave President Biden the narrowest possible majority in the Senate – 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. Voters have denied Democrats a sweeping mandate to transform our country. President Biden and Majority Leader Schumer want to change the 60-vote rule that they used and agreed with just a few years ago to pass their federal election overall. Thankfully, both Republicans and Democrats agree that this is not the way to pass an election reform bill.
Watch my full comments on Leader Schumer’s threats to change the rules of the Senate and eliminate the filibuster by clicking here or below.
Supreme Court Strikes Down President Biden’s Vaccine Mandate for Private Businesses
On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay to block enforcement of President Biden’s vaccine mandate for private businesses. The mandate, which came in the form of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), represented a severe overreach of authority, and I’m pleased the court halted its enforcement. This ruling is a win for individual liberty.
I recently joined a number of my congressional colleagues in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the petitioners seeking a stay. Additionally I joined a bipartisan majority of the Senate in formally moving to disapprove and nullify the Biden administration’s mandate under the Congressional Review Act – the official process for Congress to overturn an executive branch regulation. In its majority opinion, the court stated that particular vote of disapproval was the “most noteworthy action concerning the vaccine mandate by either House of Congress.”
At the same time, the Supreme Court upheld the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandate for health care workers. In November, I urged the CMS Administrator to rescind, or in the absence of rescission, significantly modify the COVID-19 Healthcare Staff Vaccination interim rule to prevent staffing shortages for health care providers across the country.
I am vaccinated, and I will continue to urge Kansans to get vaccinated, but that decision should be left to each individual in consultation with doctors they trust – not somebody in Washington, D.C.
Examining Veteran Suicide at Senate VA Committee Roundtable
On Wednesday, I hosted a roundtable with Chairman Tester examining veteran suicide and mental health during the transition period from military service to civilian life. Making this transition can be a stressful and uncertain time for veterans: suicide rates after separation from service are the highest during the first year and generally peak in the six to 12 month period after separation. As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I am working to find solutions and services Congress can put in place to help veterans during this time.
I was glad to hear from participants, including Dr. Art DeGroat from K-State, who shared his findings with the committee. While my staff and I continue to provide oversight of VA’s implementation of the Commander John Scott Hannon Act, it is important we remain committed to reducing veteran suicide and improving mental health for all veterans and servicemembers
Questioning Health Officials Regarding Unprepared Testing Response
On Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee held a hearing to receive an update from the administration’s health officials. I questioned CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, Acting FDA Administrator Dr. Janet Woodcock and HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell about the lack of access to COVID-19 tests.
Despite the fact that Congress has allocated $82.6 billion to ensure adequate testing capabilities, and the knowledge that the winter months and evolving variants would bring an increase in COVID cases, Kansans are waiting in long lines across the state for testing appointments and are unable to purchase at-home testing kits. The administration, and the FDA in particular, must work to improve the process of approving at-home, direct-to-consumer COVID-19 tests. Watch my questioning here or below.
Hosting a National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Briefing
On Thursday, I hosted a two-part briefing on the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) for my Senate colleagues. We received updates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the process to transfer operations from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) in New York to NBAF. We discussed the attraction NBAF will create for scientific professionals and private industry partnerships to come to Manhattan and the surrounding areas, as well as the facility’s laboratory construction standards, biocontainment protocols and operational safety and security procedures.
Additionally, a section of the briefing was classified given NBAF’s national security implications. This facility will be our nation’s most advanced laboratory focused on agricultural safety and health, and the agro-defense research from this state-of-the-art facility will contribute to our national security. Thank you to DHS and USDA, including NBAF Director Dr. Alfonso Clavijo for his dedicated work to NBAF and his time speaking with us.
Securing Assistance for Landowners Impacted by Recent Wind and Fires
This week, along with Senator Marshall and Congressman Mann, I urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make adjustments to existing assistance program for landowners impacted by recent wind and fires. I am troubled by USDA’s implementation of the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) for landowners repairing damaged fences. With many fences damaged by wind and fire needing partial repair, but not full replacement, it is important for USDA to provide assistance to all of these producers. Our letter points out the statute authorizing ECP specifically allows cost-share assistance to repair fences.
Additionally, as a result of the time of year the fires occurred, many cattle that were killed were about to calve, making them more valuable than an open cow. It is important for USDA to ensure the full market value of these bred cows are factored into Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) payment rates. I appreciate the Kansas Farm Service Agency and Natural Resource Conservation Service working with landowners recovering from the disaster, and I will continue to urge the USDA national office to provide full assistance to impacted producers.
KLA Wildfire/Storm Relief Fund Application Still Open
The Kansas Livestock Foundation opened its Wildfire/Storm Relief Fund application for Kansas farmers, ranchers and producers affected by recent wildfires and severe storms. To receive assistance from KLF, producers must complete the application available here. Applicants do not need to be members of the Kansas Livestock Association to apply.
The deadline to apply is January 31, 2022. More information is available here or you may call KLA directly at 785-273-5115.
Economic Update from Senate Banking Hearing
On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell appeared before the Senate Banking Committee. Due to out-of-control government spending and supply chain backlogs, Kansans are experiencing the worst inflation levels in 40 years when shopping for food, filling up their cars or heating their homes. Chair Powell committed to using the full extent of the Fed’s power to try to rein in surging prices that are hurting American families. Additionally, he reiterated that the Federal Reserve must adhere to its dual mandate of price stability and low unemployment rather than pursue partisan climate activism.
Discussing Connectivity Needs with Kansas Broadband Development Office
Ensuring Kansans have access to quality broadband internet service is vitally important to our state. Businesses and families alike rely on broadband to connect them to the rest of world. However, some areas of Kansas do not have access to broadband. On Wednesday, I met with Stanley Adams, Director of the Kansas Office of Broadband Development, to talk about the connectivity needs of Kansans and how the federal government can best help to connect our state.
Federal investment in broadband deployment is an important aspect of getting this infrastructure to areas of our state still in need. A number of recently-enacted federal programs promote the expansion of broadband service across the country, including programs that are administered by the Department of Commerce and its agencies. As the lead Republican on the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Commerce, I will continue to make certain that the agencies administering these programs understand the needs of Kansans when it comes to broadband deployment.
Meeting with David Beasley of the World Food Programme
On Tuesday, I met with the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, to discuss ways in which the United States can better meet the needs of people going hungry around the world. We agreed on the need to release funding from the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, a Department of Agriculture program that is held in reserve to meet emergencies. I am working with USAID, which oversees humanitarian relief efforts, to see this crucial assistance distributed. While we touched on the many countries around the world facing food shortages, from Africa to Central America, we focused on the dire situation in Afghanistan, where 23 million people are in need of assistance. American generosity has been vital, and Director Beasley and I discussed the possibility of releasing small amounts of frozen Afghan assets that would avoid the Taliban and go directly to those in need. I appreciated the conversation, and, as co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I will seek to work with the World Food Programme, U.S. agencies, and the non-profit sector to alleviate hunger in our world.
Speaking with Federal Reserve Board Governor Michelle Bowman
On Wednesday, I met with Federal Reserve Board Governor and fellow Kansan, Michelle Bowman. We discussed the state of the economy and the Federal Reserve’s upcoming supervisory and regulatory priorities. Governor Bowman will continue to be an important voice for community banks and the agricultural industry on the Federal Reserve Board, and I appreciate her service.
Meeting with Kansans in D.C.
Kansas Wheat Association
I met with the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers this week to discuss issues facing farmers, including increasing input costs, the importance of trade and the upcoming Farm Bill. While the price of wheat and other farm commodities is higher today than in recent years, the surge in the cost of fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs continues to diminish farm revenues. I continue to urge the Biden administration to address the multiple underlying issues driving input costs, including supply chain disruptions, energy and natural gas prices, and tariffs on certain fertilizers. We also discussed the importance of trade agreements that promote wheat exports and rewriting the Farm Bill, which expires in 2023. I appreciate KAWG coming to visit this week.
Dr. David Rosowsky of K-State
On Monday, I met with Dr. David Rosowsky, Vice President for Research at Kansas State University, to discuss K-State’s Plan for Economic Prosperity in Kansas. The goal is to create 3,000 new jobs and bring in three billion dollars in outside investments to Kansas centered around food and agriculture systems, innovation, digital agriculture and advanced analytics, biosecurity and biodefense, and utilizing the K-State Extension network to help businesses and communities in all 105 Kansas counties. I thank Dr. David Rosowsky for his time.
The Blood Shortage is Affecting Kansans. Here’s How to Help.
America is facing its worst blood shortage in more than a decade, and this shortage is affecting patient care throughout Kansas.
Kansans pull together in times of need. Learn more about blood donation eligibility and find a Red Cross donation location here.
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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