Kansas Common Sense

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Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs!

For the first time in 50 years, the Kansas City Chiefs are Super Bowl Champions! Congratulations to the team, Andy Reid, the Hunt family and the entire Chiefs Kingdom!

After the victory, I introduced a resolution to officially recognize the Chiefs and their victory in Super Bowl LIV with my colleagues, Sen. Blunt, Sen. Roberts and Sen. Hawley. Read the full resolution here.

The Chiefs Kingdom Champions Parade will be held this Wednesday starting at 11:30 a.m. Following, there will be a victory rally at Union Station at 1:30 p.m. Stay up-to-date with the details at chiefsparade.com. I want to thank all of our law enforcement officials for their work to keep everyone safe during this exciting time. Let us all remember to be respectful of those in uniform during our celebrations throughout the week. How 'bout those Chiefs!

Impeachment Update: Voting on Witnesses

When I signed the oath book at the beginning of this trial, I vowed to deliver impartial justice according to the Constitution and the law. I took this oath and responsibility seriously and chose not to comment until I heard arguments from both the House managers and the president’s lawyers. It became clear over the course of the House managers’ arguments that the House failed to undertake its responsibility to collect supporting evidence, and the managers continually attempted to shift that evidentiary responsibility to the Senate. Nevertheless, having heard from both sides, the arguments demonstrate that additional evidence or witnesses would not change the material underlying facts that describe the president’s actions. Therefore, I voted to not permit additional witnesses and to continue with the impeachment trial.

Putting Veterans Above Partisanship in the Senate VA Committee

This week, I gaveled in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee for the first time as chairman. In my opening remarks, I presented my vision for the committee including one of my top priorities – addressing the veteran suicide epidemic. I will do everything I can to see that this committee remains a place where we put veterans well above partisanship. I expressed to my colleagues that I don’t expect us to always agree on everything, but I don’t know of any reason why this committee can’t be an agreeable place where we work to find consensus and common ground – a point on which we can rally on every occasion. Watch my full opening remarks here.

Passing Veteran Suicide Prevention Legislation Out of Committee

As chairman, my committee successfully approved 10 bills and one nomination in a unanimous, bipartisan manner. All these bills will significantly improve the lives and well-being of veterans. The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act that I sponsored with Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) was favorably reported out of committee by a vote of 17-0. Losing one veteran to suicide is too many, but sadly an estimated 20 veterans die by suicide each day. This legislation is a big step forward in addressing the veteran suicide epidemic. It works to expand access to mental health care for veterans by strategically reaching veterans in hard-to-reach places like rural Kansas and providing our veterans with alternative and innovative treatments. As our veterans transition out of the military, they are dealing with the invisible wounds of war that often go unnoticed and untreated. This legislation, named after an American hero we lost to mental health struggles, offers critical resources to help veterans. It is my wish that this bill will bring honor to Commander Hannon and other veterans who have perished due to suicide and provide hope to those who struggle with their mental health. I look forward to continue working on behalf of our veterans as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and sharing with you progress throughout the year.

Hosting Secretary Robert Wilkie and Veteran Service Organizations

On Wednesday night, I hosted Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, representatives of Veterans Service Organizations and fellow Kansans as we kicked off a new year of hard work in support of our nation’s veterans. This gathering was an opportunity to highlight my priorities as the Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and engage with veteran advocates on future of VA care. We discussed the importance of providing our veterans with quality mental health care and the Senate VA Committee’s recent passage of my bill, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. This legislation, which must be considered by the full Senate, will increase access to mental health care for veterans by investing in research, bolstering the VA’s mental health care workforce and investing in new, innovative therapies. We also talked about the implementation of the MISSION Act and the impact that a robust community care system will have on rural veterans.

A special thanks to the Kansans that traveled to D.C. to be with us at this event. It was a pleasure to host Secretary Wilkie, my fellow committee members, veterans and advocates.

Production Rate Agreement Between Spirit and Boeing

Last Thursday, Spirit AeroSystems announced an agreement with Boeing establishing a preliminary production rate for the 737 MAX airplane. The production rate agreement between Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems is a good first step for the Wichita aerospace community, and I look forward to Spirit’s ultimate return to robust production levels. In the meantime, I will continue supporting our community partners and all those impacted through my participation on the Aerospace Task Force. I will also continue the conversations I have had with President Trump, Vice President Pence,  FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson and Boeing CEO David Calhoun to work to return the 737 MAX safely back in the air. 

Attending the White House USMCA Signing Ceremony

On Wednesday, I was pleased to attend the USMCA signing ceremony with President Trump at the White House. This agreement, negotiated by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), strengthens trade relationships with Canada and Mexico, our two largest export markets, at a critical time for farmers, ranchers and manufacturers in Kansas. Growing these partnerships is vital for the success of our state’s economy. This agreement will expand market access for U.S. dairy products and level the playing field for U.S. wheat sold in Canada. USMCA is a modern trade agreement, setting a template for 21st-century trade deals that can be used to expand trade with other important trade partners.

It was great to join members of the Kansas Livestock Association in attendance, including Jerry Bohn, Harry Moser, Jerry Kuckelman and Barb Downey. As chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds USTR, I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to increase trade relationships with our global partners.

Meeting with Secretary Pompeo

On Tuesday morning, I met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department to discuss advancing America’s interests overseas. We reviewed the impact of the recent trade deal with China, particularly in regard to agriculture and aviation, as well as ongoing issues in Europe. I thank Secretary Pompeo for his time and hospitality.

Meeting with KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas

Later on Tuesday, I had a productive meeting with Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas to discuss the Department of Justices' new initiative, Operation Relentless Pursuit, to address violent crime in the Kansas City area. We also discussed Zero Fare transit and the need for increased regional collaboration for the Greater Kansas City area to reach its full potential. I appreciate the Mayor’s focus on collaboration across state lines and look forward to continue working with him moving forward.

Speaking with the Short Line Railroad Association

On Tuesday, I received an award from the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association for my work on the 45G tax credit used to repair and upgrade short line railroads. This critical tax credit was first established by legislation I introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004, which encouraged railroads, railroad customers and suppliers to invest in maintaining the more than 2,000 miles of short line rails in Kansas. Located in the center of America’s heartland, Kansas is one of the leading rail and distribution centers in our country and plays an integral role connecting farmers and factories with communities around the globe. The tax credit was extended at the end of last year, making it retroactive to 2018 and effective through 2022 and the longest extension ever granted to the tax credit by the federal government. Additionally, in January 2019, I introduced the BRACE Act that would make this critical tax provision permanent.

Recognizing Data Privacy Day

Tuesday was also Data Privacy Day - a reminder that Americans deserve assurances regarding how businesses are collecting and using their personally identifiable information. As chairman of the Senate Commerce subcommittee overseeing consumer protection, I have conducted public hearings and made inquiries to hold businesses accountable and gain a better understanding of how they are using consumers’ data while working to improve federal laws to protect consumers in a rapidly developing technological age. Congress needs to pass comprehensive legislation that protects consumers’ data privacy and work to promote responsible regulatory changes that empower consumers rather than deceiving them.

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