Kansas Common Sense
Confirming Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court
After full consideration of all facts presented, I voted this weekend to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Kavanaugh is an extremely well-qualified nominee with a deep respect for the Constitution. His intellect and experience in the legal field will serve the Supreme Court well.
However, when someone comes forward with allegations of abuse or misconduct, they deserve to be heard. I appreciated that the Judiciary Committee took these allegations seriously and was committed to being transparent and following the precedented and necessary procedures to best evaluate these claims – including the decision to request that the administration instruct the FBI to conduct an additional FBI supplemental background investigation.
I commend Dr. Ford for telling her story before the nation, and inspiring others to come forward. Judge Kavanaugh also deserved the opportunity to defend his character, and he categorically denied these allegations. Throughout this process, I have been deeply saddened by the treatment of both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh – and their families.
After the supplemental FBI background investigation was delivered to the Senate, I carefully reviewed the FBI’s report, as well as the findings from the independent prosecutor. No witness named by Dr. Ford or Ms. Ramirez corroborated the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. And there was no new information or evidence provided in the report that changed my earlier plan to vote for Judge Kavanaugh.
Long-Term FAA Extension Takes Flight!
After years of negotiations, on Wednesday the Senate passed a five-year extension to the Federal Aviation Administration’s authority – this bipartisan, bicameral legislation is welcome news for travelers, aerospace manufacturers and industry innovators alike. Not only does this reauthorization elevate the over 40,000 Kansans who make a living manufacturing, operating and servicing the aircraft industry, but it includes important provisions I championed to close the aviation skills gap and to bring more women into this field.
Additionally, this extension does not include any misguided proposals to privatize our nation’s air traffic control system. ATC privatization threatens access to airspace for all but the largest cities with largest airports, causing significant harm to the long-term economic viability of rural America. I will continue to advocate instead for proposals that provide greater protections for the general aviation industry and small airports nationwide that are so critical to connecting Americans in rural communities with the rest of the world. Overall, this legislation will make airline travel smoother, safer and more transparent for all Americans.
Click here for more on the numerous wins for Kansans in this reauthorization.
Reviewing the New U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement
Over the past year and a half, I have expressed directly and repeatedly to President Trump, Ambassador Lighthizer, Secretary Ross and my colleagues in the Senate that we need more trade, not less. I have been clear that both Canada and Mexico – Kansas’ top two export markets – must be part of any final agreement. I appreciate the administration working to make certain these markets remain available to Kansas farmers, ranchers and manufacturers, providing them some much-needed certainty.
Once the president signs the agreement, it will be up to Congress to consider and vote to approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, most likely next year. However, today, farmers and ranchers are breathing a sigh of relief as the announcement brings greater certainty at a time when producers are facing extended periods of low commodity prices. Agricultural conditions in our state – due to drought, commodity prices, and the uncertainty of export markets – are a significant challenge. Simply put, we produce more in this country than we can consume and we need export markets so we can continue to sell our goods and commodities. I will further analyze the details of this agreement, but this announcement is clearly a positive development. Watch my Senate floor remarks on what this agreement means for Kansas here.
Holding My Subcommittee’s Fourth Hearing on Protecting Olympic Athletes from Abuse
As the chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the health and safety of amateur athletes, I convened my fourth hearing as part of our ongoing investigation into systemic failures to protect athletes from abuse within the Olympic movement. On Wednesday, the subcommittee heard testimony from and posed questions to the executive leadership of USA Swimming, USA Weightlifting, USA Bobsled and Skeleton, and US Figure Skating regarding policies that have already been implemented to prevent and report abuse and what changes still need to be made to provide a safe environment for amateur athletes.
We were honored to be joined by survivors of abuse from multiple sports in the audience who continue to lend their stories and their voices to these important issues. I remain dedicated to continuing the bipartisan approach that this subcommittee has taken in its comprehensive investigation. In consultation with law enforcement, survivors and advocates, I will work closely with my Senate colleagues to identify meaningful reform in the best interests of athletes and their families. To watch my questioning, click here.
Securing Amtrak’s Commitment to Maintain Southwest Chief
On Wednesday, I questioned in the Chief Operating Officer of Amtrak in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, where I again expressed my disappointment in Amtrak’s handling of ensuring service on the Southwest Chief rail line – in recent months, Amtrak has put forth a misguided proposal to break up hundreds of miles of the Southwest Chief passenger rail line, swapping busses for trains. This proposal was unacceptable to me and the many Kansans who rely on the Southwest Chief, and I proposed an amendment that would forbid Amtrak from implementing such a proposal. This amendment passed the Senate in August, and is still waiting on a final vote from the House of Representatives.
However, at this week’s hearing, Amtrak committed to continuing operation of the Southwest Chief as-is through the end of Fiscal Year 2019. This is a positive development for the riders who rely on this rail line, but there is still much work to be done. Amtrak has still not committed to honoring its $3 million pledge for track improvements, nor has it guaranteed continued service after FY’19. I will continue working with my colleagues and Amtrak to make certain the Southwest Chief continues to offer communities in Kansas – and along the entire passenger rail route – the service they need.
Honoring the Women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion
I am delighted that on Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed my resolution honoring the women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. These soldiers were members of the only all-black, all-female battalion to serve overseas during World War II. The unit trained at home, and served in England and in France where they sorted and routed mail for millions of American servicemembers and civilians.
A memorial, with a planned dedication this fall, will honor the battalion at the Buffalo Soldier Memorial Park on Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. I’m proud to see our nation continue to take measures like these to recognize these women and patriots, and the sacrifices they endured decades ago. This Senate-approved measure and the construction of a memorial at Fort Leavenworth will increase awareness of these brave soldiers’ service to make certain the Battalion and their sacrifices for our nation are not forgotten.
Participating in a Senate Commerce Hearing on Rural Broadband
On Thursday, I participated in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing entitled, “Broadband: Opportunities and Challenges in Rural America,” where we discussed the Committee’s ongoing efforts to assess the progress of broadband deployment to rural communities, with particular emphasis on the efficacy of the broadband deployment programs within the Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Service Fund and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service. As Congress seeks to continue its mission of closing the Digital Divide by bringing high-speed broadband access to rural America, I will continue to prioritize timely deployment and related economic development in Kansas. Watch the full exchange here.
Speaking with the Kansas Chamber in Washington, D.C.
On Thursday, I joined members of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce during their annual Congressional visit to Washington, D.C. During our meeting, I offered updates on work I’m doing in the Senate and my priorities Congress, including judicial issues, the recently-passed FAA Reauthorization and the positive impacts it will have on Kansas, ongoing trade disputes and the recently-announced USMCA agreement, nominations in the Senate, as well as various economic and business policies. I also fielded questions from the group on issues important to their work. The Kansas Chamber of Commerce reaches many Kansans across the state and their work to support small businesses and create a pro-growth environment has benefitted communities of all shapes and sizes. I’m proud of our partnership and I look forward to working with them well into the future.
Keynoting the Associated General Contractors of Kansas Legislative Dinner
On Sunday, I gave the keynote address at the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Kansas’ Legislative Dinner. During my remarks, I discussed a number of items that I’m making progress on specifically related to the AGC's work. This included topics ranging from technical and career education, workforce development, trade and tariffs, veterans’ healthcare, tax cuts and regulatory relief. Thank you to AGC of Kansas Executive Vice President Mike Gibson for the invitation and Ben Hutton for the kind introduction. Thanks also to State Senator Dan Kerschen, State Representative Joe Seiwert and State Representative Jack Thimesch for joining me.
Kansas Listening Tour Stop in Cowley County
Thank you to the many Cowley County residents who took time to visit with me during my townhall meeting in Arkansas City on Monday. During this meeting, we discussed veterans' healthcare, the implementation of the VA MISSION Act, tariffs and ongoing trade disputes, Social Security and the need to work together and find common ground, both in society and in Congress. Thank you to Dan Deener and the Ark City Rotary Club for opening up their meeting to the public and for arranging my visit.
Touring the Winfield Cotton Gin
Prior to my townhall meeting in Arkansas City, I was in Winfield to tour the Winfield Cotton Gin and meet with members of the Southern Kansas Cotton Growers Cooperative. Recently, they've experienced both an increase in automation at the gin, as well as a growth in the amount of cotton being grown by area farmers. During this visit, I toured their facility and heard firsthand from members of their cooperative about challenges they face during an increasingly hard time for our producers, especially related to the climate and ongoing trade disputes. We also discussed important agriculture research happening in our state and I offered an update on the Farm Bill. Thank you to Rex Friesen for arranging my visit and leading the tour of the gin, and to the many Southern Kansas Cotton Growers and local producers who were able to join our tour and discussion.
Now Accepting Spring Internship Applications
My own interest in public service was sparked by an internship for Kansas First District Congressman Keith Sebelius in 1974. As an intern, I had the chance to learn firsthand how a Congressional office operates and how the legislative process works. I am proud to be able to offer this same opportunity in my Senate office today, where I have interns year-round working closely with my staff on behalf of Kansans.
Applications for internships in my Washington, D.C. and Kansas offices for Spring 2018 are due next Friday, October 19. Congressional internships are open to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who have an interest in public service and have achieved academic excellence. Click here for more information.
Kansans in the Office
American College of Cardiology
Aniket Rali of Kansas City
Steve Rufino of Overland Park
Mohammed Ali of Overland Park
David Ayres of Overland Park
Paul Cassat of Mission
Andrew Etkind of Leawood
Jarod Goff of Overland Park
Christine Ihde of Shawnee
David Knight of Overland Park
Samuel Korte of Olathe
Steve Nelson of Overland Park
Denise Patterson of Lenexa
Mike Marrietta of Pittsburg
Amy Coopman of Shawnee
Kansas State Park Director
Nemaha Central Elementary/Middle School
Brooke Burkiek of Seneca
Nikki Honeyman of Seneca
Carol Sack of Seneca
Darcel Stallbaumer of Seneca
Brian Weaver of Leawood
James Belozer of Overland Park
Julia Belozer of Overland Park
Bob Bonebrake of Olathe
Valerie Bonebrake of Olathe
Sally Cannata of Wichita
Kathryn Gregory of Wichita
Mike Karl of Hays
Val Karl of Hays
Beth Koelker of Prairie Village
Lloyd Koelker of Prairie Village
Jana McKinney of Newton
Mary Mignano of Manhattan
Joseph Oaks of Wichita
Curt Thompson of Hutchinson
Glenda Thompson of Hutchinson
Luella Welch of Olathe
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 letter, a Facebook comment, or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,
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