Kansas Common Sense

Monitoring Coronavirus

The threat of coronavirus is serious, and we need to be ready on all fronts to stop the spread of this virus. This week, I spoke with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar regarding proposed funding to help provide medical services and quarantine locations to proactively stop the spread of this virus and the current progress towards generating a vaccine. HHS and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were successful in keeping our country safe from diseases like Ebola and Zika, and we can learn from these past experiences on how to be prepared for the coronavirus. I also met with state and military leaders to discuss our state and military preparedness for a coronavirus outbreak. I will continue working with the administration and health officials to make certain we are supplying the resources necessary to help prevent this virus from spreading further.

Meeting with Kansas Secretary Lee Norman

On Wednesday, I met with Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman to discuss how to improve the quality of care across our state. He shared a report he has been working on that indicated Kansas' health rankings have declined compared to other states over the past 30 years. It is imperative we work to identify areas in which we can improve and take steps to address Kansas' shortcomings in the report. We also discussed Kansas’ preparedness to protect against a potential coronavirus outbreak. I will continue to work with Secretary Norman, as well as HHS and CDC, to ensure that Americans are protected against future outbreaks of the disease.

Speaking with Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy

On Tuesday, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Army Chief of Staff James McConville visited with me to discuss the Army’s budget priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. We discussed a variety of future warfare projects that have the potential to positively impact the Kansas industrial community. They also answered my questions on the Army’s on-going efforts to protect soldiers across the globe from the threat of coronavirus, particularly those from the Kansas’ First Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, who have recently deployed to South Korea. 

Ensuring the Continued Care of Veterans at VA

The VA has been working closely with the CDC while monitoring the coronavirus outbreak. At this time, no veterans receiving care at a VA facility have been diagnosed with coronavirus, but as a precaution, the emergency management coordination cell (EMCC) has been activated to implement an aggressive response to ensure the care of veterans continues. 

Defending the Sanctity of Life

On Tuesday, I voted in favor of advancing two pro-life bills I cosponsored, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This legislation would help protect babies who survive abortions and limit abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, at which point we know, based on science, unborn infants can feel pain. Though both bills gained bipartisan and majority support, each failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to proceed to final passage. The Senate had an opportunity to send a message showing who we are as leaders and as a society – one that protects the weak and the voiceless, instead of one that permits their destruction. I regret that the Senate failed a fundamental test. During my time in the United States Senate, I have used my voice and vote to further the cause of life and defend the unborn. Our work in the Senate is not complete, and I remain committed to protecting the right to life.

Honoring the 100th Anniversary of Disabled American Veterans

This week, as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Ranking Member Jon Tester and I introduced and passed a resolution honoring the 100th anniversary of Disabled American Veterans (DAV). DAV has partnered with Congress for the last century in making certain our veterans have the care and support they deserve. Through securing transportation for our veterans, assisting them with VA paperwork and continuing to advocate for veteran needs, DAV has helped our veterans succeed in their life after service.

Coinciding with this resolution, the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees held two joint hearing this week where we heard from multiple veterans service organizations about their legislative priorities for the year, including DAV. It was good to speak with Kansas DAV members who attended the hearing. Thank you to State Commander Eric Owens for the challenge coin and to all the members that traveled to Washington, D.C. to be at the hearing. We also heard from the Wounded Warrior Project, Blinded Veterans Association, The National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart and American Veterans.

Visiting with the Kansas Teacher of the Year

I enjoyed hearing from Tabatha Rosproy, Kansas Teacher of the Year and one of four candidates for National Teacher of the Year. Tabatha has worked to improve early-childhood education outcomes by housing her pre-school classroom in a senior living center. Through daily inter-generational interactions, her students receive regular one-on-one attention and reading time with the residents, who are also finding new purpose through the program.

During her meetings as Kansas Teacher of the Year, Tabatha hopes to direct attention to the importance of preschool in early childhood education and encourage support for students’ emotional health. Thank you, Tabatha, for the work you do, your focus on social-emotional learning and taking time to share your experiences with me and educators across the state.

Attending the U.S. Military Academy Board of Visitors Meeting

On Wednesday, I had the privilege to catch up with the U.S. Military Academy Board of Visitors for West Point during our winter meeting. Lieutenant General Darryl Williams and his talented team of faculty and cadets briefed us on the initiatives the academy is working on to improve the education and character development of our nation’s future Army leaders. It was especially great to hear from the cadets who lead these efforts for the school and who will commission this summer to lead soldiers in the world’s greatest military force.

Meeting with the FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn

On Tuesday, I was pleased to meet with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, who was confirmed by the Senate in December 2019. We discussed the critical nature of FDA in ensuring a safe food supply for American consumers. Decisions made by the FDA impact all aspects of the food chain from farmers and ranchers to food processors to consumers. I expressed concern about the agency’s slow rulemaking process that harms Kansas dairy and food producers, and we discussed my efforts to insert common sense into the implementation the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), especially as it relates to the treatment of grain elevators solely engaged in storing raw commodities.

FDA also plays a key role in protecting public health by ensuring the safety of medicines, biological products and medical devices. Commissioner Hahn also provided me an update on FDA’s role in the U.S. response to the coronavirus. Prior to becoming FDA Commissioner, Dr. Hahn worked as the Chief Medical Executive at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and has over 30 years of experience as an oncologist and cancer researcher. As a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee that provides resources to the FDA, I look forward to working with Commissioner Hahn to ensure that FDA is working efficiently and effectively for the American people.

Meeting with Kansas Municipalities

On Tuesday, I met with community leaders from the Kansas Municipal Utilities (KMU) to discuss their efforts to improve the infrastructure of our communities. I spoke with the local officials about their voluntary efforts to continue diversifying their energy sourcing. Municipal utility services provide electric, gas, water and waste systems across Kansas, and we are proud to host more municipal utilities than nearly any other state in the country. The long-term goals and business interests of Kansas’ small towns should be determined by those that live in them, and I appreciate KMU’s efforts to ensure that community ownership in local projects exists, as well as preserve the control that Kansas’ towns are afforded.

Hearing from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to sit down with the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Alumni Association. I was recently appointed to the USMMA Board of Visitors, so it was great to learn more about the academy and how the alumni association is advocating on their behalf. As one of five service academies in the United States, the USMMA is tasked with educating Merchant Marine officers who are committed to serving the national security, maritime transportation and economic needs of our country. I’m honored to represent these fine men and women who are providing an invaluable service to the United States.

Recognizing Kent Cornish’s Contributions to Kansas Broadcasting

On Monday, I spoke on the Senate floor to recognize Kent Cornish and his 40 years in the broadcast business, including the last 12 advocating for the Kansas Association of Broadcasters as its president. Widely recognized as one of the most knowledgeable and effective advocates for the Kansas broadcasting community, Kent has been a leading voice in Topeka and Washington, D.C. and is someone I hold in high regard. His dedication to making certain that rural communities in Kansas have access to quality broadcast programming is a testament to his commitment to rural America. I’m proud to call Kent a friend, and I am looking forward to seeing where life leads him from here.

Conducting Oversight as an Appropriator

Touring the Hard Rock Stadium with the FBI

On Friday, I joined FBI Special Agent in Charge George Prio of the Miami field office to learn about the steps taken at a National Special Security Event (NSSE). Those are events determined to be a potential target for terrorism or criminal activity such as this year’s Super Bowl. Special Agent Prio discussed the steps the FBI takes as the lead intelligence agency to secure and manage NSSEs, including the importance of working closely with state and local partners. As chairman of the committee which provides resources to the FBI, I understand the importance of our intelligence agencies and making certain they are equipped with the necessary means to protect Americans attending these events.

Visiting U.S. Southern Command

Today, I met with Admiral Craig Faller and the servicemembers and civilians he commands at U.S. Southern Command. We spoke about the challenges that malign state actors like China, Russia and Iran pose to South and Central America; along with a substantive update from the Southern Command team on the situation in Venezuela. Admiral Faller and his team are doing fantastic work to ensure America’s prosperity in the region and are maintaining critical alliances with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere.

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