Kansas Common Sense
Oct 05 2020
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.
Wishing the President and First Lady a Speedy Recovery
Robba and I are wishing the president and first lady a speedy recovery. Our prayers are with them and all Kansans and Americans who have been impacted by this virus.
Meeting with Judge Amy Coney Barrett
This week, I met with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, and after speaking with her, I have an appreciation for her principled judicial philosophy and her views on the Constitution. During our meeting, we discussed how she has developed her judicial philosophy, her balance of work and family life and the importance of carrying out the law as written. She has risen to the pinnacle of her profession while also raising a young family and being an admired professor. She is without a doubt a well-qualified, thoughtful nominee who is committed to upholding the law and applying it fairly. I look forward to Judge Barrett further demonstrating her judicial views as the confirmation process continues. Watch a video about our meeting by clicking here or below.
On Friday, I joined Pete Mundo on KCMO Talk Radio to discuss my meeting with Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Listen to the full interview here or below.
Sending My Sweeping Olympic Reform Legislation to the President's Desk
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed my sweeping Olympic reform legislation which I introduced with Sen. Blumenthal (D-Conn.). As the chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee with jurisdiction and oversight of the health and safety of U.S. Olympic, Paralympic and amateur athletes, I introduced this bill last July, following an eighteen-month investigation into the systemic abuse occurring within the U.S. Olympic movement. The joint investigation was launched the day after Larry Nassar was sentenced to prison and included four subcommittee hearings, interviews with Olympic athletes and survivors, and the retrieval of over 70,000 pages of documents. This legislation now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
The House passage of my Olympic reform legislation advances critical changes and effective safeguards to protect our Olympic, Paralympic and amateur athletes across the country. Through the input and guidance of the courageous survivors—athletes who traveled to Washington, shared their stories and demanded change—this legislation was able to advance through Congress. I am grateful to my colleagues in the House who advocated for this bill, and I look forward to the president signing this legislation into law in order to institute and enforce these reforms so all athletes can participate in the sport they love without fear of abuse.
Six-Time Olympic Medalist Aly Raisman:
“One person abused is too many. For years, USA Gymnastics and the USOPC tried to avoid responsibility for our abuse and put their own interests before those of athletes. They treated Larry Nassar like a PR problem, not a sexual abuse problem. USA Gymnastics and USOPC were happy to claim us when it benefited their bottom line, taking credit for medal performances and publishing ads with our photos, but not when we came forward to demand accountability for their culture of abuse. That stops now. After every major institution charged with athlete safety failed us, I am grateful to Senators Moran and Blumenthal for keeping their promise to bring real accountability to USOPC.”
Olympic Gold Medalist Jordyn Wieber:
“The organizations whose job it was to protect us failed. They perpetuated a culture of abuse, neglect and a win-at-all-costs mentality, which harmed hundreds of survivors. On behalf of all members of Team USA, I thank Senators Moran and Blumenthal for listening to the voices of survivors and taking bold action to hold USOPC accountable for their failure to protect athletes from physical, emotional and sexual abuse.”
Advancing Major Legislation During National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
September was National Suicide Prevention Month, during which Congress advanced two major mental health bills to be signed into law by the president. Now, more than ever, Kansans and the entire country will benefit from greater access to critical suicide prevention and mental health services.
The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which I introduced with my colleagues, designates 9-8-8 as the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. This legislation provides an easy-to-remember number and easy-to-access service for people in need of a helping hand in times of serious turmoil.
Congress also passed my landmark veterans’ mental health care and suicide prevention legislation, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. This bill will bolster the VA’s mental health workforce and increase rural or hard-to-reach veterans’ access to VA care across the country. One veteran lost to suicide is too many and passing this legislation to serve veterans was one of my top priorities this Congress as chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC).
During the transition to 9-8-8, those who need help should continue to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). Veterans and servicemembers may reach the Veterans Crisis Line by pressing 1 after dialing, chatting online at veteranscrisisline.net, or texting 838255.
Earlier this week, I also cosponsored a resolution that would designate September 30th as National Veterans Suicide Prevention Day along with Ranking Member Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Designating September 30th as National Veterans Suicide Prevention Day, which comes at the end of National Suicide Prevention Month, is a small but important act of memory and recognition to those servicemembers who have sacrificed so much for their country. This day should shed light on the increasing number of military suicides that occur each year. As chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, continuing to create greater awareness around the prevalence and increase of veteran suicide is one of my top priorities.
Protecting the Private Sector in the Race for 5G
This week, I joined my Senate colleagues in urging the president to continue America’s leadership in the global race for deployment of fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology and services. Maintaining a free-market path that allows the private sector to build multiple 5G networks is important to helping the United States lead the world in its deployment, just as we did for fourth-generation (4G). I, along with my colleagues in the Senate, urge the president to continue this free-market approach and warn against the creation of a national network, as it threatens our digital security.
Extending the Deadline for Coronavirus Relief Funding
This week, I introduced the Remove Impediments for a Successful Economic Recovery (RISER) Act along with my colleague Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan). This bill would extend the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) deadline for economic development projects to December 31, 2022. Established within the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the CRF provides funding for states and local governments to combat COVID-19 and the economic impact of the pandemic.
Kansas received $1.25 billion from the CRF, and under current law, will lose any funding not utilized by December 31, 2020. The current deadline puts several long-term economic development plans, including critical broadband and telemedicine projects, at risk of losing funding if they are not completed by the end of the year. Extending this deadline for CRF expenditures will allow Kansas and other states to strategically target areas of need over a longer period of time, making certain our taxpayer dollars are making the greatest impact to help our communities during this pandemic.
States and local governments know what is best for their communities and where and when to spend federal coronavirus relief. Extending the deadline for CRF payments dedicated to qualified economic development projects will allow Kansas and other states to strategically target areas of need over a longer period of time, making certain our taxpayer dollars are making the greatest impact to help our communities during this pandemic.
Securing the Continuation of Veteran Services
Earlier this week, the Senate passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2020, as part of a Continuing Resolution (CR) to extend veteran benefits into FY2021. This CR will establish a smooth continuation of multiple VA programs, including my Student Veterans Coronavirus Response Act which will continue to allow flexibility of in-person education benefits during COVID-19. It also includes extensions of medical residency positions at VA health facilities, Specially Adapted Housing Assistive Technology (SAHAT) grants and an increase in authorization of appropriations for financial assistance for Supportive Services for Very Low-Income Veterans Families in Permanent Housing (SSVF).
Thousands of veterans depend on the programs offered by the VA to help combat homelessness, pursue an education and much more. This legislation helps these programs seamlessly continue into the next fiscal year to prevent disrupting veterans’ lives, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Monitoring the FDA’s Vaccine Oversight
As I continue to monitor the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) oversight of safely and effectively administering a COVID-19 vaccine, I expect the FDA to hold all new drugs and treatments to the highest standards to ensure the safety of all Americans. The FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization process, while expedited, should continue to hold to this criteria. I appreciate the FDA’s dedication to keeping the American people safe by refusing to lower the bar for potential coronavirus vaccines, which will result in a vaccine the American people can trust and will keep families safe.
NIH Grant Reaches Kansas, Improves COVID-19 Testing
I was pleased to announce earlier this week that the University of Kansas Medical Center will be receiving a $5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve COVID-19 testing in underserved and vulnerable populations. This funding is provided under the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, which is intended to enhance the timeline of innovation surrounding COVID-19 testing development, commercialization and implementation.
The University of Kansas Medical Center has excellent community partnerships that make them an ideal participant for this initiative to further understand the effects of COVID-19 on particular populations and how we can better serve them, including alleviating barriers to testing.
Kansan Ken Selzer to Serve on FCIC Board
The United State Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced four new members selected for the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) Board of Directors, including Kansan Ken Selzer. I supported Ken’s nomination and urged the USDA to appoint him to this position. Ken’s work ethic and professional career make him uniquely qualified to be on the FCIC Board of Directors, and his understanding of the crop insurance system at a professional and personal level will help him provide important leadership and knowledge during his tenure on the board. I look forward to the expertise Ken will bring to the FCIC as he takes on this role.
Opportunities for Students
Spring Internship Application Now Open
Applications for the Spring 2021 Intern Session are now available. Qualified undergraduate and graduate students with an interest in public service, the legislative process and serving Kansas are invited to apply by October 23rd.
Please visit my website to hear from past interns, find the application link, and learn more about this opportunity.
U.S. Senate Page Program
My office is actively looking for a high school Kansan to participate in the Spring 2020 Senate Page Program. This program provides the unique opportunity to work in the Senate and learn about Congress and the legislative process while maintaining their regular coursework. The Sring Page eligibility is limited to juniors in high school who will be 16 or 17 years old on or before the date of appointment.
The Page Program is very competitive and a limited number of spots are available. Applicants are encouraged to apply early. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but the preferred deadline is October 21st. For questions or more details, please call 202-224-6521 and request to speak with the page coordinator. Please visit my website to learn more about this opportunity.
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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