Kansas Common Sense
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Applauding the Confirmation of Kansans from Mankato and Russell to the USTR
On Thursday, the Senate confirmed two Kansans to serve at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Gregg Doud was confirmed to serve as the United States Trade Representative’s Chief Agricultural Negotiator and C.J. Mahoney was confirmed to serve as a Deputy United States Trade Representative. This is welcome news for Kansans and for our ag community. I worked with my Senate colleagues to have the holds released on both Gregg and C.J.'s nominations, and I introduced C.J. to the Finance Committee for his confirmation hearing in January.
From growing up on a farm in Mankato, Kansas to earning his undergraduate education at K-State to his many years advocating on trade and agricultural issues in Washington, it is clear that Gregg is uniquely qualified to be the USTR’s Chief Agricultural Negotiator. I look forward to seeing him be a vocal advocate for our ag community, opening new markets and staying on offense for our farmers and ranchers.
Throughout his career, C.J. has demonstrated his impeccable character and clear expertise in trade issues. I had the pleasure of having C.J., who grew up in Russell, Kansas, on my staff as one of my first interns during my time in the U.S. House of Representatives. I have always been impressed with his intelligence and talents, as well as his dedication to Kansas. He will be an asset to the USTR and to our nation.
Meeting with Olympic Gymnasts, Continuing Investigation Into Abuse
This week, I heard stories of Team USA gymnasts who suffered abuse at the hands of former USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and I serve as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security with jurisdiction over the health and safety of USA Gymnastics, US Olympic and NCAA athletes.
Our meeting took place shortly after US Olympic Committee Chief Executive Scott Blackmun announced he was stepping down amid systemic failures to protect athletes from sexual abuse.
The young women’s stories we heard reinforced our determination to root out abuse in youth sport governing bodies. Sen. Blumenthal and I are hopeful for renewed commitment from all Olympic organizations to eradicate all sexual abuse and other misconduct, and to raise a generation of athletes who feel safe competing in the sports they love. As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee with jurisdiction over USOC and other governing bodies, we intend to continue our investigation.
Good News in Push for Long-Term FAA Reauthorization
Kansans have built three out of every four general aviation aircraft since the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, and today, over 40,000 Kansans make a living manufacturing, operating and servicing the world’s highest quality aircrafts. Aviation is part of our state’s heritage, and the issues that impact the industry not only matter to jobs and manufacturing in Kansas, but to communities across our state relying on access to airspace to stay connected with the world.
On Wednesday, I addressed the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) at its 2018 Legislative Conference to discuss the importance of passing a long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). I have been a vocal advocate for a long-term FAA reauthorization, but proposals to privatize our air traffic control (ATC) system have forced us to put aside the widespread bipartisan agreement. Instead we need to be focusing on what matters for the aviation industry and travelers nationwide – such as making our airports safer and supporting the Essential Air Service Program critical for rural communities. My thanks to NASAO attendees for engaging with me and for their efforts to magnify the causes of the aviation industry.
This week, there was good news related to our effort to pass a long-term reauthorization when Chairman Shuster of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee acknowledged the lack of support for his controversial air traffic control privatization proposal and committed to working with Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Thune on a long-term bill. The FAA’s role is critical, and for too long, the kind of lasting, long-term FAA reauthorization we need to put in place to give our aviation community certainty has been bogged down by the debate over privatization. I have long said that such proposals would never have the votes needed to pass the Senate. I look forward to working with Chairman Thune and Chairman Shuster, along with my colleagues, to move a long-term reauthorization forward.
Remembering Reverend Billy Graham
Throughout his life, Rev. Billy Graham shared a message of hope and faith with millions of people around the world. He laid in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday and Thursday of this week after a gathering with his family and friends to mourn his passing and celebrate his tireless work of love and peace. Rev. Graham is only the fourth private citizen to lie in honor of the Capitol Rotunda – a fitting tribute. I had the chance to write a note to Rev. Graham’s family on behalf of myself, Robba and many Kansans whose lives he touched – visible here.
Meeting with Kansas Veterans Groups
I had productive meetings with the leaders of two prominent veterans’ groups from Kansas this week. On Tuesday, I met with American Legion leaders to discuss the state of care for our veterans in Kansas and across rural regions of America, the expansion of the VA Choice program, VA suicide prevention efforts, the need to hire more mental health professionals and continuing to fund programs to help end veteran homelessness. I’m proud to work alongside the American Legion and other Veterans Service Organizations to make certain our nation’s heroes receive the best care and support our nation has to offer.
I also met with Kansas Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization leaders to hear their legislative priorities, including making certain the VA Choice program works correctly for veterans in rural areas. DAV’s mission is to fulfill our promises to our nation’s heroes – specifically by assisting them in attending medical appointments and aiding with benefits claims. These critical services become even more valuable in rural areas of Kansas and throughout the country. I’m grateful for the work DAV does for our veterans in Kansas and nationwide. My thanks to both groups for meeting with me.
Participating in United States Military Academy Board of Visitors Meeting
One of my distinct honors as a senator is to sit on the United States Military Academy (USMA) Board of Visitors. We held our first board meeting of 2018 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where West Point Superintendent Lieutenant General Robert Caslen and other academy leaders updated the board on initiatives and programs at the institution. These included the progress of USMA’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Program, an admissions update, the vision for USMA in 2035 and how the Academy is developing cadets into leaders of character. I applaud the Academy’s excellent work and I will continue to support its core mission of preparing young men and women to serve our nation.
Sponsoring Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Legislation
America is a nation of laws, and we must all abide by them or be prepared to face the consequences. At the same time, we must recognize that a fair and effective criminal justice system should allow non-violent offenders to serve time that fits their crime and then provide them the opportunity to re-emerge as productive members of society.
This week I sponsored bipartisan commonsense legislation, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, to help reduce recidivism rates, combat violent crime and domestic violence, and provide flexible sentencing for non-violent offenders so they may reintegrate back into their communities. Please click here to read more.
Addressing the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City
I spoke to the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City on Friday afternoon regarding NAFTA and TPP trade agreements, the Farm Bill and taxes. Kansas’s economy is dependent on the ability of our farmers, ranchers and manufacturers to trade their products. Our ability to trade with and have access to world markets is a vital component to Kansas’s way of life. While 95 percent of the mouths to feed are outside the U.S., the world is counting on Americans and Kansas agriculture to put food on their plates.
The threat of immediate withdrawal from NAFTA seems to have faded for the time being, I believe because of a steady drumbeat of voices making sure the administration understands the damage that would be done not just to agriculture, but to the entire economy, if withdrawal were to occur. However, the threat remains, and those of us who care about agriculture need to continue to raise alarm with the administration. I’m supportive of efforts to modernize and improve NAFTA, but a withdrawal would be incredibly damaging.
Our discussion also touched on ongoing trade tensions. I fear the administration’s announced plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum will escalate trade tensions with other countries, risking retaliation against our exports and the loss of Kansas jobs. These tariffs have the potential to hinder the economic progress we have seen taking place through tax reform – tax cuts are only helpful to people who are able to earn a living, and in Kansas, we earn our livings through exports and trade. We must not take one step forward just to take two steps back.
I will continue to insist that the administration remain mindful of the role agricultural and agribusiness play in our economy. I want to thank Executive Director Bob Peterson and Council members for inviting me to speak about these issues and for using your voices as we work to assure a bright future for agriculture. My gratitude also to USDA’s Brian Klippenstein for joining the conversation.
Honoring Two New Eagle Scouts
Generations of young people across our country have benefitted from participation in Boy Scouts of America, and on Saturday, I had the opportunity of joining two Plainville brothers, Caleb and Noah Crawford, as they earned the rank of Eagle Scout. I am impressed by these young men’s dedication and hard work to earn the highest achievement in Scouts. After earning more than 21 merit badges, each young man completed a service project as part of this process.
I was fortunate to be a member of the Boy Scouts of America’s Plainville Troop 109, and serving on the Executive Committee of the Coronado Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, I understand the enormous honor that comes with reaching Eagle Scout. Since the inception of the Eagle Scout award in 1912, only a very small percentage of the Boy Scouts in America have achieved Scouting’s highest honor. This program instills principles and a mind-set that creates a demand and an acceptance of a higher standard that is self-sustained, applied with insight, truth and knowledge. I enjoyed spending time with Caleb and Noah and their brother Alan, along with their parents, John and Valerie, as they celebrated this achievement.
Visiting the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
On Friday, I met with Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President Esther George. We discussed the economic conditions in the Kansas City region as well as the Kansas City Federal Reserve’s thoughts on S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which will be considered by the full Senate in the coming days. Kansas farmers and ranchers have faced difficult circumstances over the years and the availability and cost of credit determines whether or not next year’s crop or calving season will become a reality. I appreciated hearing President George’s perspective – my thanks for her and her staff’s hospitality.
Kansans in the Office
Cynthia Smith of Lawrence
Tina Grimes of Lawrence
Dom Carollo of Lawrence
Lauren Appenfeller of Lawrence
Cagil Albayrak of Lawrence
Great Plains Association for College Admission Counseling
Aaron Hamilton of Wichita
Christina Rudolph of Lawrence
Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellows
Deepa Patel of Lenexa
American Academy of Neurology
Iftekhar Ahmed of Leawood
Tyler Allison of Overland Park
Brittany Swearingen of Lawrence
Crystal Swearingen of Lawrence
Adrianna Swearingen of Lawrence
Halle Swearingen of Lawrence
Rare Disease Legislative Advocates
Eric Kirkwood of Kansas City
Mitzie Tyree of Topeka
Sean Tyree of Topeka
American Academy of Pediatrics
Dennis Cooley of Topeka
Adult Congenital Heart Association
Sarah Diamond of Riley
The ONE Campaign
Megan Peters of Overland Park
Rachel Schuster of Gardner
Big XII on the Hill
Jack Ayres of Manhattan
Caleb Suhafer of Prairie Village
Eric Marling of Lawrence
Caleb Suhafer of Prairie Village
Olivia Baalman of Wichita
Jonathan Peuchen of Assaria
Sarah Niederee of Great Bend
National Association of Veterans' Program Administrators
Sarah Sell of Wichita
Megan Olsen of Wichita
United Postmasters & Managers of America
Ron Wood of Chetopa
Debra Dressman of Council Grove
Debbie Wright of Alma
Bob Mikulecky of Manhattan
Donna Sele of Toronto
Vicki Mikalecky of Manhattan
Independent Grain Dealers
David Helfrich of Cimarron
Gary Gantz of Ness City
Joey Hentzler of Hays
National Association of Health Underwriters
Beverly Gossage of Eudora
Marcus Hood of Overland Park
Casey Strong of Holyrood
Pam of Overland Park
Josh Campfield of Kansas City
The American Legion, Dept. of Kansas
Jammie Foster of Topeka
Jim Buterbaugh of Winfield
Terry Marr of Wichita
Trish Ward of Louisburg
Steve Ward of Louisburg
ZERO - The End of Prostate Cancer
Sarah Sell of Wichita
Steve Hentzen of Leawood
Vivian Avery of Olathe
John Avery of Olathe
American College of Surgeons
Josh Mammen of Leawood
Kansas Municipal Utilities
David Alvey of Wyandottes
Greg DuMars of Lindsborg
Merl Page of Wamego
Mike Muirhead of Garden City
Duane Banks of Russell
Dennis Tharp of Ottawa
Brad Modlin of Mulvane
Robert Peter of Ellinwood
Mark Chesney of Wichita
Paul Mahlberg of Overland Park
Thomas Groneman of Kansas City
Stan Luke of Burlington
David Mehlhaff of Kansas City
American Alliance of Museums
Bob Workman of Wichita
Kansas Association of Broadcasters
Larry Riggins of Topeka
Brad Moses of Wichita
Tim Robisch of Lawrence
Ron Thomas of Emporia
Sarah Smith of Kansas City
Gary Exline of St. Joseph
Karren Sibert of Parire Village
Cody Helms of Great Bend
Richard Fisher of Salina
Wichita State University
Andy Schlapp of Wichita
State Dept YES Program
Alper Ahmed of Baldwin City
Dana Anderson of Macerich
Kansas Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
Sara Vancil of Lawrence
Mennonite Central Committee
Pastor Suhelen Cazares of Newton
Minister Heidi Kreider of Newton
Tom Zwemke of Goddard
Joanne Smith of Independence
Jim Correie of Coffeyville
Melissa Roberts of Overland Park
Jason Wiens of Overland Park
Bek Abdullaya of Prairie Village
Kansas NSF EPSCoR
Kristin Bowman-James of Lawrence
Doug Wright of Kansas City
Dennis Livesay of Wichita
Doug Byers of Lawrence
American Academy of Family Physicians Board of Directors
Douglas Henley of Leawood
Michael Munger of Overland Park
Russell Kohl of Stillwell
Kansas Chiropractic Association
Brian Asbury of Wichita
Tobi Jeurink of Mission
Jess Loveless of Olathe
Mark Balderston of Shawnee
Travis Oller of Topeka
Kansas Wing of the Civil Air Patrol
Col. Linette Lahan of Junction City
SMSgt Rick Franz of Salina
Cadet McCracken of Lawrence
Cadet Leonhardt of Olathe
Nate Glendenning of Newton
Karea Sturchio of Newton
Distributed Wind Energy Association
Dorothy Barnett of Hutchinson
National Academy of Science
Chuck Rice of Manhattan
Jim Allen of Shawnee
Julie Allen of Shawnee
Joshua Allen of Lenexa
Leah Allen of Lenexa
Reese Allen of Lenexa
Zachary Allen of Shawnee
Christy Allen of Shawnee
Abigail Allen of Shawnee
Tony Kaufman of Lawrence
Rene Kaufman of Lawrence
Jessica Kaufman of Lawrence
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.
Please let me know how I can be of assistance. You can contact me by email by clicking here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
Very truly yours,
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