Kansas Common Sense
Aug 09 2021
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.
Statement on the Infrastructure Bill
Today, I released the following statement regarding my intent to oppose the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act:
I joined the bipartisan infrastructure group of twenty-two senators to make certain Kansans had a seat at the table and to help negotiate a deal that doesn’t raise taxes, doesn’t spend trillions of dollars and focuses on actual, traditional infrastructure – not a Democrat wish list.
From the beginning, I outlined the criteria needed for me to support any final outcome of the negotiations. My top priority was the bill must be paid for and, therefore, not raise the national debt. However, the new spending in the final bill adds a quarter of a trillion dollars to the national debt.
Additionally, I hoped this bipartisan plan would dissuade Democrats from pursuing their own partisan, $3.5 trillion tax-and-spend spree. The Democrats’ plan to immediately follow this bipartisan infrastructure bill with their own spending bill significantly undermines our bipartisan effort to deliver a good outcome for the American people. Any harmful provisions we removed from the infrastructure bill will likely be included in the Democrats’ spending bill.
Too much spending, too much debt and too much inflation. My efforts to reach a compromise were honest and sincere, and, unfortunately, we were unable to arrive at a bill I could support.
Watch my floor remarks on infrastructure by clicking here or below.
Discussing VA’s Priorities with Deputy Secretary Donald Remy
This week, I met with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) new Deputy Secretary, Donald Remy, who was sworn in on July 19th following Senate confirmation. I shared my priorities for veterans with Mr. Remy, including preserving and enhancing access to health care for our rural veterans and addressing toxic exposures during military service that have made our veterans sick.
We also discussed the importance of caring for VA’s workforce through and after the pandemic to ensure the department maintains its ability to deliver the best care for enrolled veterans. VA health care workers need modern, integrated and user-friendly IT systems to provide the best care, and I was pleased to hear Mr. Remy’s focus on improving the governance and decision-making process for VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization program. Throughout our conversation, we kept coming back to the need for VA and Congress to work together in partnership with each other and veteran service organizations to reach the best outcomes for veterans. I was pleased to hear Mr. Remy’s commitment to serving veterans in this new role, and I am hopeful his leadership will have a positive impact on the VA and its mission.
Supporting First Generation College Students
This week, the U.S. Department of Education announced it will award four grants to higher education institutions in the state of Kansas. The grants for the University of Kansas, Labette Community College, Emporia State University and Wichita State University will support these institution’s Federal TRIO Talent Search Programs, which help identify students from disadvantaged backgrounds, often first-generation college students, who have the potential to thrive in higher education. This program provides the resources and financial counseling needed to help them succeed. As a first-generation college student, I have long been an advocate for TRIO programs, as it is a proven and effective tool for supporting disadvantaged students earn a college degree. As a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that has jurisdiction over TRIO funding, I will continue to be a strong proponent of this program to help our next generation of Kansans flourish.
Reaffirming VA’s Abortion Service Prohibition
This week, during a U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, I reaffirmed that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is by law prohibited from providing abortion services.
Last week, I received a letter from Secretary McDonough describing VA’s prohibition on abortion services as a “policy decision.” The letter follows the Secretary’s testimony in March where he described VA-provided abortion services as a “regulatory matter.” What is troubling about these statements is that VA’s prohibition on abortion services is more than a policy decision or regulatory matter, it’s the law. As the lead Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a pro-life advocate, I will continue to monitor the VA’s commitment to prohibiting abortion services.
Discussing the Health Care Workforce Shortage with KU School of Medicine
On Tuesday, I was pleased to speak with Dr. Robert Simari, Executive Vice Chancellor at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and Dr. David Skorton, CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges We discussed KU Medical Center’s initiatives to close the health care workforce shortage gap. The Graduate Medical Education (GME) program plays an important role in increasing staff in hospitals located in rural areas and health care professional shortage areas. COVID-19 has exacerbated the burnout many health care workers have felt over the last year. With increased retirements resulting from pandemic-related stressors on our health care workforce, adequate federal support of GME is important to meet the demand for health care professionals. We also discussed the need to permanently extend telehealth flexibilities even after the end of the public health emergency, and my bipartisan legislation, the Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act, seeks to accomplish this goal. Thank you to Dr. Simari and Dr. David Skorton for their time.
Hosting a Lumber Supply Chain Roundtable
As the lead Republican on the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, I hosted a virtual roundtable this week with Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo, my CJS counterpart Senator Shaheen and Kansas stakeholders to discuss supply chain disruptions, recent price volatility, the shortage in availability of homes and potential areas for cooperation among stakeholders. The volatility in the lumber market is pricing hundreds of thousands of potential home buyers out of achieving the American dream of home ownership. Supply chain shortages caused by the pandemic have driven up the price of building and buying homes, and the threat of increasing countervailing duties on certain lumber imports from Canada threaten to exacerbate the situation. I was pleased to invite two Kansans to participate in the roundtable discussion: Tommy Bickimer with Home Builders Association of Kansas City and Lindsay Hicks of Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City. I will work with Secretary Raimondo and Senator Shaheen to address the nationwide high cost of lumber and make the dream of home ownership attainable for all Kansans.
Banking Committee Hearing on Regulatory Appeals
At this week’s Senate Banking Committee hearing, I discussed the need for a robust and independent framework for banks to appeal regulatory decisions. I have repeatedly pushed for financial regulators to increase transparency and was pleased to hear from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chairman, Jelena McWilliams, on the tangible progress by the FDIC to maintain an open and fair appeals process. Additionally, I advocated for a more efficient regulatory framework that benefits community banks and fintech partnerships that increase access to credit for underbanked communities. Watch the full hearing by clicking here.
Learning More about Drone Capabilities with Volansi
On Wednesday, I met with Dr. Will Roper, former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisitions and newly appointed CEO of Volansi. Volansi is a new drone company that describes itself as a provider of on-demand aerial delivery services with a mission to “fly anything anywhere.” As the unmanned aircraft systems industry continues to evolve, Kansas is at the forefront of aerial innovation. I enjoyed meeting with Dr. Roper to discuss potential opportunities of collaboration between our state and Volansi.
Joining KEC’s Summer Meeting
On Monday, before heading back to D.C., I joined Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (KEC) for their annual summer meeting to speak about the vital service electric coops provide to rural communities across Kansas. I gave the group an update on infrastructure legislation, and we also discussed the impact the proposed listing of the lesser prairie-chicken as a threatened species would have on energy projects in western Kansas, specifically renewable energy projects like wind and solar power. The rural way of life is worth preserving, and I will continue to work with KEC to make sure critical services like electricity are readily available and affordable for rural communities across Kansas.
Visiting with Kansas Bankers Association
On Friday, leadership representing member institutions of the Kansas Bankers Association (KBA) held their annual meeting. Throughout the conference we discussed right-sizing federal regulation for Kansas banks to best serve their customers and limiting federal efforts to increase the cost of credit which would harm their ability to service the needs of their communities. This weekend's gathering was an opportunity for me to hear directly from many of these Kansas lenders about the issues they are experiencing and how we can continue improving the regulatory environment to satisfy their customers' needs.
New Resources Further PSU’s Polymer and Plastics Leadership
The Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology awarded the Kansas Polymer Research Center at Pittsburg State University (PSU) a $1.4 million grant to support the recently created National Institute for Materials Advancement (NIMA). Over the past five decades, PSU has established itself as a national leader in polymers and plastics research. I supported the creation of NIMA at PSU, and I’m pleased to see this continued federal investment in the innovative work and research happening in southeast Kansas. These new resources will help diversify the regional workforce by creating new technology-based jobs, boosting the local economy and further solidifying PSU’s leadership in this field.
Application Process for Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program Reopens
Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reopened its application process for the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program (AMJP). The initial application period for the AMJP program closed, as planned, on Tuesday, July 13. However, DOT has decided to reopen the application process on Wednesday, August 4 as some businesses may not have understood the relationship between the AMJP and the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) programs.
The program was created by legislation I introduced with Congressman Ron Estes and is structured to support aviation manufacturers impacted by COVID-19 and works to ensure the experienced and invaluable aviation manufacturing workforce will be safeguarded and available to contribute as the industry recovers.
Applicants who have applied and received confirmation that their application was received do not need to resubmit an application.
Applications will be accepted for four weeks. The deadline to submit an AMJP application is 5:00 p.m. ET on September 1, 2021. Additionally, anyone is free to submit questions, particularly about the application process, to AMJP@dot.gov. An overview of the AMJP application process is available here.
Recognizing Purple Heart Day
On Saturday, we recognized the tremendous sacrifice of the men and women who were killed or wounded in battle protecting our country. Purple Heart Day, recognized annually on August 7, is a day to reflect on our commitment to never forget the dedication, heroism and bravery of our country’s servicemembers.
Happy Birthday, Coast Guard
Wednesday was the United States Coast Guard’s 231st birthday. Thank you to all women and men who serve and protect our nation’s seas. Semper Paratus.
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.
Newsletter Sign-up Form
Note: Fields marked with an * are required.