Kansas Common Sense
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.
Honoring Senator John McCain
John McCain was a true American hero, whose sense of duty to our nation led to a lifetime of dedicated public service. First as a naval aviator serving in Vietnam, his honor led him to refuse early release ahead of his fellow American POWs. Then as a member of Congress and presidential candidate, John remained steadfast in his principles, always seeking to do what he thought was in our nation’s best interest. There has been no better advocate for our servicemembers and veterans than John and it was an honor to work closely with him on achieving the most significant VA reform Congress has passed in decades with the VA MISSION Act. This could not have been possible without his leadership and knowledge, and it was fitting that the bill was named after him.
John was a friend and an example to me and many others. He leaves behind a legacy of courage and conviction – I hope we all can reflect on these values as we work together to heal and advance America. Robba and I are praying for John’s wife, Cindy, their children and grandchildren, as well as John’s mother, and we thank them for sharing John with us for so many years.
Moving Forward with the Appropriations Process
This week, the Senate passed the funding bill for the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education. This package marks the first time in more than a decade that individual Appropriations bills have been considered on the Senate floor with such bipartisan success. Included in the bill is the largest boost in troop pay in more than a decade, as well as further significant investment in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's which affects millions of our fellow Americans. During my time as the lead republican on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, I was proud to have begun the important work of ensuring that our country's medical minds have the resources necessary to combat the diseases that plague our society. The fight is not yet won, but I am encouraged that the Senate continues to build upon the progress we've made against Alzheimer's and other afflictions.
Included in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill is important funding that will drive medical research and innovation by an investment of an additional $2 billion in the National Institutes of Health, combat opioid abuse through an additional $145 million directed at improving treatment and prevention efforts, and increase funding for community health centers and rural health initiatives to make certain our Kansas communities continue to have access to the care they need. This bipartisan effort will help us address the opioid epidemic, invest in our schools, and hopefully allow our medical researchers to find new treatments and cures that will lower medical costs to our system as a whole and improve patient outcomes. I will work with our federal agencies to ensure this funding is spent responsibly to achieve these goals.
The House of Representatives and the Senate will now begin the work of resolving the differences between the bodies' two bills. I look forward to continuing my advocacy amongst my colleagues to make certain the appropriations process is reflective of our Kansas priorities.
Questioning Administration Officials on Russia Sanctions
The Senate Banking Committee I serve on has jurisdiction over foreign sanctions, and on Tuesday our committee held a hearing examining the effectiveness of current Russian sanctions and the path forward. I had expected the witnesses representing the administration to provide recommendations for Congress to consider as new measures are debated, and I was disappointed when none of the panelists were forthcoming, despite my questioning. I also asked the Department of Homeland Security to detail how it shares election threats with our state and local officials. There is no sign that Russia has changed its behavior since President Trump met with Vladimir Putin last month, and I was pleased by the bipartisan commitment of the committee to maintain pressure on Russia and protect the integrity of our elections. Watch my full line of questioning here.
Announcing Plans for New Elementary School at Fort Riley
I am pleased to announce the recently passed FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes a provision that prioritizes plans for a new elementary school on Fort Riley. The NDAA includes language to stabilize the Department of Defense (DoD) 2011 Public Schools on Military Installations Priority List. This language allows DoD to continue replacing schools while completing an audit previously required by law.
The NDAA authorization secures priority for USD 475 to plan for and apply for grants to construct a new elementary school at Fort Riley. It has always been my priority to make certain we are not only supporting our servicemembers, but that we are also supporting their children and families. A new elementary school at Fort Riley will prevent overcrowding and provide our service members’ children access to modern and high-quality educational resources and facilities they deserve.
Since the return of the 1st Infantry Division to Fort Riley in 2005, I have worked closely with the DoD and the US Army to invest in resources to grow and support critical community infrastructure around military installations. Previous projects include a new middle and elementary school on Fort Riley and the state-of-the-art Irwin Army Hospital.
I also led an amendment to the FY2019 Defense Appropriations bill that passed the Senate on Thursday to provide up to $20 million for a 10-year pilot program authorized in the FY19 NDAA, the Defense Community Infrastructure Program (DCIP). The DCIP will provide DoD grants to assist state and local governments for the funding of infrastructure projects located off base in the military communities surrounding military installations. These grants may be used to support various infrastructure projects such as transportation, schools, hospitals, clinics, police stations, fire stations, emergency response structure and other community support facilities in locations surrounding Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth, McConnell Air Fort Base, and other National Guard and Reserve component installations. Click here for more information.
Meeting with Kansas Native and Office of Science and Technology Policy Nominee
On Wednesday, I met with Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, the nominee to be director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the executive branch. Dr. Droegemeier – an Ellsworth native – is the current Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Technology and is a professor at the University of Oklahoma. He is a well-regarded scientist and meteorologist with a host of academic and professional accomplishments that will serve the office and our country well.
As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, I have the unique responsibility of overseeing funding for many federal agencies that carry out scientific research and utilize scientific discovery in their everyday work. Additionally, I remain focused on increasing opportunities for young Kansans in STEM fields; once confirmed, I know Dr. Droegemeier will be a strong advocate for STEM education within the administration.
Speaking on the Importance of NIH for Alzheimer’s Research
This week, I gave remarks on the Senate floor in support of funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that were passed in the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill, specifically NIH funding that supports Alzheimer’s disease research. Within the overall NIH funding increase is a $425 million increase for Alzheimer’s disease-specific research, for a total $2.3 billion in funds designated to support Alzheimer’s disease research in FY2019.
These increased resources allow NIH researchers and their partners at academic institutions, like our very own University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center, to aggressively pursue new treatments to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, and ultimately find a cure to this degenerative disease that has afflicted millions of Americans and their families. I will continue to advocate for stable NIH funding and support Alzheimer’s research to ultimately put an end to the suffering this disease has caused so many. Watch my full remarks here.
Hosting Townhall Meetings
This week, I hosted three Kansas Listening Tour stops which marked my 86th townhall of this Congress and my 1,293rd overall.
Thank you to the many residents of Russell for joining me as I continued my Kansas Listening Tour. I let folks know that the Senate is trying to get back to working order by passing 12 separate appropriations bills and is looking forward to the upcoming confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. We also discussed the uncertainty that comes with the loss of commodity markets during escalating trade tensions, and the generational effects that this could have on rural Kansas, as well as issues related to veterans healthcare, our immigration system, the need for a skilled workforce, industrial hemp, healthcare, and school safety.
Thank you to the Russell Chamber of Commerce and Espresso Etc. for hosting me and to State Representative Troy Waymaster for attending.
I appreciate the many McPherson residents who took time to join my townhall meeting on Saturday. Folks were particularly interested in hearing more about recent action on trade and tariffs and shared their frustration regarding the consequences that decisions made in Washington have on rural America.
Thank you to The Cedars for hosting my visit to McPherson and to Mayor Tom Brown for attending. Thanks also to Miriam Hoover for attending the townhall meeting just a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday!
During my Listening Tour stop in Trego County, I was pleased to visit with employees of Western Cooperative Electric in WaKeeney. WCE maintains over 4,000 miles of power lines and employs over 50 people in Northwest Kansas. I appreciate the many people who took time to visit with on important issues facing rural Kansas and our nation.
Community Visits to Dorrance and Bunker Hill
Prior to my townhall meetings on Friday, I made stops in Dorrance and Bunker Hill to visit with folks on Main Street and at various businesses and organizations around town. Thanks to the area residents, business owners and local leaders who took time out of their day to give me their thoughts on a variety of issues and allowing me to visit with them on work I’m doing in Washington.
Attending the FHSU Foundation Annual Board Meeting Reception
On Friday evening I attended the Fort Hays State University Foundation's annual board meeting and reception. At the event, we heard updates on various university matters from Foundation President and CEO Jason Williby, FHSU President Dr. Tisa Mason and FHSU Student Body President Adam Schibi. The group also welcomed a group of nine new members to the board of trustees. I was pleased to visit with many long-time friends, former colleagues and fellow Kansans throughout the evening in Hays.
Now Accepting 2018 Service Academy Applications
Appointing Kansans to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.; the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo; and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. is one of my favorite duties as a U.S. Senator.
To review requirements and move through the application process, please download an application from my website or contact my Olathe office at 913-393-0711. All application materials are due to my Olathe office by September 7, 2018. After applications have been reviewed, applicants will be notified of interviews with my Service Academy Selection Board, which will take place on Saturday, September 22, 2018, at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.
Kansans in the Office
Glenna Borho of Pratt
Brenda Burdiek of Centralia
Tim Burdiek of Centralia
Judy Dixon of Louisburg
Phil Dixon of Louisburg
Michelle Duell of Ogden
Trevor Duell of Ogden
Danny Gallagher of Paola
Terri Gallagher of Paola
Cynthia Katzer of Paola
Dan Katzer of Paola
Bonnie Roberts of Paola
Marilyn Roberts of Paola
Gary Scoby of Sabetha
Leslie Scoby of Sabetha
Laurelann Stroda of Pratt
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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