Kansas Common Sense
May 22 2023
Recognizing National Police Week, Honoring Fallen Kansas Law Enforcement
I spoke on the Senate floor this week to recognize National Police Week and to remember Kansas law enforcement who passed away in 2022. National Police Week was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, and this year runs from May 14 – May 20.
We honor the service and sacrifice of our nation's fallen law enforcement officers, remember those who have departed and acknowledge and express our gratitude for the sacrifices all law enforcement officers make every day they wear the badge. During this week, and every other week of the year, we should honor those we have lost and remember the families they left behind. May God bless our police officers.
In my remarks, I recognized the four Kansas police officers who passed away in 2022:
Deputy Sheriff Sidnee Carter with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office
You can watch my full speech here.
Our Country Does Not Have Operational Control of the Border
This week, I spoke on the Senate floor regarding the security and humanitarian crisis at our southern border and the consequences of eliminating Title 42. Repealing Title 42 without a robust plan of action has left our law enforcement agents with a disastrous situation at the border. Border Patrol Agents are being asked to be caretakers, law enforcement, medical professionals and so much more. The fact of the matter is that our country does not have operational control of the border, and it will continue to fail to do so if we stay on the current path.
President Biden must act to ensure strict enforcement of our immigration laws, reinstate the construction of a wall or fencing in areas that are largely unprotected, and the administration must send the message that our border is closed to unlawful entrants.
Securing our southern border isn’t a Republican and Democrat issue. It isn’t Texas or Arizona’s issue. Under the current policy, every state is a border state – including Kansas.
If we truly want to help migrants, then we need to create a fair and humane asylum process, and we need to stop the illegal crossings at the southern border that undermine our laws and jeopardize our national security. Americans are tired of paying the cost of the Biden administration’s inaction and failure to make any serious policy changes at the southern border.
You can watch my full speech here.
Welcoming Artemis II Astronauts to Capitol Hill
This week, as Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, I welcomed NASA’s Artemis II crew, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Canadian Space Agency President Lisa Campbell to Capitol Hill. This is the first crewed mission of the Artemis program that will orbit the Moon and pave the way for future lunar surface missions. Artemis II represents the next step in cementing America’s leadership in space exploration, while inspiring the next generation of astronauts, engineers and scientists. The Artemis missions will further scientific discovery, create new economic benefits and deepen our alliances across the globe.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), my counterpart on the subcommittee, and I were honored to host the Artemis crew. I know they will represent our country well and inspire future generations.
You can read more from WIBW here.
Facilitating Partnerships with Leaders in Space
On Tuesday evening, I hosted an event as co-chair of the Senate Aerospace Caucus to welcome Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) executives and military leaders, as well as NASA Administrator Bill Nelson to the Capitol to celebrate the value of these critical partnerships. As space continues to be an emerging frontier, our national security is dependent on strong coordination between these entities. Each year, I prioritize gathering these representatives across various sectors to discuss the ways America can succeed in the space domain.
The next morning, I participated in a roundtable discussion with member-company executives from the AIA for a conversation on the status of the debt limit negotiations, my FAA Reauthorization efforts, research and development, as well as ways to support our aviation and aerospace industry workforce. I appreciated the opportunity to hear and take questions from these leaders.
During this event, I was presented with “The Wright Stuff Award” for contributions to the aerospace industry and national security. Previous recipients of this award have included Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.). For over a century, Kansas has played an outsized role in the aviation industry, and since my time in Congress, I have worked to support policies that will propel the industry further. I am grateful to AIA President Eric Fanning and AIA Chair of the Board Tom Gentile of Wichita for the award.
Schwan's Tony's Pizza Plant in Salina is Now Open
It was great to join Schwan’s, local leaders and state officials on Friday to celebrate the grand opening of the Tony’s Pizza manufacturing facility expansion in Salina – the world’s largest pizza plant. I have had the opportunity to watch this project progress over the past three years and was pleased to help secure a federal grant through the Economic Development Administration to support this project. This expansion project, which will add hundreds of jobs and stability to the local economy, was successful because of the continued commitment and investment in Salina by Schwan’s and the unified support of the local community.
Thank you to Dimitrios Smyrnios for inviting me to the grand opening event, and to Representative Tracey Mann and Lieutenant Governor David Toland for joining me in celebrating this great day for Salina and Kansas.
You can read more from KSN here and the Salina Post here.
This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing with the Secretaries of Defense, State and Commerce on U.S. investment into security and competitiveness with China. I used my time during the hearing to highlight the importance of aviation and aerospace to U.S. economic and national security.
China is closing the gap to the United States in military, commercial and general aviation categories, so I asked Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin about what they are doing to ensure the U.S. maintains leadership in aviation and aerospace manufacturing and innovation. Secretary Raimondo highlighted the potential for aviation and aerospace in her Department’s Tech Hubs program, which was authorized in the CHIPS and Science Act and will boost specific existing areas of excellence around the country to tap into the full extent of U.S. innovation and talent. China is the our nation’s foremost challenge, and we must make certain this administration’s budget invests in a whole-of-nation effort across all facets of the aviation and aerospace environment. As the Vice Chair of the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, and a member of the Appropriations subcommittees responsible for the Defense and State Departments, I will continue to work to be certain the strengths and talents of our state continue to play a vital role in our nation’s ongoing strategic competition with China.
You can watch my remarks here.
Leading Bill to Improve the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network
This week, I introduced legislation to help break up the monopoly contract currently held by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to manage the nation’s Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). I was joined in introducing this bill by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.).
From damaged organs to discriminatory organ donation policies, it is clear UNOS should no longer be the sole contractor for the organ donation system. I have worked for years to shed light on the mismanagement of the organ donation system and have consistently called for the contract to be divided. The Securing U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Act removes barriers in OPTN contracting and gives the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) statutory authority to improve management of the organ transplant system, allowing a more transparent and competitive process for an OPTN contract. Every organ counts, and this legislation will help overhaul the system and save lives.
You can read more from the Kansas Reflector here and WIBW here.
Introducing Legislation to Strengthen Childhood Cancer Research
Along with my colleagues Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), I introduced the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act 2.0 to provide an additional source of funding for pediatric cancer research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The legislation would redirect penalties collected from pharmaceutical, cosmetic, supplement and medical device companies that break the law to NIH pediatric and childhood cancer research. The bill is named in honor of Gabriella Miller, a Leesburg, Virginia, resident who died from a rare form of brain cancer at the age of 10. Gabriella was an activist and worked to raise support for research into childhood diseases like cancer until her death in October of 2013.
While cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children past infancy, childhood cancer and other rare pediatric diseases remain poorly understood. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 9,910 children under the age of 14 will be diagnosed with cancer and about 1,040 will die of the disease in the United States in 2023. By directing additional resources to NIH to research cures and treatments for cancer in children, we can help save lives and honor the memory of Gabriella Miller.
You can read more from WIBW here.
Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Hearing on VA Budget
As Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I held a hearing this week on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) budget request for Fiscal Year 2024. VA is asking for $325.1 billion to provide health care and benefits to veterans and their caregivers, dependents and survivors. During the hearing, I asked VA Secretary Denis McDonough and members of the veterans service organizations who testified about how VA is supporting veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins during military service, how VA is spending supplemental funds provided during the pandemic and how VA is improving health care access and outcomes for veteran patients. I will continue to work to provide VA the funding it needs to deliver timely and high-quality support to the military and veteran community, and I am committed to making certain that every dime of taxpayer resources that VA receives is put to good use for the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our nation.
You can watch my remarks here.
Meeting with Paralyzed Veterans of America
I met with Carl Blake, Executive Director of Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), to discuss the unique needs of veterans who live with spinal cord injury and disease. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the nation’s most comprehensive system of care for spinal cord injury and disease, and PVA conducts regular site inspections to make certain veterans are getting the best care possible. Despite the robust system of care VA provides, it still faces challenges in fully staffing spinal cord care centers due to shortages in the health care workforce.
During our meeting, Carl described the importance of home and community-based care options for veterans with spinal cord injuries and disease. These veterans overcame the challenges of their injuries, and in many cases, rely on caregivers to maintain a level of independence outside of institutional settings. I introduced the Elizabeth Dole Home Care Act to provide veterans with more resources and options to receive the assistance they need in order to live independently in their homes. I appreciate PVA’s support for this bill as we work to make certain veterans receive the right care at the right time in the setting that will allow them to live a fulfilled, meaningful life.
Meeting with Kansans
Association of American Cancer Institutes
This week, I met with Dr. Roy Jensen, Director of the University of Kansas Cancer Center, Darren McLaughlin, a former KU Cancer Center patient and Chief of Police in Merriam, and his wife Melinda. We discussed Darren and Melinda’s positive experiences seeking treatment at the KU Cancer Center. Because of the investments made at KU Cancer Center and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) into cancer research and treatments, Chief McLaughlin was able to share his impactful story with me.
As a member of the Senate Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee and senator from a state that is home to many universities and organizations conducting leading cancer research, I remain committed to supporting efforts bolstering these programs and to advancing this critical, lifesaving research. I want to thank Dr. Jensen, Chief McLaughlin and Melinda for meeting with me to advocate for this important issue.
On Thursday, I was pleased to meet with Dr. JuliAnn Mazachek, Washburn University’s newly appointed president. During the meeting, we discussed Washburn’s initiatives to assist low-income students as they work to earn degrees in higher education. We also spoke about the variety of expansions happening at the university to help our state combat the workforce shortage occuring across the nation. Thank you to President Mazachek for taking the time to visit with me and share her vision for training Kansas students.
Wichita Area TARC Team – American Rocket Challenge
It was great to meet with the Kansas American Rocket Challenge team from Wichita that qualified as the top 100 out of 900 teams to participate in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) National Finals in Virginia this past weekend. TARC is the world’s largest student rocket contest, with nearly 5,000 students from across the nation competing each year. I was pleased to speak with the bright, young Kansan representing the group about his aspirations to pursue a career in STEM. I also enjoyed learning about the history of TARC from Team Wichita’s sponsor, Bill Lindsay.
City of Olathe
This week, I was pleased to meet with Olathe Mayor John Bacon, Council Members Kevin Gilmore and Robyn Essex, Chamber CEO Tim McKee and Tim Danneberg with the City of Olathe. During this meeting, we discussed current and future projects in the works for the city of Olathe. It was also great to speak with them about the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup which will be hosted in the Kansas City area. I appreciated the chance to hear from this group about everything happening in the community.
Improve the Dream
This week, I visited with students from Improve the Dream, a youth-led organization that advocates for comprehensive immigration reform. I appreciated the chance to speak with these students as they shared about their backgrounds and collective experiences of coming to the United States at young ages. Now, they are all pursuing sophisticated degree programs and making plans for how to give back to their communities one day.
Receiving ESOP Association Award
On Wednesday, I appreciated receiving the award for ESOP Champion of the Year from the ESOP Association. A special thank you to Gary Shorman, my friend and Hays neighbor, for presenting me with the award. Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP) have been proven to boost company longevity and resilience, increase growth and create wealth. Giving employees a stake in the company they work for gives them real economic benefit for their hard work. That is why I supported the WORK Act which passed last Congress. Devoting resources and grants from the Department of Labor will help smaller businesses across the country explore employee ownership. Simply put, these firms are more productive, more profitable, but most importantly – they become better work environments when employees are invested in the company they work for.
On Saturday, I stopped at a community block party to celebrate and integrate new Afghan refugees now living in Manhattan. The messages I heard during my conversations carried a common theme: gratefulness. It was a reminder that we are fortunate to live in a country with so much opportunity. The way Manhattan residents have embraced these families was extremely moving.
During the hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, my office received and worked emergency evacuation cases for roughly over 1,000 Afghan nationals who either had a U.S. visa, had applied for a visa but not yet obtained it, or were under severe fatal threat from the Taliban, including Christians and Hazara ethnic minorities. I remain committed to making certain America keeps its promises made during times of war. In addition to helping pass legislation that created the Afghanistan War Commission to investigate the two-decade period and disastrous withdrawal, I am also a supporter of the Afghan Adjustment Act. This bill will provide greater certainty to tens of thousands of Afghans now living in the U.S., whose temporary two-year legal status will expire later this year. This legislation has the support of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Veterans for Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Veterans for American Ideals, With Honor Action and the Association of Wartime Allies.
The block party was organized and hosted in collaboration between the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) and the Manhattan Area Resettlement Team (MART). MART is a volunteer organization comprised of mostly veterans who want to do something to help their friends and allies that fought with alongside them on the battlefields in Afghanistan. I thank KLC and MART for their invite and the good work they are doing to make certain Kansas remains a great place to call home.
Participating in Groundbreaking of K-State Agronomy Research & Innovation Center
On Monday, I participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for Kansas State University’s Agronomy Research and Innovation Center on campus in Manhattan. This project is the first realized step in a multi-year effort by K-State to raise public and private funds to completely remodel their agricultural research infrastructure on campus. Once completed, the Agronomy Research and Innovation Center will conduct cutting-edge research to help farmers feed millions of people facing hunger worldwide and attract the best agronomic students and researchers in the world to K-State. This project would not have been possible without the investment of Kansas commodity groups, farm organizations and private donors. Thank you to President Richard Linton and Dean Ernie Minton for allowing me to join them for this event.
You can read more from the Junction City Post here.
Visiting Geiger Ready Mix
On Monday, before returning to Washington, D.C., I stopped at Geiger Ready Mix in Kansas City to tour this facility. Geiger Ready Mix is the largest ready-mix concrete delivery company in the Kansas City area, with locations in Kansas City, Leavenworth and Olathe, as well as locations in Missouri. This company is more than 130 years old and first opened as a small construction contracting business. I appreciate President Todd Geiger for hosting me for this informative tour.
Visiting Great Plains/Kubota in Salina
This week, I stopped by Great Plains Manufacturing in Salina to visit with CEO David Disberger and tour the Kubota Construction Equipment Division Facility. Since becoming a Kubota Company in 2016, Great Plains has expanded its manufacturing operations in Salina and the neighboring communities. Further expansions are planned, but, as David and I discussed during this visit, the most needed resource for these expansions is a permanent workforce supply. To meet this need, Great Plains has worked to help develop housing initiatives within the communities where it has an employment footprint and with K-State Salina and area technical schools to create work-study programs to prepare students for joining the workforce while they are still in school. Communities in Kansas continue to thrive because of investments from companies like Kubota and Great Plains. Thank you to CEO David Disberger for visiting with me and giving me a tour of the plant.
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