Kansas Common Sense
Visiting Eastern Europe
Mar 21 2022
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Visiting Eastern Europe
This weekend, I traveled with a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues to Eastern Europe to gain further insight on the needed military and humanitarian support for Ukraine. We met with NATO foreign officials and American military leaders, visited a refugee center on the Ukrainian-Polish border to witness firsthand the humanitarian crisis this attack has created, and I had the opportunity to speak with Kansas soldiers stationed in Europe.
Discussing What I Saw with America Reports
This afternoon, following my return to Washington, D.C., I joined Fox News to discuss my visit to Poland and Germany. As Vladimir Putin continues his tragic and immoral invasion, the United States and the rest of the world must do everything it can to ensure that Ukraine can not only fight back, but can win.
Click here or below to watch my discussion with America Reports.
Bipartisan Press Conference Following Visit
This afternoon, I also joined my Senate colleagues to discuss our visit. What I saw was inspirational, tremendous leadership from President Zelenskyy and a country that is willing to die in sacrifice for freedom and liberty.
This visit was also a reminder that the stakes are massive. If freedom and liberty do not mean something in Ukraine, where will we decide that it is valued? Every day matters in this fight against Vladimir Putin’s aggression. Our slow, bureaucratic march to provide aid is not keeping up with the Russian forces bearing down on Ukrainian cities. We can’t just provide support for the Ukrainians to get by; we ought to make certain the Ukrainian people have the tools to defend their freedom and win.
On the Ukrainian-Polish border, I visited a refugee center with our bipartisan delegation. Over three million refugees have had to flee their homes, including 700,000 student-aged children, and many are coming to Poland for help. This is the most rapid refugee exodus ever recorded. These Ukrainians’ lives have changed drastically in a matter of weeks, and it was devastating to see families torn apart as we heard of fathers, brothers and sons staying behind to fight for their country.
We also attended a humanitarian briefing to hear about how nations, non-governmental organizations and volunteers are coming together to provide much-needed aid to those displaced and received an update on how the humanitarian aid Congress approved last week is supporting their mission. I was thankful for the opportunity to visit with these leaders and thank volunteers for their work around the clock to care for so many in this time of crisis.
The circumstances these people have found themselves in – forced to leave their homes, their family members and adopt refugee status – are the result of Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked decision to attack a sovereign nation. However, the strength and resiliency of the Ukrainian people was evident in every refugee I spoke with; it was inspiring and only furthers my resolve to do everything we can as Americans to continue to stand firmly with Ukraine.
Meeting with American Troops Stationed in Poland
In Poland, my Senate colleagues and I also visited with servicemembers from the 82nd Airborne Division, where the United States is offering support. Major Gen. Christopher LaNeve and Lt. Gen. Christopher Donahue briefed us on a tactical level, as Russian forces continue to move towards Kyiv, and as strong Ukrainian resistance has caused failure for the Russian military.
Because of my role in the Senate as an appropriator for the United States' defense and intelligence, I was able to receive classified briefs from our intelligence services in Europe.
I appreciated hearing from our military leaders, as well as our NATO partners. As Russia’s unprovoked war with Ukraine threatens European stability, a unified NATO is essential to deterring further threats and preserving American peace and prosperity.
Thanking Kansas Soldiers
In Germany, I met with troops from the 1st and 3rd Infantry Divisions. Big Red One Commanding General Douglas Sims provided an overview of their mission and current training exercises, and soldiers provided my colleagues and I with an operational brief. We had the chance to view live fire training where tanks maneuvered to stop enemy targets and provided cover fire for soldiers on the ground. This demonstration was led by SFC Javelin Mills of Pomona; I appreciated speaking with him, and I thanked him for his service as he remains far from home.
Thank you to MG Sims for his continued leadership. I greatly appreciated being able to speak with Big Red One soldiers, and I thank them for the sacrifice and commitment they make for their country and for the American people. Their presence in Europe demonstrates to our NATO allies that the United States is here, and we are committed.
Briefing at Wiesbadan Army Airfield in Germany
On Friday morning, I visited Wiesbadan Army Airfield (WAAF) in Germany where I was briefed by General Christopher Cavoli, USAREUR-AF Commanding General. He updated me and my Senate colleagues on the Army’s current operations throughout Europe and Africa. This Special Operations Command Europe brief also covered the latest on Putin’s assault on Ukraine and an overview of the NATO response, including the humanitarian efforts that are occurring at the Polish border.
At WAAF, I also visited with two Kansans: Sergeant First Class Kevin Jensen from Manhattan and Private Efren Benitez from Maize. Our servicemembers' mission while stationed in Europe has taken them far from their families as they assist partner nations before and after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. They stand ready as a key deterrent to our adversaries, and I appreciate their dedicated service.
Joining the Senate NATO Observer Group
Ahead of traveling to Eastern Europe, I was appointed by the Senate to join the Senate North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Observer Group, which serves as a bridge between the U.S. Senate and NATO allies. As Russia’s unprovoked war with Ukraine threatens European stability, a unified NATO is essential to deterring further threats and preserving American peace and prosperity. Through my role on the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have regularly met with NATO military leaders stationed throughout Europe, and I am pleased to now join this group to continue strengthening this transatlantic alliance. Through this bipartisan group my colleagues and I will track the implementation of NATO initiatives, assess its military capabilities and review NATO defense spending to protect democracy and safeguard freedom for the U.S. and our NATO allies.
President Zelenskyy’s Address to Congress
President Zelenskyy’s address to Congress on Wednesday morning was a powerful and moving reminder that the United States must continue to take action to aid Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s unprovoked attack, assist refugees fleeing Ukraine, support our NATO allies and make certain Vladimir Putin pays for his aggression. The United States has the capability to provide further resources to Ukrainians through defensive military equipment, food aid and medical supplies, and we must demonstrate through our actions that we stand with Ukraine and our European allies in the fight for democracy. America should do what America does best – protect freedom and liberty for our own citizens and for people around the world.
Following President Zelenskyy’s address, I spoke at a press conference regarding the war in Ukraine. The United States of America needs to do more today than what we’ve done to date. Watch my remarks here or below.
I recently saw this Ukrainian orphan’s story on the news, and he has been on my mind since.
America has a special role in this world. Sometimes it’s easy to look away. But we must not. When we do, we often leave the world a much more difficult and deadly place.
My Legislation Honoring Women of Six Triple Eight Signed Into Law
On Monday morning, President Biden signed my legislation to award the Six Triple Eight – the only all-black, all-female battalion to serve overseas during World War II – with a Congressional Gold Medal.
The women of the Six Triple Eight have earned a special place in history for their service to our nation, and as of today, their sacrifice is enshrined into law with the highest distinction Congress can bestow. Though the odds were set against them, the women of the Six Triple Eight processed millions of letters and packages during their deployment in Europe, boosting troop morale and helping connect World War II soldiers with their loved ones back home – like my father and mother. Our nation will always be grateful to the members of the Six Triple Eight and now, nearly 80 years after their service and during Women’s History Month, we are finally able to recognize these extraordinary women on the national stage.
It has been an honor to meet members of the battalion and help lead this effort to soon award the Six Triple Eight with the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest expression of national appreciation from Congress.
Thank you to the President for acting quickly to sign this legislation into law, to Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Congressman Jake LaTurner for leading this effort in the House and to Col. Edna Cummings for her tireless work advocating for the Six Triple Eight to be honored on behalf of a grateful nation.
Urging the U.S. Mint to Expedite Production
Following the Six Triple Eight Congressional Gold Medal Act being signed into law, I asked the U.S. Mint to expedite production to make certain the remaining six women who served in the World War II Six Triple Eight battalion can accept this medal on behalf of their fellow soldiers. Read the full letter here.
Meeting with Kansas Community Leaders
National League of Cities
I met with officials from Lawrence, Mission and Clearwater this week on behalf of the National League of Cities to discuss issues facing Kansas municipalities. The community leaders discussed the importance of the federal COVID-19 funds provided to state and local governments, as well plans for infrastructure investments in the future. Thank you to the Lawrence, Mission and Clearwater city officials for visiting with me in our nation’s capital.
I also met with leaders from Wichita to discuss issues facing the city, including infrastructure investments and transportation priorities, such as the Heartland Flyer. These investments would provide new opportunities for surrounding businesses and residents, and I look forward to continue advocating for them. Thank you to Mayor Brandon Whipple, Vice Mayor Becky Tuttle and local Council Members for meeting with me.
Additionally, I met with leaders from Lenexa to discuss issues facing their city, including infrastructure, COVID-19 funds and mental health services. I appreciated learning more about investments the city is making to attract new businesses, as well to improve the daily lives for Kansans living in the area. Thank you to Mayor Mike Boehm, Council Members Dan Roh, Melanie Arroyo, and Julie Sayers and Assistant City Manager Mike Nolan for coming by.
Announcing a Grant to Support K-State Ag Research Initiatives
This week, I announced research grants awarded to Kansas State University by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The three research initiatives will focus on early detection and containment of African swine fever as well as improving hard red winter wheat pathogen diagnostics.
Agricultural biosecurity is increasingly important to our farmers and ranchers in Kansas, as well as the larger American economy. These federal resources will support Kansas State University’s efforts to expand our capability to effectively respond to biothreats in crops and livestock, or prevent them altogether. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over USDA, I will continue to advocate for programs that improve our agricultural biosecurity.
Urging SkyWest to Continue Service to Kansas Airports
Last week, SkyWest announced it would be ending air service to Dodge City, Hays, Liberal and Salina in the near future. Following this news, I, along with Senator Roger Marshall and Congressman Tracey Mann, urged U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to require SkyWest to continue its contracted level of service to four Kansas airports until a new carrier can be secured.
Given the urgency of this situation, we requested continued communication with our regional airport authorities on the ongoing efforts to find a new carrier to replace SkyWest Airlines. Additionally, we conveyed our support for the DOT’s requirement that SkyWest retain their contracted level of service until the conclusion of the Essential Air Service selection case and for the DOT to uphold their commitment to bar SkyWest from ending its contract until replacement carriers can be found. Read the full letter here.
Banking Committee Nominations
Advancing Jerome Powell’s Nomination to be Federal Reserve Chair
On Thursday, I joined my colleagues in voting Jerome Powell out of the Senate Banking Committee to be considered for Chair of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors before the full Senate. Since being nominated by President Trump in 2018, Chair Powell has resisted attempts to politicize the Federal Reserve. The American people deserve a central bank focused on its dual mandate of low unemployment and stable prices, not political issues outside of its jurisdiction.
Sarah Bloom Raskin Nomination Withdrawal
Due to bipartisan opposition, Sarah Bloom Raskin withdrew her nomination to be the Federal Reserve’s Vice Chair for Supervision. This sends a clear message to the Biden administration: Americans deserve apolitical nominees to lead the supervision of our financial system and institutions.
It is inappropriate for unelected bureaucrats to advocate using the power of an apolitical institution to achieve political ends. The Senate Banking Committee did its job in vetting a nominee for one of the most powerful posts for financial regulation. Read my op-ed on recent federal reserve nominees from the Washington Examiner here.
High Fertilizer Prices
This week, I led a letter with U.S. Representatives Tracey Mann and Cindy Axne, along with 83 of our Congressional colleagues, to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) Chair Jason Kearns regarding the price and supply situation for fertilizers in the United States. We urged the ITC to reconsider the duties placed on phosphate fertilizer products imported from Morocco and suspend the current process to impose new duties on urea ammonium nitrate fertilizer from Trinidad and Tobago. Skyrocketing input costs, and particularly record-high fertilizer prices, are damaging Kansas farmers’ ability to grow a crop and earn a living. This commonsense solution would increase the availability of fertilizer products and provide needed relief for Kansas producers.
Meeting with the National Association of Development Organizations
Last week, I met with Randall Hrabe, the Executive Director of the Northwest Planning and Development Commission and member of the National Association of Development Organizations, to discuss what the federal government could be doing to improve economic development in Kansas. As the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Economic Development Administration, I understand the important role the federal government has played and will play in local economic development projects in Kansas. I look forward to continuing to work with Randall and other Kansans who are working to boost local economies and provide opportunities for our people.
Veterans’ Affairs Committee Work
Introducing the Elizabeth Dole Act
This week, I introduced the Elizabeth Dole Home and Community Based Services Act with several of my Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee colleagues. The legislation expands access and invests for much-needed resources into VA programs designed to keep homebound veterans in the community as long as possible. These alternative home-based programs help delay the need to institutionalize veterans for long-term care and enables veterans to maintain their independence in their own homes and communities.
More specifically, the Elizabeth Dole Act would increase the amount VA is allowed to pay for alternative programs to non-institutional care, establish partnerships to conduct certain home and community-based care programs, expand access to these programs to veterans living in U.S. territories and native veterans enrolled in tribal health programs, among other things. This legislation is named after honorary Kansan, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who has worked as an advocate to honor and recognize our veterans and their caregivers.
Welcoming Kansas Students to the U.S. Capitol
It was a beautiful day to visit with students from Frontenac Junior High and Eisenhower Middle School on the Senate Steps on Wednesday. I always look forward to speaking with Kansas students here in our nation’s capital.
In Kansas, we talk often of community, and how important it is to the fabric of the smaller towns that dot the state. Because in Kansas, knowing your neighbors and making the effort to get involved with those around you is what ensures our small communities’ survival.
Dick Hedges was a man that took that need for a strong community to heart and helped build the fabric of Fort Scott in so many ways. He impacted the lives of so many throughout his life, and his life gives me hope for others like him in towns across our state.
My prayers are with his wife, Jan, the Fort Scott community, and his entire family and loved ones. Watch my remarks on the U.S. Senate Floor in his honor here.
On Thursday, I paid tribute to Kansan Sonny Rundell on the U.S. Senate Floor.
In 2002, while I was still a member of the House, I was pleased to honor Sonny with the Recognition of Korean Service. Then and now, I thank him for his dedication to our state, and I thank him for his service to our nation. My prayers are with his wife, Verna, and to his entire family and loved ones. Watch my remarks on the U.S. Senate Floor in his honor here.
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.
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.
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