Kansas Common Sense
Mar 15 2021
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Speaking in Opposition of H.R. 1
This week, I spoke on the Senate floor in opposition of H.R. 1, the partisan For the People Act, to highlight the drastic impact this legislation would have on federalizing elections, restricting free speech and further dividing the country along party lines.
H.R. 1 is an affront to the United States Constitution. Americans did not vote to give one party free rein to implement an unprecedented power grab, to nationalize elections and strip power from states and localities from now into perpetuity. As a conservative, I believe in individual liberties and in a federal government that exercises restraint, and that state and local units of government are inherently more responsive to the wishes of the citizenry. My adherence to the Constitution instructs deference to state governments to oversee their own elections, and I hope all Americans, including my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, take the time to read and understand H.R. 1 for what it truly is.
Listen to my full remarks by clicking here or below.
Meeting with Kansas Health Officials Regarding Vaccination Efforts Across the State
Visiting the Sedgwick County Vaccination Center
On Monday, I visited the Sedgwick County COVID-19 Vaccination Center where more than 1,500 people received their shots throughout the day. During my visit, many Kansans made a point of telling me how well organized the center is and how pleased they are to receive the vaccine. My time at the center was a personal reminder that the goal of getting vaccinated is to keep people healthy so that they feel comfortable at work, comfortable hugging their grandkids and have the opportunity to go to church in person again—all the things that make up normal Kansas life.
I want to thank the many health care professionals and volunteers who continue to work to ensure the center is run efficiently and the vaccination process is smooth. Thank you to Sedgwick County Commissioners David Dennis, Jim Howell and Pete Meitzner, as well as Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne for joining me on the tour.
Learning More about Johnson County’s Vaccine Distribution
On Tuesday, I visited the Johnson County COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic and was pleased to hear reports that no vaccines are going unused. Dr. Sanmi Areola, Director of Johnson County’s Department of Health and Environment, updated me on their vaccination efforts across the Kansas City area. Currently 117,000 residents of Johnson County have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
I also enjoyed speaking with all the Kansans at the clinic who got their vaccine to hear firsthand about their experience. Thank you to Dr. Areola, Johnson County Chairman Ed Eilert, Johnson County Commissioner Mike Ashcraft and Assistant County Manager Joe Connor for joining me on the tour. The efficiency of Johnson County’s distribution is a testament to its leadership, and I again want to reiterate my thanks to all of the health care professionals and volunteers working at this clinic, and across our state, to get shots in the arms of Kansans so we can continue on this path back towards normal.
Expanding the VA’s Vaccination Efforts to Spouses and Caregivers
This week, I introduced the Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize All Veterans and Every Spouse (SAVE LIVES) Act with my colleagues on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. This legislation would expand VA’s COVID-19 vaccination authority, enable the VA to vaccinate more veterans than currently allowed and offer vaccines to individuals within a veteran’s circle of care.
Currently, the VA is only able to vaccinate active VA Health Care System enrollees. While the VA will continue to prioritize vaccinating VHA enrolled veterans with its allocation of COVID-19 vaccines, this legislation enables the VA to vaccinate non-enrolled veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers, overseas veterans and others with excess COVID-19 vaccine supply.
Military service is family service. It impacts not only our servicemembers but their spouses, families and support networks, and it is why the VA and this committee aim to care for both veterans and their families. More shots in more arms is our best option for ending this pandemic and returning to normal; expanding the VA’s ability to vaccinate veterans as well as those within their support network further reduces COVID-19 risk to veterans and the general public.
Improving Care for Veterans Exposed to Toxic Substances During Service
This week, during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) hearing, I called for a framework to improve care for veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service. The committee heard testimonies from two wounded warriors who shed a harsh light on their experiences, dealing with health consequences from toxic exposures to substances such as Agent Orange and burn pits, as well as the often frustrating process to get care and service from the VA. For too long, veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances during the course of their military service have faced overwhelming barriers to get the VA care and service they deserve—the burden of proof is challenging for veterans, and we must find a way to bridge the gap.
I was encouraged by bipartisan legislation passed out of this committee last Congress to address this issue. As a result of our work, we now have several new laws on the books directing research and covering more of our Vietnam and Korean War veterans. As the lead Republican on SVAC, I will continue to build on that progress this Congress and listen to the needs of veterans to provide them with the care they require.
Restoring Jobs in Kansas City
This week, I was pleased to learn that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will restore 500 positions at USCIS facilities in the Greater Kansas City Metro Area that had been eliminated due to financial constraints and the COVID-19 pandemic. Restoring these critical jobs at the National Benefits Center in the Kansas City region will help support the local economy and the nation, as these employees work to process immigration applications. Because of the dedication and the invaluable contributions of these employees, the Kansas City Metro Area boasts a diverse business community that has brought countless economic advantages to the region. I’m thankful for the work they do and will continue to work with my Congressional colleagues to get our USICS workforce back to operating at pre-pandemic levels.
Recognizing Women’s History Month
Remembering the Efforts of the “Hello Girls"
March is Women’s History Month, and I was proud to celebrate it this week by introducing legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the women who served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War I (WWI), also known as the “Hello Girls.” These brave, trail-blazing women are considered some of our nation’s first women veterans.
In 1917, General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during WWI knew that the U.S. had thousands of experienced women telephone operators back home, so he directed the Army to recruit female wire experts who were fluent in English and French to deploy to France to run the telephone equipment on the front lines. Connecting more than 150,000 calls per day, and doing so six times faster than their male counterparts, these female switchboard operators played a crucial role in WWI. Despite their service, it took decades for them to receive veteran status and therefore be recognized as some of our nation’s first women veterans. This Congressional Gold Medal will serve as way to honor the trailblazing Hello Girls and recognize their important contributions to our history.
Supporting Women in the Aviation Workforce
I also I introduced and the Senate passed a bipartisan resolution supporting women in the aviation industry, committing to help increase aviation and STEM job opportunities for women and designating March 8 through March 14, 2021, as “Women of the Aviation Workforce Week."
The most famous woman in aviation—Amelia Earhart—grew up in Atchison, Kansas. She set flight records, broke barriers and led the way for thousands of women to pursue careers in aviation as engineers, flight crew members, air traffic controllers and pilots. However, women still make up less than eight percent of our pilots and a small percentage of aeronautical engineers in the U.S. To address this disparity, I, along with my colleague Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), established an advisory board at the FAA that aims to support women in aviation and better meet the growing demand for workers in the industry. As more women pursue careers in aviation, I’m proud to join my colleagues in sponsoring this resolution to recognize Women of the Aviation Workforce Week.
Reauthorizing the USADA in Preparation for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles
This week, I introduced legislation to reauthorize the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in preparation for the 2028 Summer Olympics along with my colleague Senator Blumenthal (D-Conn.). As a member of the Commerce Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the health and safety of amateur athletes, Sen. Blumenthal and I have previously worked to make certain our nation’s athletes are able to pursue the sports they love in a safe and fair manner.
In 2001, Congress recognized USADA as the official anti-doping agency for the Olympics, Paralympics, Pan American and Parapan Games to help combat the use of performance-enhancing drugs and create a fair and level playing field for our athletes. USADA is a non-profit organization and manages the most comprehensive anti-doping program in the country while setting the standard for all other national anti-doping programs abroad. The program consists of in-competition and out-of-competition drug testing, results management processes, drug reference resources and athlete education in order to prevent athlete doping practices.
Since its inception, USADA has modeled integrity and fair competition for the international athletic community and anti-doping agencies around the world. As the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles approaches, I remain committed to making certain USADA has the tools and resources it needs to ensure all American athletes are competing in fair trials leading up to the Games.
Addressing the Trucking Industry’s Driver Shortage with The DRIVE-Safe Act
This week, I introduced the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act with my colleagues to address the driver shortage in the trucking and logistics industry and enhance safety training and job opportunities for young truckers.
Though 49 states and the District of Columbia allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) at age 18, federal law currently prohibits those operators from moving goods from state to state until they are 21.
As we saw during this pandemic, a shortage of truck drivers impacts our ability to move goods across roads and highways to support our economy, including transporting Kansas products. The DRIVE-Safe Act allows young CDL holders that meet rigorous safety standards and performance benchmarks to move goods from state to state, addressing the driver shortage while continuing to deliver commodities across Kansas and the country. Read more about this legislation by clicking here.
Protecting Aviation across Kansas
Securing $8.9 Million in Grants to Support Kansas Airports
This week, I announced $8,903,293 in Department of Transportation grants for 23 Kansas airports to help with expenses related to COVID-19. The grants were made available by the Federal Aviation Administration as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act.
Local airports, whether in small towns or big cities, help bring economic opportunities and critical resources to communities across Kansas. Since the onset of this pandemic, our airports have worked hard to create safe flying opportunities for passengers and crew, and these grants will help Kansas airports with associated costs related to the pandemic, including sanitization services, to continue to ensure a safe experience as folks are passing through.
Click here to view the full list.
Touring Spirit AeroSystems
This week, I visited with leaders from Spirit AeroSystems for a factory tour and discussion on how the company continues to navigate the ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic. My legislation, the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Act was recently signed into law, and it will create a public-private partnership between the federal government and aviation manufacturers, like Spirit, to protect the aviation manufacturing industry, workforce and supply chain that have been impacted by COVID-19. Kansas’ leading aviation manufacturing industry plays a critical role in commercial and general aviation and within our defense community, and this legislation will help to support this invaluable sector from future workforce reductions and ensure this talented workforce remains intact when demand returns. I would like to thank Tom Gentile and Duane Hawkins for their input throughout the tour.
Visiting with the United States Senate Youth Program
This week I had the opportunity to meet virtually with Sean-Patrick Hurst of Iola and Seth Jarvis of Burlington. These two young men were chosen to represent Kansas as delegates of the 59th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP). Established in 1962, two individuals are selected to represent their state during their time in Washington, D.C.
The mission of the USSYP program is to help instill within each class of USSYP student delegates a more comprehensive understanding of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service. In addition to the program week, The Hearst Foundation provides each of the 104 student delegates with a $10,000 college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs during their undergraduate studies. I commend the achievements of these engaged young Kansans. Together, we talked about qualities that create community leaders, and the remarkable leadership that Kansans have shown in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sean-Patrick and Seth demonstrated a strong commitment to public service that will serve them and their communities well.
Expanding Access to Allergy Testing
This week, I introduced my bipartisan Allergy Testing Access Act of 2021. This legislation would expand access to allergy testing and ensure proper diagnoses of allergies for patients, including the elderly, young children and individuals in rural communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States and carry an annual cost of $18 billion. Over 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year, with symptoms ranging from mild to life-threatening.
This legislation will remove barriers which inhibit patient access to safe and accurate allergy tests, thereby empowering patients with personal health care information that can help them live healthy, productive lives. Regardless of age or location, people ought to have equal access to allergy testing to ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment to avoid a potentially life-threatening situation. Allergies can pose a significant threat to one’s health and this sensible legislation creates fairness in coverage and improved accessibility of testing.
Introducing the The Global Trade Accountability Act
I joined two of my Senate colleagues this week in introducing the Global Trade Accountability Act, a bill that would subject unilateral actions by the president to increase trade barriers for congressional approval. The Kansas economy depends on sound trade policies, and imposing undue tariffs or other trade restrictions could have serious ramifications on Kansas agriculture and manufacturing.
The Global Trade Accountability Act would require both chambers of Congress to affirmatively approve of any “unilateral trade actions” by the President before they could take effect, which are defined in this legislation as “any increases in tariffs or duties, tightening of tariff-rate quotas or quantitative restrictions on imports, and other restrictions or prohibitions on imports.” For too long, administrations have been making trade decisions without appropriate input from the legislative branch, and this legislation would reinstate Congress’ constitutional authority over commerce with foreign countries.
Welcoming Millennium Corporation to Wichita
On Friday, I was pleased to announce that Millennium Corporation, a defense contractor and cybersecurity company, will establish a regional Wichita office. Millennium currently supports the cybersecurity needs of the Department of Defense, McConnell Air Force Base’s 177th Squadron “Red Team” and other federal agencies. As a thought leader in the cyberspace and security industry, Millennium is a welcome addition to Wichita’s growing cybersecurity community. Regional businesses continue to be reliable and growing partners for our military through Department of Defense contracts, and with Millennium’s expertise and credentials, it will be a great asset in providing cybersecurity services for our nation.
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.
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