Kansas Common Sense
Feb 08 2021
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Announcing Committee Assignments for the 117th Congress
This week, I received my committee assignments for the 117th Congress. I am pleased to announce that I will continue serving as the lead Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and that I added a new committee assignment as a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
It was my request to serve on the Senate Health committee while we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Serving on both Senate Health and Appropriations committees will be extremely beneficial to Kansans as we work to manufacture more vaccines, tests and PPE to help end this pandemic. The committee has jurisdiction over the Centers for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health, and serving on HELP and Appropriations will be beneficial to Kansas as we work to manufacture more vaccines, tests and PPE to help end this pandemic.
Additionally, I am honored to continue serving as the top Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and will work to make certain our veterans have the resources they need to achieve success in their life after service.
I will serve on the following committees for the 117th Congress:
- U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations
- U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
- U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
- U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
- U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
- U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (Ranking Member)
I am committed to using my role on these influential committees to advocate for our farmers, ranchers, Native Americans, veterans, manufacturers, innovators, students, moms and dads to deliver results to the great state of Kansas
Urging a Bipartisan Solution for Federal COVID-19 Relief
On Monday, I joined nine of my Republican Senate colleagues to meet with President Biden at the White House to discuss our targeted $600 billion federal relief proposal. This COVID-19 relief package is built on a foundation of bipartisan ideas and would rein in Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan. During our discussion, I encouraged the President to support a targeted, less expensive plan, and to get it done quickly in a bipartisan fashion to benefit Americans.
President Biden has pledged bipartisan cooperation, and I hope he will rise to that promise by working with both sides of the aisle in Congress to pass a bipartisan relief package to meet the ongoing challenges of this crisis.
Later in the week, I joined Pete Mundo on KCMO Talk Radio to discuss my meeting at the White House and the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion proposal that is filled with partisan wish list items and does not appropriately respond to the needs of the American public.
Last year, Congress spent $4 trillion on bipartisan COVID-19 relief packages to support Americans as our country faced the challenges of this pandemic. The latest COVID-19 relief package provided $900 billion in additional resources and was signed into law on December 27, 2020. Much of that assistance is only now being disbursed. This next bill, which President Biden agreed must be a sincere, bipartisan effort to work with Republicans, must be legislation that best serves America both today and into the future.
FY2021 Budget Resolution
Early Friday morning, following 15 hours of debate and roll call votes on more than 40 amendments, the Senate passed a FY2021 budget resolution. While the budget resolution does not carry the force of law and would not be signed by the President, it establishes a fast track process known as reconciliation which Congressional Democrats are expected to use to pass a $1.9 trillion stimulus package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through reconciliation, Democrats have the ability to ultimately pass that legislation along party lines with a simple majority vote, bypassing the 60-vote threshold necessary for most Senate legislation to become law.
Many amendments considered during the marathon voting session were intended as legislative placeholders, designed to send messages about Senators’ policy priorities. I was pleased an amendment I cosponsored to strengthen the Provider Relief Fund to help prevent hospitals from closing their doors – particularly in rural and underserved regions – was included in the budget resolution. Several other provisions I supported, including amendments to fund our nation’s police, maintain the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and preserve the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection rule were also passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis.
Unfortunately, while every federal COVID-19 relief package thus far has been passed by Congress in a bipartisan fashion, this partisan budget resolution – passing 51-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote – indicates Democrats in Congress no longer intend to work together on pandemic relief to meet the needs of the American people. It was just last week that President Biden hosted me and colleagues of mine from a bipartisan working group in the Senate at the White House to discuss a better path forward on a more targeted and responsible COVID-19 relief package. I remain committed to holding the President accountable for his promise of working with both sides of the aisle to help Congress meet the ongoing challenges of this crisis.
Providing Food Security for Rural Americans
This week, I joined three of my Senate colleagues in introducing the Healthy Food Access for All Americans (HFAAA) Act. This legislation aims to expand access to affordable and nutritious food in areas designated as “food deserts” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), areas defined to be without grocery stores within one or more miles in urban regions and ten or more miles in rural regions.
Over the past year, we have seen unprecedented need at food banks as Kansans line up seeking access to nutritional food. Even while living in the breadbasket of our nation, food insecurity affects far too many Kansans, a need that has only increased during COVID-19. This bipartisan legislation, which would incentivize food providers to establish and renovate grocery stores, food banks and farmers markets in communities that traditionally lack affordable, healthy and convenient food options, is now more important than ever during this pandemic.
Supporting Modernized Job Training and High-Speed Broadband Access
This week, I joined my colleagues on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in introducing the Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act. This legislation would work to address the shortage of trained workers necessary to fill next-generation jobs in the telecommunications industry in communities throughout the country. As our country continues to work towards providing high-speed broadband connectivity to all parts of the country, including the deployment of 5G mobile broadband, there is a growing demand for a skilled workforce that would support this effort. This legislation takes another step to help bridge the digital divide in rural areas like those in Kansas, but would also work to increase the number of well-paying jobs in the economy, supporting our rural workforce in the wake of this pandemic. As the lead Republican on the Senate Commerce Subcommittee with jurisdiction over workforce development, I will continue to support modernized training programs that help produce the highly-skilled workforce needed in a globalized economy.
Seeking Information Regarding President Biden’s VA Supplemental Funding Request
This week, I joined Congressman Mike Bost, Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, in requesting an explanation from VA’s Acting Secretary Dat Tran regarding President Biden’s request for an additional $17 billion in emergency COVID-19 funding for the department.
I have expressed my commitment to make certain VA has all the resources it needs to deliver care and benefits to our veterans during the pandemic, and I will support additional funding and supplies so VA employees have the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and the proper frontline staff to give our veterans the care they deserve. I expressed my concern, however, that this new request for $17 billion, which is in addition to $19.6 billion in emergency funding and $243 billion in regular funding, is not based on a demonstrated need from the department.
VA officials repeatedly stated they had enough funding for the rest of this year when asked, and the department has reported spending less than $9 billion of the $19.6 billion that was provided last spring. Congressman Bost and I will be reviewing VA’s response and justification for this funding request to ensure any additional emergency spending is going to meet the needs of veterans during the pandemic. Our veterans and taxpayers both deserve oversight and accountability on how this emergency funding would be spent.
Advancing PTSD Treatment through U.S-Israeli Collaborative Research
I reintroduced the bipartisan United States-Israel PTSD Collaboration Research Act this week to allow the Department of Defense (DoD) to work with academic and non-profit institutions in the United States and Israel to advance research and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As the leading Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, one of my top priorities has been improving access to mental health care for our veterans. My bill will continue these efforts by allowing the DoD to fund collaborative research efforts between American and Israeli organizations through a robust grant program. We must continue to invest in the research and development of treatments for PTSD and other mental health conditions that many of our servicemembers face when they return home from service. While the challenges associated with PTSD are great, they are not insurmountable. I have had the opportunity to witness the advancements that our nation’s medical professionals have made to care for victims of trauma, such as combat veterans, law enforcement officers and victims of violence. PTSD is a serious issue, and the lives of those touched by trauma and violence should receive proper care to help them cope and recover from this disorder.
Protecting Life and Defending the Unborn
This week, I joined 47 of my Republican colleagues in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declaring opposition to any legislation that weakens the Hyde Amendment or other pro-life protections. Since it was enacted in 1976, this amendment bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except in certain circumstances. For decades, this provision has enjoyed strong bipartisan support, including then-Senator Joe Biden, reflecting the majority of Americans who do not believe tax dollars should be used in this way. Senator Schumer should maintain this sensible, longstanding language.
I will continue to use my role in Congress to further the cause of life and defend the unborn. To read about my efforts to protect the sanctity of life in detail, please click here.
Visiting with BNSF President Katie Farmer
I met virtually with Katie Farmer, the new President and CEO of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway, this week. Succeeding Mr. Carl Ice, Ms. Farmer has been with BNSF for almost thirty years, and I enjoyed the chance to discuss her priorities for the industry and how I can be of assistance in the months ahead. BNSF is the largest railroad network in North America, moves 30% of the nation’s rail freight and is an incredible asset to the state of Kansas. I enjoyed working with Mr. Ice over the years, and I look forward to working with Ms. Farmer in her effort supporting policies that continue to promote railway safety, innovation and efficiencies within the industry as she takes on this new role.
Meeting Major General Sims at Fort Riley
This weekend, I met with the Commanding General of Fort Riley, Major General Sims on base. MG Sims assumed command of Fort Riley last year and I was pleased to get to know him better during our visit. I have been a long-time advocate for Big Red One soldiers, and I am looking forward to working with MG Sims to make certain they have the resources they need to keep our nation safe.
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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