Kansas Common Sense
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Calling on the U.S. Attorney General to Investigate Violence Against Pro-Life Organizations
This week, I led 15 of my colleagues in calling on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate and work to prevent violence against pro-life organizations. After a draft opinion in the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked to the media last month, pro-life and religious organizations, including crisis pregnancy centers that assist women in need, have been vandalized and, in some cases, attacked by arsonists. Most prominently, a man was arrested with the stated intent to kill Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh at his home.
I am concerned that this trend will continue should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade in the coming weeks unless the Department of Justice, the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices take a firm, public stance and a proactive response against these violent threats. The Department of Justice must take all of these threats seriously, and I look forward to receiving their response. Read the full letter here.
Update on Historic Toxic Exposure Legislation
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate took the first step on the Senate floor to pass the most comprehensive toxic exposure package the Senate has ever considered for veterans – the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our PACT Act. This legislation will provide long overdue health care access and disability benefits payments to veterans suffering from effects of military toxic exposures.
When we send our warfighters into harm’s way, it is with the understanding that we have their back. When they come home bearing physical, mental or invisible wounds of war, we must provide the VA with resources to care for those wounds. Toxic wounds should not be treated any differently. I have heard from veterans across Kansas and our country about the lingering fear that the toxic exposures from their service will leave them with a debilitating disease, and if that happens will the VA be there for them with the health care and benefits they need.
I am committed to seeing this bill pass the Senate and eventually be signed into law to help provide certainty to those who have served and make certain that they get the health care and benefits they deserve. Read more about my legislation to connect all generations of veterans with the care they need here. Watch my update on the U.S. Senate Floor here.
Inflation is Hurting American Families
Over the past year, inflation rose 8.6 percent and is sitting at a 40-year high, and just this week gas prices hit a national average of $5 a gallon. From day one, President Biden has undermined American energy production, and as a result the price of a gallon of gas has more than doubled. The hard-earned paychecks of Kansans, are being stretched thin paying for everyday purchases at the grocery store and the gas pump. I know from my conversations with Kansans soaring prices are at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and the Biden administration needs to take steps to prioritize American energy production and stabilize our supply chains.
Introducing the Safe Schools Act
This week, I joined Sen. Roger Marshall in introducing the Safe Schools Act. This bill will allow schools to repurpose unspent COVID relief funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to enhance their school’s safety and security measures, such as hiring school resource officers or implementing physical security measures like locks, panic buttons and video surveillance. Far too often, our schools are left vulnerable, and this bill would authorize existing funds to help keep students and teachers safe.
Additionally, as the lead Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee which funds the Department of Justice and its grant programs, I helped secure more than $120 million in the last two years alone for the STOP School Violence Program grants. As Congress works to address these problems, I remain committed to working with my colleagues to ensure our schools are safe.
Conducting Oversight Hearings for Federal Departments
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
This week, I had the opportunity to question Ms. Robin Hutcheson, the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) nominee. Each year, Kansas brings in thousands of head of feeder cattle from across the country to be grazed and finished. The electronic logging device (ELD) mandate highlighted the overly restrictive hours of service rules for livestock haulers and is an issue I have worked on as a member of the Appropriations Committee by supporting an exemption for livestock haulers from ELDs. It is critical these cattle be safely and humanely transported.
The Department of Transportation’s hours of service rules must not create unintended situations that would cause harm or death to these animals, such as requiring a livestock hauler to pull off the side of the road with a load of cattle or requiring the off-loading of the cattle mid-trip. I was glad to raise this ongoing issue in front of the nominee for the Administrator of FMCSA and will continue to work on this critical issue through my role as an appropriator and my role on the Commerce Committee.
National Guard Bureau
On Tuesday, I heard testimony from Chief of the National Guard Bureau General Daniel Hokanson, as well as from the service chiefs of our military’s Reserve component. My questions for the panel centered on starting a cybersecurity pilot program that would partner industry, academia and state and local partners with the National Guard to secure our critical infrastructure.
I also asked the entire panel about their implementation of the MOMS Act, legislation I spearheaded to allow Guard and Reserve servicemembers to take maternity leave without it negatively impacting their creditable military service. Introduced in 2019, this legislation was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2021. To date, the Army is the only service to have implemented the provisions of the MOMS Act. It remains critical to me that this policy is implemented in each of the other services as quickly as possible. I thank our panelists for their service and all their work to keep our service men and women safe at home and abroad.
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
On Thursday, as a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, I questioned the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Administrator Alan Davidson about the taxation of federal broadband deployment grants, the importance of using accurate data when providing funding for broadband deployment and the administration's departure from Congressional intent when drafting the rules for new broadband deployment programs.
I was a member of the bipartisan group of senators who worked on the infrastructure legislation that was enacted last year, which included programs and funding to build out broadband networks to currently unserved Americans. These provisions were carefully negotiated by the bipartisan group, with many proposals considered and discarded. To see NTIA pick up several policies that Congress intentionally left out of the final agreement is disappointing and needs to be reversed to preserve the intent of Congress and ensure that these programs are able to provide quality broadband service to all Americans.
Kansas Rural Letter Carriers Association Convention
On Monday before heading to Washington, D.C., I spoke at the Kansas Rural Letter Carriers Association’s annual convention – their first in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and since the passage of the Postal Service Reform Act earlier this year. The bipartisan postal reform legislation was years in the making and an effort I have worked on since my earliest years representing Kansans in our nation’s capital.
The Postal Service Reform Act would not have been possible without the advocacy efforts of KSRLCA, and I appreciated the opportunity to celebrate its passage in person with Kansans, discuss the process of its implementation and thank them for their irreplaceable public service. Even when nearly every aspect of American life came to a sudden halt during the pandemic, our letter carriers never faltered in their dedication to serving Kansans and our rural communities. Thank you for your service and to KSRLCA President David Troutman for the invitation to address the convention.
Meeting with Kansans in Washington, D.C.
American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Program
On Wednesday, I met with Marieta Hauser with the American Farm Bureau Foundation Women’s Leadership program. As a resident of Ulysses, she expressed the challenges farmers are currently facing in regards to the drought in western Kansas. We also discussed the impact of regulations, high input costs and supply chain disruptions on the agricultural industry and rural communities across America. I appreciate the important role and significant impact women in agriculture have in Kansas and believe developing aspiring agricultural leaders is vital to our future as a nation.
Flint Hills 4-H
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to spend part of my afternoon with students from the Flint Hills 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus Program. These students came from several communities across rural Kansas, and for each of the students, it was their first time to Washington, D.C. I greatly enjoyed listening to these young men and women discuss the positive affect the 4-H program has had on their upbringing and discussing our shared appreciation for rural America.
The George Family
What makes Kansas great is undoubtedly the people, and my days in Washington are always brighter when I get to meet more fellow Kansans. I enjoyed connecting with the George family on their tour of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday.
Discussing Support for Law Enforcement with the U.S. Deputy Sheriff’s Association
I welcomed the United States Deputy Sheriff’s Association (USDSA) to my Washington, D.C. office this week. Headquartered in Wichita, USDSA is a non-profit dedicated to supporting law enforcement, their families and their communities. This support come in many forms, including training programs, equipment donations and End of Watch donations. Very little about being a law enforcement officer can be described as easy. They work around the clock and under difficult circumstances to keep our communities safe. The work USDSA helps ease some the burden of these difficulties.
As the top Republican on the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee which funds the Department of Justice, I have made it my priority to make certain that our law enforcement have the resources they need to protect our communities. Focusing on areas in where there is the greatest need such as programs that enhance officer safety and wellness, addressing violent crime and drug trafficking, and modernization of policing technology. While these are just a few areas in which our law enforcement need assistance, much more can be done and USDSA is an important component of this work. I remain committed to working with my Congressional colleagues and organizations like USDSA to ensure our law enforcement is equipped with the tools they need to keep us safe.
Announcing Federal Investment in FHSU’s Forsyth Library
On Friday, I was pleased to join Fort Hays State University and community leaders to announce a $17 million federal investment to support critical renovations for Forsyth Library. Libraries are an important asset not only for students seeking to advance their understanding of the world and further their education, but for the whole community as well. A larger, more modern library facility is needed to ensure students continue to receive the educational resources they need to be successful at Fort Hays. I’m certain that the federal funds announced will positively impact the students of FHSU in their pursuit of higher education and successful careers.
Attending Kansas VFW Convention
As I mentioned earlier, Congress is on the verge of passing historic legislation to address the challenges veterans face after exposure to toxic substances while deployed overseas. I was grateful to join the Kansas Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention on Saturday to give an update on this legislation, the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act, including its procedural standing on the U.S. Senate Floor and the outlook for upcoming votes in Washington, D.C. this week.
This bill is culmination of years of work, informed by veterans both in Kansas and across the nation. I want to thank the VFW for working with me on this comprehensive legislation and for their support of this bill. I particularly want to thank Kansas VFW Commander Lee Hursey and Adjutant Herb Schwartzkopf for their recent letters of support.
Storm Damage in Marysville
Yesterday I was in Marysville following Saturday night’s storm and tornado to see the damage to local buildings and the county health department. I’m thankful no one was hurt. I appreciated County Commissioner Barb Kickhaefer for walking me through town and all the Kansans pulling together to help clean up and repair the damage.
Touring Russell Regional Hospital
I appreciated David Caudill and Michelle Driskill hosting me for a tour of Russell Regional Hospital this weekend. We visited the recently updated emergency room trauma center and discussed the challenges rural health centers like this one face. Quality health care is an essential component of keeping rural America alive. Thank you to David and Michelle for showing me around and your insight, as well as all of the staff members who took time to speak with me. Read more about my visit here in KRSL.
I enjoyed stopping in Tonganoxie on my way to the airport Monday morning to check-in with local business leaders and residents. I appreciated my conversation with Mayor David Frese, City Manager George Brajkovic and Assistant City Manager Dan Porter.
Remembering Veryl Switzer
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Nicodemus native Veryl Switzer. Many know of Veryl from his historic football career in the 1950s: the first African American scholarship player to graduate from Kansas State University and a Green Bay Packers halfback. But I knew him as a Graham County farmer. He was not only a trailblazer on the football field but also in his community, forming the Kansas Black Farmers Association and a youth agriculture camp. I respected Veryl tremendously for how he never forgot his roots, but even more so for his decision to put his NFL athletic pursuits to the side to serve our nation in the U.S. Air Force. Robba and I extend our condolences to his family and the Nicodemus community. Read more about his influential life here.
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