Kansas Common Sense
Aug 02 2021
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. Please feel free to forward it on to your family and friends if it would interest them.
Advancing Critical Veterans Legislation
On Wednesday, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed 13 bills aimed at addressing crucial challenges relating to the VA’s supply chain processes during periods of emergency, ensuring veteran access to a reliable and robust system of VA care, making certain that only verified and credentialed providers are treating our nation’s veterans and alleviating veteran homelessness. Among these 13 pieces of legislation were my Guaranteeing Healthcare Access to Personnel Who Served (GHAPS) Act and VA Supply Chain Resiliency Act. These two bills, along with the VA Provider Accountability Act that I’m leading with Senator Manchin of West Virginia, will make a difference in ensuring that the VA works for veterans and keeps veterans and their wellbeing at the center of the VA’s focus. I am encouraged by the work this committee is doing on behalf of those who served in uniform and look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to pass these bills in the full Senate.
Tomorrow is primary election day in Kansas, and I encourage all Kansans to cast their vote. Click here to check your registration and find voter information before polls open.
Biofuels Are Noticeably Absent from President Biden’s Agenda
This week, I joined several of my colleagues in requesting a meeting with President Biden and representatives of his cabinet to promote biofuels as a key solution for America’s energy and climate agenda. The Biden administration’s energy and climate agenda lacks meaningful consideration of biofuels, which contribute significantly to emissions reductions and energy security and serve as an important market-driver for farmers. Biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, are produced using Kansas corn, sorghum and soybeans. These homegrown energy sources present a tremendous opportunity to bolster affordable American energy, underpin a strong agricultural economy and immediately lower transportation emissions using the existing consumer vehicle fleet and fueling infrastructure. I will continue to advocate for the biofuels industry in Kansas as an important market option for Kansas farmers. The full letter can be found by clicking here.
Statement on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
On Friday, I voted against a motion to proceed on the bipartisan infrastructure legislation. I appreciate the bipartisan effort that is taking place to craft and negotiate an infrastructure bill. It is important we get infrastructure right, and Leader Schumer shouldn’t set arbitrary deadlines until we have a final product. I could not support moving this bill forward until we had the full legislative text to review.
Speaking with Young Farmers & Ranchers
On Saturday evening, I spoke at the Kansas Farm Bureau's Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) conference in Manhattan. We discussed the importance of Kansas’ rural way of life and the role young people play in the survival of family farms and ranches in Kansas. Thank you to KFB President Rich Felts and CEO Terry Holdren for the opportunity to talk to the future of agriculture in Kansas and for their work to support the YF&R program.
Banking Hearing on Interest Rate Caps
This week, during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on a federally mandated interest rate cap, I discussed how price controls always harm the individuals they are intended to help and would only limit access to credit for Kansans. A Washington-knows-best, one-size-fits-all interest rate cap could not be more inconsistent with states’ rights and principles of federalism. Such a cap would only increase the minimum loan amount required for lenders to provide borrowers credit at economically feasible rates with the potential for lenders to stop offering small dollar loans entirely. Instead of implementing government-mandated price controls, Congress should focus on reducing the regulatory barriers that increase the cost of credit for all. Click here to watch the full hearing.
30-Day Extension is Not Adequate for Lesser Prairie-Chicken Listing
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced this week that it will extend the deadline for public comment on the proposed rule to list the lesser prairie-chicken as threatened by 30 days. This extension comes after I urged FWS to extend the comment period by at least 90 days. While this announcement is a step in the right direction, a 30-day extension is still not adequate time for impacted stakeholders and the public to properly engage and comment on this proposed action. I will continue to interact with FWS on this issue to make sure the concerns of Kansans are heard and considered before any action is taken on listing the lesser prairie-chicken.
Seeking Answers on VA’s Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccinations for Employees
This week, I requested information from VA Secretary Denis McDonough following VA’s announcement of a new requirement that VA health care employees receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Since I requested this information, President Biden announced that all federal employees will also be required to receive the vaccine. I have encouraged veterans and all Kansans to get vaccinated, but shifting from voluntary vaccinations to mandated vaccinations is an unprecedented step. I will continue to seek answers from VA to better understand how this vaccination mandate will apply to federal workers in Kansas. The full letter can be found by clicking here.
Discussing Rural Broadband Deployment and Research Initiatives
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr
On Tuesday, I met with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Brendan Carr to discuss the importance of internet freedom for Cuba, broadband deployment in the broadband infrastructure talks and the FCC’s ongoing efforts to improve rural Americans’ access to quality broadband. There is a persistent digital divide in this country, with many rural areas of our state unable to access quality broadband service. This impacts Kansans who rely on the internet for school, work and connecting to loved ones. Resolving this issue is critical for the long-term success of rural Kansas, and I have supported a number of efforts to improve the ability of Kansans to connect to quality broadband service. I will continue to work with Commissioner Carr to address the digital divide and improve Kansans' access to quality broadband service.
NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan
On Wednesday, I met with National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Sethuraman Panchanathan about the future of the NSF and the importance of Kansas to NSF’s mission. The director agreed with me that research funding should be distributed across the country, including in Kansas, to fully utilize the research capabilities of the nation. Research investment has typically been centered on a few coastal markets, leaving researchers in the middle of the country at a disadvantage. As the lead Republican on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science which funds NSF, I have worked to increase Kansas’ access to critical federal research funds through the EPSCOR program and other efforts. I look forward to continuing to work with Director Panchanathan to better distribute funding across the country.
Discussing Army Aviation with Major General Walter Rugen
On Tuesday, I met with Major General Walter Rugen, Director of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, to discuss the future of Army aviation. MG Rugen is leading the Army’s effort to develop and field the next generation of Army helicopters. His team is studying our current helicopter fleet and determining how we can best prepare for a possible conflict against Russia, China and other adversaries. Maintaining air dominance will be of vital importance in a near-peer conflict, so the success of this program is a priority for the Army and the Department of Defense. MG Rugen provided me with an update on the FVL program, including the production of two new helicopters, and conveyed the significant impact this project will have on the Army’s capabilities. I will continue to be supportive of the FVL program and the men and women who make up the Army’s aviation community.
This week, I joined my Senate colleagues in filing an amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization urging the court to uphold Mississippi’s law to protect unborn babies after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Supreme Court has the opportunity to faithfully interpret the Constitution and overturn a deadly precedent. Mississippi’s bold stance to protect the lives of unborn children directly challenges the basis of Roe v. Wade, and I joined this brief to stand with them and the vulnerable unborn who cannot defend themselves.
Spending Time in the Czech Capital of Kansas
I enjoyed spending time in the “Czech Capital of Kansas” on Saturday during their annual After Harvest Czech Festival. While I was in Wilson, I heard from Ellsworth County residents at Grandma’s Soda Shop to talk with them about election integrity, the threat China poses to the United States, addressing veterans' mental health on the Senate VA Committee and my work to preserve and create opportunities in rural America.
Thank you to Grandma’s Soda Shop for providing the coffee and to everyone who attended for the conversation. Thank you also to State Representatives Steven Johnson and Troy Waymaster for joining me.
Application Process for Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program Reopens
This week, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reopened its application process for the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program (AMJP). The initial application period for the AMJP program closed, as planned, on Tuesday, July 13. However, DOT has decided to reopen the application process on Wednesday, August 4 as some businesses may not have understood the relationship between the AMJP and the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) programs.
The program was created by legislation I introduced with Congressman Ron Estes and is structured to support aviation manufacturers impacted by COVID-19 and works to ensure the experienced and invaluable aviation manufacturing workforce will be safeguarded and available to contribute as the industry recovers.
Applicants who have applied and received confirmation that their application was received do not need to resubmit an application.
Applications will be accepted for four weeks. The deadline to submit an AMJP application is 5:00 p.m. ET on September 1, 2021. Additionally, anyone is free to submit questions, particularly about the application process, to AMJP@dot.gov. An overview of the AMJP application process is available 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.
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