Kansas Common Sense

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Recognizing Independence Day

Every Kansan and every American celebrates the Fourth of July in their own special way – whether that is with fireworks, family barbeques or visiting our nation’s monuments and memorials.

Independence Day is a time to honor the sacrifices made in the name of freedom and to come together as Americans to commemorate our nation’s founding by renewing our commitment to further our nation’s pledge and form a more perfect union. I also ask that you take time to reflect and thank our veterans as well as the current generation in the Armed Forces who continue to bravely defend our freedoms. It is because of these sacrifices that America is still the land of opportunity and the greatest nation on Earth.

Please click here to view my Independence Day video message.

Attending the Sterling Independence Day Parade

It was reat to be with the folks in Sterling on Saturday afternoon to celebrate Independence Day! I appreciated the chance to take part in their Old Fashioned 4th of July Celebration and parade, and the opportunity to speak with people around town, including Rice County Sheriff Bryant Evans and Lorraine State Bank President Larry Henne. I also want to thank Casonda Stevens for arranging my participation in the parade and everyone who took the time to speak with me.

Seeking Answers from Dr. Redfield & Dr. Collins on Development of COVID-19 Vaccine

This week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) held a hearing on Operation Warp Speed, the government project to research, manufacture and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine on an expedited timeline. I questioned our nation’s leading health experts on the progress being made on developing a vaccine for COVID-19 and the measures that need to take place to make certain a vaccine is safely and efficiently distributed when it is available. It is not only vital that we are prepared to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, but that we also learn from this pandemic so we are better prepared for any future diseases that may threaten our country.

The witnesses for this hearing were Dr. Francis S. Collins, Director of National Institutes of Health; Dr. Robert R. Redfield, Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dr. Gary Disbrow, acting director of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. I thank them for their time and responses as the Senate seeks updates on our efforts to protect our citizens from the COVID-19 virus.

Condemning Bounties on U.S. Troops

Last week, it was reported that U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian intelligence unit offered bounties to the Taliban for killing American and coalition forces in Afghanistan. This is unacceptable, and there should be consequences for Russia’s malign behavior. I have reviewed the classified intelligence provided to the Senate and will work with my colleagues to consider appropriate responses. I am pleased the February agreement with the Taliban has ended attacks on American servicemembers, and I will continue to prioritize the safety of our troops at home and abroad.

Russia has engaged in sustained aggression against the United States that must be deterred, and I have repeatedly voted to hold Russia accountable for its actions. In 2017, I voted in favor of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which imposes sanctions on Russia in response to Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, as well as their involvement in the Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts. In 2019, I voted against the easing of sanctions on certain Russian companies, because Russia had not changed its behavior required to lift sanctions. I will continue working with my Senate colleagues to hold Russia accountable for its harmful actions against the United States.

Questioning Officials on Student-Athlete Name, Image and Likeness

This week, I participated in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that examined student-athlete compensation and the modernization of rules related to a student athlete’s name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights. The NCAA’s rules around NIL have not kept pace with an evolving world and now is the time to bring these rules in line with the modern student-athlete experience. While I believe the NCAA is making progress, there is more work to be done, and many questions remain unanswered surrounding this issue. I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to ask some of them during this hearing.

As Chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade and Consumer Protection, with jurisdiction over the NCAA and amateur athletics, I have been working with my colleagues to preserve the collegiate model that has allowed so many young men and women to leverage their athletic ability into an education. I remain committed to finding a solution that will provide student-athletes with the equity they deserve while also preserving college sports.

Assisting YRC Worldwide to Maintain Critical Hauling Service During COVID-19 Pandemic

On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury announced that they will provide YRC Worldwide Inc., headquartered in Overland Park, with a loan necessary to keep their business fully operating during this pandemic. I discussed this issue with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin during a Banking Committee hearing in May, stressing the importance of helping them retain their 30,000 employees, and he assured me he would look into addressing the company’s situation.

YRC is also critical to maintaining our national security, and I worked with the Department of Defense to secure this designation and recognize their work supporting our military supply chains. I applaud both Defense Secretary Esper and Secretary Mnuchin for acting quickly to support this important Kansas business.

Read more here in the Kansas City Star.

Extending the Paycheck Protection Program

On Tuesday, the Senate voted to extend the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) through August 8. Applications for the program were originally scheduled to end on June 30 and there are approximately $130 billion in funds still available through lenders.

The PPP has helped over 50,000 businesses in Kansas survive this pandemic and saved thousands of jobs. Now, small businesses in our state that have not yet received funds will have more time to apply to receive relief.

Discussing the VA Health Care Workforce

This week, as Chairman of the Senate VA Committee, I heard from VA’s health care leaders on their efforts to improve hiring practices for frontline health care workers. VA has one of the best workforces in all of health care, and this is demonstrated in their unwavering commitment to serving veterans and the improved patient satisfaction with VA health care in recent years. VA has a complex personnel system that can make it difficult to hire doctors, nurses and support professionals as quickly as we would like. I was pleased to hear of VA’s success in streamlining these hiring processes in response to the current pandemic, and I will continue to ask VA to consider making some of these changes permanent to improve the hiring process going forward. An effective personnel system benefits our VA employees and the veterans they care for, and I am committed to seeing that VA has the best personnel system possible.

Visiting Topeka’s Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center

On Friday, I visited the Colmery-O’Neil Topeka VA Medical Center to speak with veterans, tour the medical center and meet with staff. As chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I want to make certain our medical providers are equipped to care for Kansans during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was great to be able to visit with veterans in person during the Fourth of July weekend, thank them for their service and see how they were doing.

While speaking with them, I gave an update on the potential for a COVID-19 vaccine, which I discussed with our country’s top health officials this week during a hearing in Washington, and my work as chairman of behalf of our nation’s veterans. I want to extend my thanks to Director Rudy Klopfer and Facility Planner Tom Boos for the informative tour and taking the time to meet with me over the holiday weekend.

Read more about my visit here in KSNT.

(Photo credit to KSNT)

USMCA Goes Into Effect, Provides Certainty for Farmers

On Wednesday, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) went into effect. This is an important milestone for Kansas and our country. Canada and Mexico are Kansas’ two largest export markets, accounting for over one-third of exports from our state. This agreement will provide certainty and expand export opportunities for Kansas farmers, ranchers and manufacturers and will modernize our trading relationship with Canada and Mexico to reflect the 21st-century economy. I am pleased the Trump Administration negotiated USMCA, and I will continue to work to improve our nation’s trading relationship with countries around the world.

Speaking with Marshall County Leaders

On Tuesday, I hosted Marshall County leaders for a video conference meeting to hear current issues facing the community, and our discussion topics ranged from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to police reform. I appreciated hearing from area bankers about how PPP helped small businesses in the area and how they are now waiting on guidance for PPP loan forgiveness. I also heard from Community Memorial Hospital CEO Curtis Hawkinson about the ongoing need for more PPE, USD 364 Superintendent Michael Couch about efforts to be certain students are in the classroom come August and County Commission Chair Barbara Kickhaefer about including liability protections for senior care homes in future federal efforts. We also discussed police reform with Chief of Police Todd Ackerman, who asked that a rural law enforcement perspective be shared during any of my conversations in Washington, D.C. Thank you to all the leaders who joined our conversation.

Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19

As Kansas safely reopens, please take precautions to keep you and your families safe, and please call your primary care physician if you are experiencing symptoms related to the coronavirus. It is important as individuals we each take a personal responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19, including wearing a mask in public spaces and social distancing by staying six feet apart from people outside our homes. This also includes measures such as washing our hands regularly, avoiding touching our face, sneezing or coughing into a tissue or the inside of our elbow and disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.

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 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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