Kansas Common Sense
Remembering the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This week, we remember and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his lifetime of work to make certain people of all races are treated fairly and equally. As Dr. King said at Sumner Academy in Kansas City, “The time is always right, to do what is right.”
May we celebrate his memory by reflecting on how far our nation has come but also how much more must be done as we create a more perfect Union.
First Direct Flight from the Air Capital to the Nation’s Capital
This week, I was on the inaugural American Airlines flight from Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT) in Wichita to Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C. These new daily flights not only bolster economic growth in the state but allow direct access to federal agencies and Congressional leaders. Connecting our nation’s capital to the “Air Capital of the World” will provide new opportunities to demonstrate our competitiveness and enhance our capability to host Cabinet-level, federal, military and industry leaders in Wichita.
I want to thank the Wichita Airport Authority, Greater Wichita Partnership and Wichita Chamber for also taking the first flight from Wichita to Washington, D.C. and for coordinating the celebration. I would also like to thank the American Airlines leadership who were part of the festivities and members of the Wichita community who filled this first flight.
You can listen to my interview about the first flight on KNSS here.
Inaction on the Border Threatens our National Security
On Wednesday, I spoke on the Senate Floor to further express my grave concerns with the ongoing crisis at our southern border. The administration's failure to control the border has created not just a humanitarian crisis but a national security crisis. In December 2023, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had approximately 400,000 encounters along the southern border with migrants trying to enter the country. In FY2023, the number of encounters along the southern border reached approximately 2.5 million. The border is the single most important line of defense in disrupting drug trafficking and distribution networks.
As a member of the Senate Appropriation Committee and as the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, it is my priority to make certain our law enforcement have the resources necessary to keep Americans safe. The future of our country is at stake, but with the actions and consequences continuing to take place at home and abroad, national security should remain a top priority.
You can watch my floor remarks here.
U.S. Military Activity in Yemen
This week, the United States and allied forces initiated a military strike on Houthi targets in Yemen. The operations are a necessary step to degrading the capabilities of the Houthis and the threat they pose to one of the world’s most critical chokepoints. President Biden and his administration must get serious about applying pressure on Iran and its proxies to punish the terrorism they wage against the U.S. and our interests in the Middle East. Our adversaries must not doubt that perpetrating violence will be met with a response.
Deployment of the Kansas National Guard
This weekend I honored members of the Kansas National Guard at a ceremony for the 1st Battalion, 635th Armor Regiment and the 170th Maintenance Company in Topeka. I am incredibly grateful for the service of the brave men and women of our National Guard. These citizen soldiers are invested in being involved in our communities and volunteering to serve to protect their loved ones and our great nation. Now, more than ever, military readiness is vital as conflicts abroad are escalating.
I want to thank Kansas Adjutant General Michael Venerdi for his invitation to be a part of this ceremony today. Thank you to the servicemembers and their families and employers as they embark on their deployment, I look forward to welcoming you home safely.
During the ceremony, I had the opportunity to meet Kansas Army National Guard CSN Steve Harmon and his son Mason. Mason deployed on Sunday in the same unit that his father did 20 years ago. Thank your both for your service and dedication to our state and country.
Meeting with Comptroller General Gene Dodaro
This week I met with Comptroller General Gene Dodaro from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to discuss the on-going investigation into the mismanagement of the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL). Among the most concerning issues raised is a credible allegation that VCL staff are currently transferring veterans who have complex needs to an understaffed special unit within VCL. Further, a break in record retention is reportedly resulting in a complete loss of communication with veterans whose health and safety are at a heightened risk. In receipt of my November 6 request letter, GAO responded quickly and immediately launched an investigation into the alleged mismanagement.
The GAO is investigating the issues at VCL in a serious manner to facilitate improvements and address deficiencies. I appreciate Comptroller General Dodaro’s dedication to improving the lives of veterans across the country.
Prioritizing Drought Solutions in the Farm Bill
This week, I joined my Senate colleagues in sending a letter to the Senate Committee on Agriculture to reinforce the critical need to invest in water and resilience practices in the upcoming Farm Bill. Agriculture in Kansas is vital to our rural economies and our state. Water is a precious resource, and we must help our farmers and ranchers receive the tools and programs necessary to make certain Kansas agriculture remains viable for the next generations.
You can read more about the letter in the High Plains Journal here.
Meetings with Kansans
Ascension Via Christi Wichita
This week, I met with members of the Ascension Via Christi Wichita leadership team to discuss the challenges facing the health care industry. In particular, we discussed difficulties with reimbursement and prior authorization under Medicare Advantage plans and the rising cost of providing medical services to Kansas patients. I also learned more about the exceptional charity care that Ascension Via Christi provides to the Wichita community, our state and the surrounding region, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. Their care and service to the most underserved patients is saving lives and a wonderful example of the central role our hospitals play in meeting the needs of their community.
Thank you to Bruce Witt, Kevin Strecker, Tracey Biles, Joseph Lustig and Mark Hayes for visiting with me on Tuesday and for their commitment to providing exceptional care to Kansans.
Wichita State University Cybersecurity Students
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to greet a group from Wichita State University before they embarked on their tour to the U.S. Capitol. I would like to congratulate Ivan Macias, Sergio Salinas, Jacob Smith and Annie Wilson on receiving the NSF CyberCorps Scholarship for their outstanding academic achievements. Thank you to Director for Cybersecurity Education and Awareness Joe Jabara for accompanying the students on their trip to Washington, D.C.
Johnson County Deputy Election Commissioner
I had the chance to meet the Deputy Election Commissioner in Johnson County, Josh King, his wife Shannon and their son in Washington. D.C. The Kings stopped by my office before their tour of the U.S. Capitol, and I had the chance to catch up with them.
Thank you to the Kings for visiting with me and to Josh for the important work he is doing in Johnson County to oversee our elections.
National Sorghum Producers in Washington, D.C.
On Thursday, I met with part of the National Sorghum Producers (NSP) leadership team, including Vice Chair Amy France of Scott City and Executive Director Greg Ruehle of Dodge City. Amy and Greg discussed a number of topics, such as policy on renewable fuels and critical programs under consideration at the Department of Treasury and Department of Agriculture. We also discussed annual appropriations for agriculture and reauthorization of the Farm Bill.
Thanks to Amy and Greg for the conversation and for coming to Washington, D.C. for a visit.
Visits Across Kansas
Ascension Via Christi Hospital
On Friday afternoon, I toured Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan, including the Birth and Women’s Center, emergency room and medical services floor. Access to health care is a critical component of community vitality. We spoke about the significant hurdles hospital systems face in regard to workforce and about the treatment of patients needing mental health care.
Thank you to Bob Copple, President of Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Manhattan, John Armbrust, Past-Chair of Ascension Via Christi Manhattan Hospital Board, and Tanya Brabender for taking time out of their day to provide a tour and share with me.
Wichita State Recognized as Top R&D University
This week, the National Science Foundation announced Wichita State University (WSU) as a Top 20 Research and Development university in the country. WSU is leading the nation in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering. Great things are happening at WSU, and I look forward to seeing how they continue to create more opportunity for Kansans and improve our economy and national security.
You can read more about WSU here.
Thanking our Law Enforcement
Tuesday was National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. Thank you to the men and women in Kansas and across the country who keep our communities safe. I will continue supporting our law enforcement officers and work towards providing the funding needed to protect our country.
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