Kansas Common Sense
Record High Inflation Requires Real Solutions
May 16 2022
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Record High Inflation Requires Real Solutions
Since President Biden took office, we have seen record high prices for gas, food, rent and utilities. Inflation is wiping out the savings of Kansas families and hurting their ability to meet their most basic needs.
President Biden claims his policies “help, not hurt” inflation, however, Wednesday’s news regarding the Consumer Price Index report suggests otherwise. President Biden must change course and focus on real solutions like producing American energy and stopping unchecked government spending.
Celebrating All Schools Day
It was great to join folks in McPherson this week for the All Schools Day parade! All Schools Day is an annual event which started in 1914 to celebrate local graduates and has grown into a community-wide, week-long festival. Alumni from near and far come to McPherson in May to continue this century-long tradition. This year, I was able to bring my granddaughter, Paige, to participate in her first parade.
Many thanks to Joel Weide from Lindsborg for letting Paige and I, along with Kelsey and her husband Sean, join you on the parade route and to Kyler Jost for helping arrange our participation and for sharing your photos with us. This is an event I enjoy attending whenever I am afforded the opportunity, and I am always grateful to visit with Kansans who travel near and far to be in McPherson on this special day. Congratulations to all the graduates!
Conference Committee Meeting on China Competition Bill
On Thursday, I gave remarks at the first conference committee meeting on the bipartisan innovation and competition legislation. I spoke about the importance of the U.S. outcompeting adversarial nations, namely China, and how the conference committee can achieve this objective.
I emphasized the importance of investing in research and development in places like Kansas. Kansas is one of 26 states that has been identified as annually receiving little federal research funding, with coastal states receiving the vast majority of these dollars. This conference committee has the opportunity to rebalance this disparity, increasing funding to Kansas and ensuring that our intelligence and productivity is properly utilized in our competition for the future. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the conference committee to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to increase our country’s innovation and competitiveness.
Western Kansans in Washington
This week, the Western Kansas Delegation traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with federal officials. I enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces around the Capitol from the Great Bend, Hays, Dodge City, Liberal and Garden City areas. On Monday night, I joined the group for an event to discuss the importance of communities in rural Kansas working together to accomplish common goals – and how the Western Kansas Delegation is a prime example of this principle in action. Thank you to Great Bend Area Chamber of Commerce President Megan Barfield for working to organize the trip this year, as well as to Black Hills Energy for hosting everyone.
Prior to the event, I was pleased to meet with representatives from Hays and Ellis County. We discussed challenges that many communities in Kansas are facing, and I was pleased to hear about the work happening in Hays to solve issues related to childcare, workforce and infrastructure. In March, SkyWest Airlines announced they intend to end service to 29 Essential Air Service airports, including Hays, Liberal, Dodge City and Salina. I will continue to work with Hays and the Department of Transportation to ensure a positive outcome. Thank you to Mayor Mason Ruder, Vice Mayor Michael Berges, City Commissioner Reese Barrick, City Manager Toby Dougherty, Ellis County Commissioners Neal Younger and Darin Meyers, Chamber President Sarah Wasinger and Grow Hays Executive Director Doug Williams for travelling to our nation’s capital.
I also met with local officials from Liberal to discuss improvements to broadband occurring in Liberal as a result of federal investments, the need for more housing and workforce shortages in the community, the impact of inflation, the importance of rural health care, including recruiting a new VA doctor to Liberal. Thank you to County Commissioner Nathan McCaffrey, Liberal Area Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Brad Carr and Chamber President Rozelle Webb for your time.
Members of the Western Kansas Delegation from Garden City also stopped by the office to provide me with updates and share their priorities with me. I was pleased to learn about the progress of the expansion project at the Garden City Regional Airport, the work they are doing with the Bureau of Reclamation on their water project and the progress of their law enforcement training facility. They also shared challenges with me relating to housing, childcare and workforce, and I appreciate the good work happening in Garden City to resolve these issues. Thank you to City Commissioner Deb Oyler, Assistant City Manager Danielle Burke and Chamber President Myca Bunch for travelling to Washington, D.C. to visit with me.
On Tuesday, I met with Dodge City Commissioners and industry representatives from the community to discuss project updates and the pressing issues facing Western Kansas. Most essential is the development of the Hilmar Cheese Company’s new plant in Dodge City, which will bring a strong economic investment to the area and create approximately 250 high-paying jobs. Additionally, rural housing is a crucial aspect of allowing our rural communities to thrive, and I’m proud to have cosponsored legislation that would incentivize housing development projects while increasing access to affordable homes for low- and middle-income Kansans. We also talked about the importance of Community Block Development Grants, given the significant impact such funding assistance has on local infrastructure, as well as the need for more transparency into the actions of pharmacy benefit managers’ role in prescription drug prices.
Honoring Law Enforcement During National Police Week
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 and often without the recognition that they deserve. This week, our nation observes National Police Week, a time when we pay tribute to our brave law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.
Over the course of the week, Americans came together to pay tribute to the 619 officers who gave their lives in the line of duty last year. Among them, six brave officers from Kansas were memorialized on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. I want to express my gratitude for Kansas officers who gave their all protecting the places we call home: Officer Stephen Evans of the Burns Police Department, Captain Clay Germany of the Wichita Police Department, Officer Freddie Castro of the Overland Park Police Department, Officer Theodor James “TJ” Ohlemeier of the Colwich Police Department and Sergeant Stacy Murrow of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.
During this National Police Week and throughout the year, we must remember that law enforcement needs our support and not just during tough times. We must provide them the resources they need to do their jobs and strengthen the bonds of trust with those they serve. As the lead Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Department of Justice, I am committed to making certain our law enforcement officers have the resources and support they need to do their jobs effectively and safely. May God bless our law enforcement officers and protect them from harm as they faithfully perform their duties each and every day.
Speaking with Kansans in Washington, D.C.
Air Capital STEM
The Wichita area American Rocketry Challenge (TARC) Team stopped by my office while they were in our nation’s capital before competing at TARC nationals in Manassas, Virginia this week. The team was one of 100 teams from 27 states to qualify for nationals this year and the only team representing the Sunflower State. The students of the Wichita-area TARC team represent the future generation of skilled STEM professionals our country so desperately needs to thrive in a global economy. I was glad to wish the Wichita-area TARC team the best of luck at nationals but also express my appreciation for the students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math, and hear what aspirations they have for the future.
I met with the Eisenhower Excellence in Public Service Series, a Kansas group that is a part of the National Excellence in Public Service Series. This organization is dedicated to encouraging, mentoring and preparing women leaders to seek new levels of involvement in government and politics. We had a great discussion on the most pressing issues facing our nation today, including inflation, abortion, immigration and workforce concerns in Kansas. My many thanks to Wendy Bingesser, Benne Hudson, Stephanie James, Jo Kuckelman, Marni Mills, Kim Quade, Becky Reimer, Julie Samaniego, Emily Wellman and Cynthia Yarnell for their leadership in Kansas and for taking time to meet with me this past week.
National Teachers Hall of Fame
I was pleased to meet with the 10 newest inductees to the National Teachers Hall of Fame, located in Emporia, this week while they were being recognized in Washington. These educators were chosen from across the country, and each have over 20 years of teaching experience. The teaching profession is one that carries immense value and importance for society. Our future well-being and prosperity depend on a strong foundational education that sets our young people up for success in life. I thank these teachers for meeting with me and for the passion which they have displayed throughout their careers. I also thank Carol Strickland, Director of the National Teachers Hall of Fame, for her work to honor these educators, along with others in their class. I was pleased to work with Carol on legislation, which was passed into law in 2018, to designate a National Memorial to Fallen Educators at the National Teachers Hall of Fame—Kansas’ first national memorial.
Kansas Society of Anesthesiologists
I also spoke with Dr. Mark Brady and Ty Townsend, a veteran and Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant, regarding the National Standards of Practice being developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. As Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have spoken to the American Society of Anesthesiologists as well as numerous other groups who share concerns about the VA’s efforts to establish National Standards of Practice for 49 health care occupations. I share concerns the new standards of practice could negatively impact the physician-led, team-based approach to care for our veterans. I appreciated my conversation with Dr. Brady and Ty and will continue encouraging the VA to listen to concerns of VA’s anesthesiologists before approving new practice standards.
Questioning Administration Officials
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack
Kansas farmers and ranchers have faced drought and wildfire in recent months, including fires that burned across 13 counties in Kansas last December. Congress approved funding to help with disasters that occurred in 2021, but since this fire occurred outside the “normal grazing period,” these producers are ineligible for certain federal disaster assistance. On Tuesday, I questioned Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on USDA’s recently-announced disaster assistance program, and specifically called on him to provide assistance to those producers affected by wildfires.
On Tuesday, I heard testimony from Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth and Chief of Staff of the Army General James McConville on the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request. They discussed the threats facing the U.S., which includes China as the pacing threat and Russia as a regional threat in Europe. They also discussed the Army’s modernization priorities, which includes robust funding to supply the Army with a wide range of new aircraft, long range precision fires, ground vehicles and missile defense systems. It remains critical to me that the U.S. defense industrial base can support the efforts to equip and field a modern army. My questions to Secretary Wormuth and General McConnville centered on the defense industrial base. Our competition with China and the war in Ukraine has increased the demand for robust and secure supply chains to deliver our servicemembers the tools they need to succeed in any mission. The Secretary and CSA agreed with me on the importance of strengthening the U.S. defense industrial base. I was also pleased that the entire Defense Appropriations Subcommittee agreed to my idea of holding a special, closed hearing to further discuss issues with our industrial base.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo
On Wednesday, Secretary Gina Raimondo testified before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Department of Commerce where I had the opportunity to question her on several issues. Last fall, I joined K-State Salina and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as they signed a memorandum of understanding to create an undergraduate program involving the two entities. The new undergraduate program will provide students with the science, technology, engineering and math skills to serve as officers and pilots within the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. I asked the Secretary of Commerce for an update on the progress of this important program and look forward to seeing it move forward.
The other issue I raised was how one small solar company has disrupted a $30 billion industry by using trade inquiries to gain a competitive advantage. Now, good-paying solar jobs in Kansas are at risk due to canceled projects and delayed imports. I questioned Sec. Raimondo about efforts to mitigate the economic impact of this anti-circumvention inquiry.
Discussing Global Hunger Needs with World Food Program Director Beasley
On Wednesday, the Appropriations Subcommittee for State and Foreign Operations held a hearing on global food insecurity. David Beasley, the Executive Director of the World Food Program, testified that nearly 300 million people around the world are “marching towards starvation.” Conflict, the pandemic and drought already created dire circumstances, but Russia’s war against Ukraine has severely worsened the food situation around the globe. I asked Mr. Beasley what can be done to keep countries from instituting protectionist measures to secure their own food supply at a time when the world must come together to supply what it can to those in need, and I also asked about the status of food assistance in Yemen, where the Iranian-backed Houthis control much of the population. The hearing made clear how dire food security is around the globe, and I appreciated the time to explore solutions.
Opposing Abortion Expansion
On Wednesday, the Senate voted on the most sweeping expansion of abortion access in our nation’s history in a desperate effort to create a federal protection for abortion. This legislation would have permitted unborn children to be terminated at any point for any reason. Additionally, this legislation would have eliminated conscience protections for health care providers who object to terminating human life and abolished state laws, such as waiting periods or requiring parental consent for minors to obtain an abortion. Not only is this legislation immoral, it is far outside the mainstream of American opinion and would have placed the United States alongside China and North Korea as outliers with the world’s most permissive abortion laws.
Meeting with U.S. Military Leadership
Ahead of next week’s Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearing, I hosted U.S. military leadership who will testify regarding the President’s Budget Request for FY2023. I met with General Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations for Space Force, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown Jr., and I appreciated the opportunity to speak with these individuals prior to their hearings.
Secretary Kendall and General Brown outlined their priorities for the Air Force heading into a new fiscal year, namely, calling for greater investments in defending our air bases around the world, advancing operational space capabilities and bolstering our electronic warfare defenses. Kansas is home to McConnell Air Force Base – where I hosted Secretary Kendall in April – and Forbes Field, so it is my priority to ensure he understands these entities must be properly fitted with the aircraft necessary to rapidly deploy when our national security is at risk. I look forward to discussing these details at greater length when they both when they testify before the Defense Subcommittee.
I also discussed the appropriations priorities for the U.S. Space Force with General Raymond, as well as the role Kansas plays in our space defense. We also touched on the importance of building a robust satellite network in space to improve our missile tracking and warning capabilities as our adversaries like China and Russia continue to advance their technology and capabilities in space. The next space race is happening now, and it’s important for our national security that the U.S. remains competitive. As co-chair of the Senate Space Force Caucus, I appreciated hearing General Raymond’s perspective on how to continue developing the Space Force to maintain America’s leadership role in space, and I look forward to hearing more of his thoughts in front of the subcommittee.
Oversight on Quality of Care for Veterans
This week as the lead Republican on the Senate VA Committee, we held a hearing to examine the quality of care in VA and the private sector. I am concerned by a recent Inspector General report detailing examples of patient safety breakdowns and poor leadership culture. The VA has also failed to fully implement the MISSION Act’s quality standards directive. Our nation’s veterans deserve world class treatment when utilizing the VA for care, and it has been and will continue to be a top priority of mine to work with my colleagues to make certain that the VA system works for veterans and puts them first, not the other way around. Click here or below to watch my questioning.
Working to Reduce Red Tape for New Businesses
This week, I introduced the Supporting NEW BUSINESSES Act, legislation to make it easier to start and grow a new business, with Senator Cortez-Masto. This bipartisan bill will require the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide annual awards that would encourage states and localities to reduce red tape and streamline the process for starting a new business. Celebrating cities and states that implement innovative solutions to cut red tape, reduce bureaucracy, and make it easier for entrepreneurs to build successful businesses will encourage communities to enact policies that promote economic growth. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to promote the creation and success of small businesses.
Vulcan Rocket Update from ULA
This week I met with Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance (ULA). He provided me with updates on the status of the Vulcan rocket, which is to be used primarily for the U.S. Government’s National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program. As our adversaries, especially China, continue to advance their defense capabilities in the space domain, programs like the NSSL aim to keep America safe and competitive from interplanetary threats. When I welcomed Mr. Bruno and his team to Wichita, he quickly recognized the role that our state can play in this sector, and I will continue to leverage our capabilities so that Kansas is understood to be a catalyst for space manufacturing and development.
Welcoming Rudy Klopfer and Family to the Capitol
On Wednesday, I met Rudy Klopfer, his wife Lori and his children Spencer and Spencer and Mallori, in the Capitol Rotunda to welcome them to Washington. My staff and I regularly work with Rudy as the CEO of VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System. His role is important in making certain Kansas veterans are receiving quality health care, and he often welcomes me to tour VA facilities in Kansas. I appreciated the opportunity to offer him a tour of the U.S. Capitol.
Fort Riley Change of Command
On Wednesday, the First Infantry Division at Fort Riley held a Change of Command Ceremony. While I was unable to attend due to Senate business in Washington, D.C. I was pleased a member of my staff could be present. I value the important relationship I have with Fort Riley and look forward to working with the new Commanding General, Major General John V. Meyers III. Thank you to Commanding General Major General Douglas A. Sims II for his leadership at Fort Riley, and I wish him the best as he takes on his new role with the Joint Staff.
Welcoming Kansas Honor Flight Veterans
It’s always special to have the opportunity to welcome Kansas Honor Flight veterans to the memorials built in their honor. For many, it is their first time seeing the memorials. Tuesday morning, I expressed my gratitude to each of them for their service and sacrifice.
These Kansas veterans came from across our state, and I enjoyed hearing about their experience in our nation’s capital. It was also great to speak with WWII and Korean War veteran Max Manning from Topeka. Shortly after leaving the service, he became a minister and has preached for nearly 70 years, serving in his own community and around the world through ministry. Thank you to the Honor Flight team and volunteers who make these trips possible.
Happy Hospital Week
Last week we celebrated National Hospital Week as we thank our Kansas health care professionals who serve their communities day in and day out. From urban health systems to rural critical access hospitals, I have witnessed the dedication of Kansas health care workers. Their work is often taken for granted, especially in the midst of a public health emergency, but we thank them for their willingness to serve and the steadfast compassion shown to patients.
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