Kansas Common Sense
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Soaring Inflation and Supply Chain Challenges Will Make This Thanksgiving the Most Expensive in History
Rising Costs Are Affecting Producers in Kansas
On Wednesday, I joined several of my Senate colleagues to discuss inflation reaching a 30-year high and the rising cost of food items that are set to make this Thanksgiving the most expensive in history for American families.
Record-high prices are also affecting our farmers and ranchers – those who produce our food. A Kansas farmer in McCune, Kansas, told me, ‘the total fertilizer cost to raise corn, wheat and soybeans could increase by $350,000 for our family farm.’ Another farmer, this one in Holcomb, Kansas, told me, ‘with the increased cost of inputs like fertilizer, fuel and chemical, we will have to adjust our farming practices if we want to survive.’ Inflation is hurting everyone from those at the checkout counter to farmers and ranchers producing our food. Click here or below to listen to my remarks.
Speaking in Opposition to President Biden’s Nominee for Comptroller of the Currency
On Thursday, I spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to President Biden’s nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, Dr. Saule Omarova, following her nomination hearing in the Senate Banking Committee.
Although Dr. Omarova claims to support community banks, her plan would relegate them to mere franchises of the larger Federal Reserve have alarmed many community bankers. They have grave concerns about her policies that would, as she said, "end banking as we know it." We must continuously work to improve our financial sector for everyone, but forcing consumers to bank with the government would do much more harm than good. Kansans want less government in their lives, not more.
Unfortunately, Dr. Omarova’s confirmation hearing only deepened my concerns. While she is entitled to her views, they have no place in the role as the nation’s top bank regulator. By nominating Dr. Omarova, President Biden looks to fundamentally reshape banking from a market-driven industry to a one-size-fits-all government takeover. Watch my remarks by clicking here or below.
Vaccine Mandate on Private Businesses is a Federal Overreach
This week, I joined 49 of my Senate Republican colleagues in introducing a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, which seeks to nullify the Biden administration’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) vaccine mandate for private businesses. I am vaccinated and continue to urge others to get vaccinated. That was my decision, but it should be left to each individual in consultation with doctors they trust, not the federal government. President Biden’s federal vaccine mandates are incredibly divisive, and his mandate on private businesses in particular is an overreach of executive authority that threatens to worsen the labor shortages faced by employers in Kansas and across the country. This is why I joined all of my Senate Republican colleagues in formally introducing this resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the federal vaccine mandate.
Late last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld its stay to enjoin the President’s OSHA vaccine mandate for private businesses with 100 or more employees and barred OSHA from taking steps to implement or enforce the mandate while the stay is in effect. After multiple lawsuits were filed against the OSHA mandate in several appeals courts, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation lottery this week drew the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the consolidated legal challenges. The 6th Circuit will be tasked with hearing the legal challenges to the OSHA mandate and determine whether or not to lift the stay issued by the 5th Circuit.
Preventing Staffing Health Care Staffing Shortages
I also urged Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to rescind, or in the absence of rescission, significantly modify the COVID-19 Healthcare Staff Vaccination interim rule to prevent staffing shortages for health care providers across the country.
According to the interim rule issued on November 4, 2021, staff at Medicare and Medicaid certified providers and suppliers are required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. I called on Administrator Brooks-LaSure and the Biden administration to rescind the rule; however, if the rule is to stand, it is essential to make it more workable for Kansas health care providers. Specifically, CMS should allow for regular testing in place of the vaccine and additional flexibility to rural health care providers who already operate on a small amount of staff. The CMS vaccine mandate will exacerbate a profession already battling staffing shortage and burnout, threatens Americans’ access to care by causing staff resignations and increases the risk of health care facility closures, especially in rural communities and Health Professional Shortage Areas. Vaccinations are important in getting our country back to normal, and according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, more than 65% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Implementing a strict federal mandate on health care professionals will only generate a set of new complications that will hinder an already short-staffed health care workforce. Read the full letter by clicking here.
Supporting Our Veterans
Legislation to Benefit the Families of Fallen Servicemembers Heads to President’s Desk for Signature
My legislation, the Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act, passed the U.S. House of Representatives this week and is now headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
If signed, this bill will increase in-state tuition eligibility for the families of veterans who die from service-connected disabilities. The bill is named to honor the memory of U.S. Army Colonel John McHugh, who was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2010, while he and his family were stationed at Fort Leavenworth. His daughter, Kelly, was attending Kansas State University at the time of his death. The Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act will require public colleges and universities that receive GI Bill benefits to provide in-state tuition rates for students using the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance (DEA) program. This will lower out-of-pocket costs for these students to pursue an education and receive the benefits their loved ones earned for them through their service. Military service is family service, and I am humbled his memory and sacrifice will both positively impact the families of fallen servicemembers and be remembered for years to come.
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors Congressional Award
On Tuesday, I received the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) Congressional Award. TAPS is an organization that is tireless in its advocacy for our military, veterans and the surviving families of our fallen servicemembers. I am also thankful for their work in helping advance my bill, the Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act.
Whether someone is a surviving spouse, child, parent, sibling, brother or sister in arms, TAPS provides a place of refuge, community and hope, and I want to thank them for all they do to advocate for and support our military, our veteran community and most importantly, our survivors.
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing
On Wednesday, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to examine pending legislation that would impact the VA’s Office of Inspector General, the Veterans Benefits Administration and the National Cemetery Administration. Included were three bills that I sponsored to provide GI Bill parity for National Guard and Reservists, make certain homeless veterans and at-risk-for-homelessness veterans living in every state and territory have access to specialized employment and training services, and enhances rural veterans’ access to disability exams and benefits. I heard from expert witnesses in support of the legislation I sponsored about how it would improve the lives of Kansas veterans, their communities and veterans across America. The Senate VA Committee continues to be an example of how we can put the needs of those we are here to serve first – our veterans, those still serving, their families who have served alongside them and our fallen heroes.
Thank You to Kansas’ Family Businesses
Thank you to the Kansas Family Business Forum for the work you do to support family businesses and to Kansas business owners for being the backbone of our communities.
Questioning FCC Acting Chairwoman
My Legislation Continues to Bolster Aviation Manufacturers’ Capabilities
This week, I questioned Acting Chairwomen Jessica Rosenworcel during her nomination hearing at the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. During the hearing, I was pleased to talk to Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel about local broadcasters and journalism, which provide valuable services to our communities. I also questioned Rosenworcel on how the FCC plans to address supply chain shortages. America’s bottlenecked supply chain system threatens to delay the buildout of broadband in a timely fashion, and any delay to expanding this vital service for rural Kansans is unacceptable and cannot be ignored by the FCC. I appreciate Acting Chairwomen Rosenworcel’s expressed commitment to stay on schedule and work with her team at the FCC to address supply chain shortfalls. If she is confirmed, I will continue to work with the FCC to ensure the agency’s critical work is being completed effectively and efficiently for Kansans.
Raising Concerns Over New Container Shipping Fees at Ports
On Friday, I led 14 of my Senate colleagues in urging the Federal Maritime Commission to reevaluate the new fees imposed for shipping container carriers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that will be imposed starting today. I expressed concerns that this increased shipping costs will eventually be passed on to American consumers.
These fees, just like tariffs, ultimately will be passed onto the American consumer in the form of higher prices for goods at a time when the prices are already at record highs. Without question, ports across the United States are experiencing unprecedented congestion and record container volumes. We are sympathetic to the strain placed on all facets of the global supply chain, but it is misguided to levy an exorbitant fee under these unprecedented circumstances. Certainly, the delays and congestion at these ports is a multi-faceted problem, but these hyper-demurrage fees are not the solution. If left in place, they will have significant consequences for importers and American consumers. Read the full letter here.
Announcing USDA Grant for Quinter
This week, I announced a USDA Rural Development grant awarded to the city of Quinter to complete improvements to the city’s water supply system.
Improving Quinter’s water system is important to make certain residents have reliable access to water. I’m pleased this federal investment will help Quinter thrive for years to come, and as a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over USDA, I will continue to advocate for programs that are important to improve the quality of life in our rural communities.
Meeting NASA Crew-1 Astronauts
This week, I had the privilege of meeting astronauts who were the first to fly to the International Space Station by a U.S. commercial spacecraft. Joining the group was United States Space Force colonel and NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins. He was the first astronaut to transfer to the U.S. Space Force and participated in the transfer ceremony while aboard the International Space Station. As Ranking Member of the Senate committee that provides resources for NASA, I am pleased to continue supporting NASA and its missions in low Earth orbit and deep space exploration.
Thank you astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi for your commitment to science and exploration.
Discussing the Future of Space with the Space Force Caucus
This week, I visited with Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall and General John Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, at the Senate Space Force Caucus Breakfast. As Russia’s reckless and dangerous antisatellite test proved this week, we need a firm presence and decisive technological advantage in space to make certain that space remains secure. Though the Space Force is a fledgling organization, it has the talent and vision among its leadership to achieve that edge. As the Senate Space Force Caucus Co-chair, I am grateful to the partners in academia and industry leaders who contribute to America’s leadership in space, especially the many organizations we have in Kansas. I will continue to work to leverage our nation’s best talent and resources to help the Space Force remain the best in the world.
Discussing Energy with David Campbell of Evergy
On Thursday, I met with David Campbell of Evergy, who started his tenure as Evergy’s President and CEO in January. During our meeting, we discussed Evergy’s efforts to embrace alternative energy sources like wind and nuclear power while also focusing on affordability and reliability for customers. I look forward to working with David to advance our shared priority of ensuring Evergy’s 1.6 million customers across Kansas and Missouri have access to affordable, reliable energy.
Watch: Hosting United Launch Alliance in Wichita
Last week, I hosted United Launch Alliance (ULA) CEO Tory Bruno and his team in Wichita to showcase the capabilities of our aerospace manufacturers and demonstrate Wichita as the “Air Capital of the World.”
Aerospace manufacturers in Kansas are and will be vital contributors in the new era of space – whether that is space exploration or defending our nation. Watch a quick recap of ULA’s visit by clicking here or below.
Discussing Israeli Security with AIPAC
I visited with members from AIPAC on Wednesday to discuss the latest developments relating to Israel’s security. After Israel depleted its Iron Dome defense against Hamas rocket attacks in May, American support is essential to replenish those munitions before Hamas strikes again. I fully support this funding so that Israel can defend itself against terrorists. We also talked about the implementation of the Abraham Accords, in which Arab states agreed last year to normalize relations with Israel. This progress must not be undermined, and I sponsored legislation that directs the State Department to strengthen and expand these historic agreements. We concluded with a review of Iran’s non-compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal and how to reverse Iran’s expanding nuclear program. I reaffirmed that Iran must not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. The United States has no greater partner in the Middle East than Israel, and I am committed to ensuring Israel can enjoy peace and prosperity.
Meeting with KCKCC Leadership in Kansas City
On Monday morning before heading to Washington, D.C., I had the opportunity to tour Kansas City Kansas Community College (KCKCC) Technical Education Center where I visited with KCKCC’s leadership as well as HVAC and Construction instructors and students. I met with KCKCC’s leadership in our nation’s capital earlier this fall, and I was pleased to see them in Kansas City.
The Technical Education Center offers vocational training to students around the metro Kansas City area. These well-paying jobs are in high demand and often allow students who pursue these vocations to be self-employed. I was also able to hear KCKCC present its proposal for their community education center in downtown KCK to the state’s SPARKS committee. I would like to thank VP of Strategic Initiatives and Outreach Dr. Tami Bartunek for the invitation, Director of Technical Programs Rich Piper for the tour and President Greg Mosier for joining us.
Meeting with Rep. Mike Dodson
On Saturday, I met with State Representative Mike Dodson to discuss Service Member Agricultural Vocational Education (SAVE) Farm and state issues, including the current workforce shortage that continues to affect businesses and sectors across the state, as well as veteran housing, education and child care.
SAVE Farm provides occupational agricultural training to veterans and transitioning service-members located on a farm near Riley, Kansas. I appreciated the ability to speak with Rep. Dodson about SAVE Farm and its initiatives that engage in outreach and training for veterans transitioning from military service to careers in agriculture.
National Rural Health Day
Rural Kansans face unique challenges accessing the care they need and deserve. Thursday - National Rural Health Day - we celebrated the power of rural, and we recognized the efforts of our rural health care providers for their dedicated service to their communities.
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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