Happy Mother’s Day!
I want to wish a very happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who play a special and irreplaceable role in our lives. I also want to say happy Mother’s Day to my wife, Robba, and to our daughters, Kelsey and Alex.
Security & Humanitarian Crisis at the Southern Border
On May 11, Title 42 expired. Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection anticipate as many as 10,000 to 13,000 migrants to cross the southern border each day – almost double the daily average in March. We already have a record number of migrants at our southern border and the Biden administration’s decision to end Title 42 without a robust plan of action is only going to make the crisis worse. We must secure the border, enforce the law and reverse the policies President Biden put in place that have fueled this crisis.
Hearing from DEA & FBI on End of Title 42
As ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, I held a hearing this week with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram. During the hearing, we discussed the consequences of allowing Title 42 to end. I expressed to them my concerns about the threats posed to our national security with the end of this policy. I also questioned DEA Administrator Milgram about China supplying fentanyl precursor chemicals to Mexico and asked her about what the DEA is doing to work with China and Mexico in regard to this issue.
You can watch my remarks here.
Supporting Efforts to Address the Border Crisis
I have met with DEA, FBI and Border Patrol agents at the southern border multiple times and seen the national security and humanitarian crisis firsthand. Despite the challenges they face, our law enforcement officers at the border are doing an incredible job. They remain positive and are proud to serve our country and to protect our nation and communities. I want to recognize and thank each of them for their service.
Drug cartels and criminal organizations are exploiting our broken border and immigration system – trafficking children, smuggling dangerous narcotics into our communities, threatening public safety and violating human rights. Without action, these problems will only get worse.
President Biden must act to ensure a stricter enforcement of our immigration laws, reinstate the construction of a wall or fencing in areas that are largely unprotected, and the administration must send a message loud and clear that our border is closed to unlawful entrants.
Leading Legislation to Reform Classification System, Prevent Mishandling of Classified Documents
On Wednesday, I joined Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) – fellow members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence – in introducing two bills to address how the federal government declassifies information and how classified information is handled. These bills would reform the security classification system in order to reduce over classification, prevent mishandling of classified information, promote better use of intelligence and enhance public trust.
In the digital age, our classification system is absorbing a flood of new, critical information. When it comes to declassifying documents, our current declassification process costs $18 billion a year and is about as effective as using an eye dropper to drain a flood. These deficiencies undermine our national security, and a backlog of unnecessary classified material is harming our ability to protect what should be secret from our enemies. We are long overdue for an overhaul that begins with an up-to-date declassification system in order to better secure our national secrets, and it begins with the two bills introduced this week.
I have worked on this issue of declassification for several years, introducing legislation with Sen. Wyden. The support for the bills introduced this week signifies the growing importance of this issue. Improving our broken classification system will reduce costs and create a more efficient system. This is necessary to protect information from bad actors, and I look forward to advancing these bills.
You can watch the press conference announcing the legislation here.
You can read more from The Kansas City Star here.
Trade is Vital to the U.S. Economy and National Security
This week, I spoke on the Senate floor about the importance of trade to our nation’s prosperity and relationships around the world. This is particularly true in the Indo-Pacific region, which will soon be home to 50 percent of the world’s economic output. Trade agreements that provide market access are critical to Kansas producers, and I called on President Biden to enter into – and Congress to ratify – the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership.
In competing with China in the coming decades, it is essential to build cooperation with these countries by offering a positive vision that attracts them to America. Little in geopolitics is a win-win, but trade is the rare area that advances our interests and those of our partners.
You can watch my full floor speech here.
Selected as New Co-Chair of Senate Travel & Tourism Caucus
This week, the U.S. Travel Association officially announced that I will be co-chair of the Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus with Sen. Amy Klobuchar. This bipartisan group of 23 senators champions efforts to increase and support travel to and within the United States.
My appointment was announced during the 40th anniversary of National Travel and Tourism Week, celebrating a vital industry that generated $2.6 trillion in economic output last year. Travel is an essential driver of our economy and workforce and plays a crucial role in fueling other industries such as manufacturing, health care and education.
It’s always a joy to share the beauty of a sunset in the Flint Hills or the boyhood home and library of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Abilene, and as co-chair of this caucus, I look forward to working with my colleagues to promote policies that reduce barriers to travel, bolster the travel industry and support the safety and access of travelers across America.
Melissa Dixon, president, Travel Industry Association of Kansas:
Holly Lofton, president-elect, Travel Industry Association of Kansas:
Julie Roller Weeks, former president, Travel Industry Association of Kansas:
K-State Selected for National Science Foundation Award
On Thursday, Kansas State University was awarded $1 million from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Regional Innovation Engines program. It was a pleasure to call K-State President Richard Linton to inform him. K-State’s project, 1 of only 44 to be selected, will focus on advancing biosecurity, biodefense and biomanufacturing, with applications in biopharmaceutical manufacturing, renewable energy and advanced materials. These Development Awards will help organizations create connections and develop their local innovation ecosystem within two years to prepare a strong proposal for becoming a future NSF Engine, where they will have the opportunity to receive up to $160 million.
I supported the CHIPS and Science Act in part because of the opportunities created for Kansas institutions like K-State to create lasting economic growth in ground-breaking, innovative fields. Congratulations to K-State University and their team for winning this award and building on the many new significant research and development projects in the Manhattan region. K-State has demonstrated that participation in this new program will create jobs, strengthen our nation’s global competitiveness and encourage innovation.
You can read more from WIBW here.
Speaking with Agri-Pulse on NBAF, Farm Bill and Debt Limit
This week, I joined Agri-Pulse to discuss the grand opening of NBAF, the upcoming Farm Bill and the ongoing debate on the debt limit. Farmers and ranchers in Kansas and across the country have much at stake in the current debt ceiling debate. Our farmers are the victims of inflation. We have seen the impacts of rising prices on fertilizer prices, input costs for fuel, diesel and natural gas and other components of farm equipment. The new Farm Bill needs to be based on the increasing costs of inputs in order to best support our farmers and ranchers.
You can watch my full interview here.
NOTAM Improvement Act Passes the Senate
On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed my NOTAM Improvement Act, introduced with Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V), which helps prevent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) system outages. This act requires FAA to strengthen the resiliency and cybersecurity of the NOTAM system, which alerts pilots of safety and location hazards on flight routes. This bill follows a recent NOTAM system outage in January that grounded flights nationwide. FAA has a responsibility to make certain air travel in our country is as safe and efficient as possible. I am pleased by the Senate’s swift passage of this legislation and urge the House of Representatives to quickly pass this bill to send to the President’s desk.
You can read more from WIBW here.
Delivering Keynote Address at Rotary Club of Wichita
On Monday, I delivered the keynote address at the Rotary Club of Wichita – one of the oldest and most active rotary clubs in the nation. Communities across our state are strengthened by those who participate in civic organizations, and I appreciated the opportunity to spend time with leaders dedicated to growing the region. We spoke about my priority to help bring new opportunities to the businesses that already call Wichita home, attract new partnerships and contracts to the region and make certain the area has a trained workforce to ensure future success.
In the past years, senior government and business leaders have visited the area at my invitation to see all that Kansas has to offer. These visits have resulted in new contracts, business and growth for the Wichita region and the state as a whole. Two main industries I have worked to bring to Wichita are aerospace and defense – sectors that are seeing rapid growth in the area as local suppliers and manufacturers gain new business and contracts with top industry leaders.
I want to thank Dr. Elizabeth King, CEO of Wichita State University (WSU) Foundation, for the kind introduction at this event. Special thanks as well to Greater Wichita Partnership President Jeff Fluhr, Wichita State University Senior Vice President for Industry and Defense Programs Dr. John Tomblin and WSU Tech President Dr. Sheree Utash for joining as my guests. I also appreciate Kansas Global for sponsoring the luncheon. The momentum in Wichita is palpable, and it was great to spend time with leaders who are dedicated to growing the region. I will continue to work alongside these men and women to expand opportunities for all those who call Wichita and south-central Kansas home.
ATF Launches National Crime Gun Intelligence Center of Excellence at WSU
On Monday before returning to Washington, D.C., I was also at Wichita State University (WSU) for the grand opening of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Crime Gun Intelligence Center of Excellence on WSU’s Innovation Campus. This facility will analyze and correlate the ballistic evidence recovered from crime scenes, helping local law enforcement develop investigative leads and giving them the tools to get violent robbers, drug dealers and murderers off the streets. ATF estimates more than 300 jobs will be created as part of the center.
Notably, we returned to WSU’s Innovation Campus just two months after announcing a $75 million investment in a world-class forensics laboratory on campus. This lab will bring an additional 100 new good-paying, high-quality jobs to the region. All of this means that Kansas is in an ideal position to support ATF’s efforts to solve crimes and provide comprehensive and advanced technology support to federal, state and local agencies not only in Kansas but across the nation.
As the top Republican on the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, I am committed to helping local law enforcement members protect our communities, and I am pleased that the Wichita region plays a vital role in this mission. Now, wherever a crime is committed and a criminal needs to be apprehended, the message can be: “We’ve got to get this evidence to Wichita so we can solve this crime.”
I want to thank ATF Director Steve Dettelbach for his leadership at the federal level. Special thanks to WSU President Richard Muma and Vice President John Tomblin for their role in assisting in this mission.
You can read more from KSN here.
Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing with Top Department of Defense Officials
Last week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense held a hearing with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley regarding the FY2024 Department of Defense (DoD) budget. Despite the U.S. facing one of the most challenging national security situations of my lifetime, this administration’s request significantly underfunds our military. When adjusted for inflation, President Biden’s budget request reflects a decline in resources for our military when compared to last year’s.
During the hearing, I questioned DoD leadership on efforts to combat low recruitment levels across all military branches, which places continued strain on our servicemen and women. I also expressed concern regarding the rank disparity for the Vice Chief of the National Guard compared to their counterparts in the sister services. The National Guard constitutes 20% of the Joint Force and is entrusted with various critical and unique missions. However, the National Guard is the only service in which the Vice Chief is a three-star, automatically disadvantaging National Guard personnel nationwide.
Lastly, I reminded Secretary Austin of the importance of caring for servicemembers and their families impacted by the recent water contamination around the Red Hill Bulk Storage facility in Hawaii. I highlighted a bill I introduced with Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), which would require longitudinal health studies for those impacted by this contamination to allow for the best possible care to the families serving our nation.
You can watch my full remarks here.
Honoring the Life of Gary Doane
I spoke on the U.S. Senate floor this week to pay tribute to the life of Gary Doane – Downs native, member of the Kansas Farm Bureau and former Chair of the Board of Directors for the Kansas Agricultural and Rural Leadership (KARL) Program.
Gary touched the lives of all who knew him, and he left the world – and our state – a better place. I know I speak for many others when I say we will all miss his wisdom and his kindness. Gary did what we all hope to do. He lived a life with purpose, and he loved to invest in the next generation of Kansans. He often spoke of how he wanted to help raise new leaders to preserve the same opportunities he enjoyed living and raising his family in north central Kansas. We all look for examples, and Gary’s life is an example of the difference one person can make. I know his legacy will live on in the community and in the state he loved. Robba and I are praying for his wife Glennys and his three children, Amy, Vic and Edie, and the entire Downs community.
You can watch my full remarks here.
Speaking to General Aviation Manufacturing Association Board
On Wednesday morning, I spoke to the General Aviation Manufacturing Association (GAMA) Board of Directors regarding my efforts to help craft this year’s FAA Reauthorization. GAMA represents various aviation and avionics manufacturers including companies in Kansas, such as Garmin, Textron, Airbus, Honeywell, GE Aviation and others. As Ranking Member of the Commerce Aviation Subcommittee, it is my priority to make certain Kansas interests – across all aviation sectors – are considered and included in the final bill. During my remarks, I discussed the outlook of the bill, and several pieces of legislation I have introduced and am working to introduce for inclusion in FAA Reauthorization. It is vital we pass a long-term FAA Reauthorization bill, and I appreciated the conversation with a large group of stakeholders with a significant role in this process.
Meeting with Textron eAviation President
It was great to meet with Textron eAviation President Rob Scholl this week. Headquartered in Wichita, Textron eAviation is a sector of Textron solely focused on sustainable flying and leveraging innovative product design, certification and manufacturing. The company’s acquisition of Pipistrel – an international leader in electric aircraft – coupled with Textron’s existing businesses assists the important work being done by eAviation. I appreciated receiving an update on various Textron eAviation efforts and how the company is working to lead in the new entrants ecosystem. Kansas is the Air Capital of the World, and it is exciting to hear from our Wichita-based companies on how our state continues to bolster and contribute to the aviation industry.
Subcommittee Hearing on Universal Broadband Service
On Thursday, the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband held a hearing on the current state of universal broadband service in our country and discussed federal broadband deployment programs, including the Universal Service Fund (USF). Managed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the USF promotes access to telecommunications services for all Americans through four distinct programs: High Cost, E-Rate, Rural Health Care and Lifeline. These programs are funded through a fee on certain services, like long-distance landline voice calls. As Americans’ usage of telecommunications services have shifted with technological growth, this funding mechanism has become increasingly volatile and expensive for those using legacy services. To address this issue, I introduced the Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.). This bill would require the FCC to stabilize the USF’s funding mechanism. Witnesses before this hearing agreed that this funding mechanism is unsustainable and needs to be addressed.
Before the hearing on Thursday, I joined a bipartisan working group to address this issue and other challenges facing universal broadband service. A recent study found Kansas ranked last amongst the states in terms of download speed and ranked poorly in other broadband quality metrics. This underlines the importance of making certain current federal broadband deployment programs are implemented in an effective and efficient manner. In addition to the USF funding mechanism, I also asked witnesses about the importance of federal coordination of broadband programs and the future of the FCC’s High Cost programs. I will continue my work to make certain every Kansan, no matter where they live, has access to the benefits of quality broadband service.
You can watch my full remarks here.
Introducing Bill to Deter Criminals from Targeting Law Enforcement
This week, I joined 38 of my Republican Senate colleagues in introducing the Back the Blue Act, legislation to increase penalties for criminals who target law enforcement officers and to provide new tools for officers to protect themselves. Each day, federal law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to defend our nation’s security. We must make certain that criminals who take the lives, or threaten to take the lives, of these public servants face tougher penalties.
This legislation strengthens laws to protect law enforcement officers by creating new federal laws for assaulting, killing and attempting or conspiring to kill federal law enforcement officers and federal judges. In addition, the Back the Blue Act would allow law enforcement officer to carry their firearms into federal facilities and other jurisdictions where possession of a firearm is currently prohibited.
Receiving Department of the Army Emblem
This week, I was presented with the Department of the Army Emblem. This symbol represents the dedication, sacrifice and unwavering commitment of the brave men and women who serve in the U.S. Army. From the Revolutionary War to today, the Army has been at the forefront of defending our freedoms and safeguarding our nation. The emblem represents the countless soldiers who have dedicated their lives to selflessly serving their country.
I will continue to use my role as the Senate Army Caucus co-chair, a member of the Defense Subcommittee on Appropriations and the Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to make certain soldiers and their families are supported during and after their service to our nation.
Visiting KidsTLC in Olathe
Before returning to Washington, D.C. earlier this week, I stopped by KidsTLC in Olathe to see firsthand the work done here to care for young children and their families through a variety of services. This non-profit organization was founded in 1972 to fulfill an unmet need for an emergency shelter for abused and neglected children. Since then, the initial mission has transformed into the current goal of providing inpatient and outpatient care for children experiencing mental and behavioral health challenges, developmental trauma and autism. I want to thank Dr. Erin Dugan, President & CEO, Tim Dannenberg, KidsTLC Board Chair and Shannon Wickliffe, Chief Development Officer, for hosting me.
Kansas Community Visits
It was great to be in Waverly to visit with local residents during my stops at Waverly Cooperative, First National Bank of Kansas, Waverly Medical Clinic and City Hall. Thanks to everyone who took the time to speak with me.
I met with local Ottawa leaders for a conversation about current happenings in the community and to hear from them about the issues impacting the area. Maintaining strong communities across our state is vitally important. I want to thank Major Eric Crowley, Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Skidmore and City Manager Brian Silcott for hosting this important discussion.
On Friday, it was great to spend time in Stafford County speaking with local residents in the area. I stopped in St. John and met with the Stafford County Economic Development team and other community leaders.
Pictured below: Kathleen Norman, current Executive Director of Stafford County Economic Development; Ryan Russell, incoming Executive Director of Stafford County Economic Development; and Carolyn Dunn, former Executive Director of Stafford County Economic Development.
Attending Kansas Soybean Social
On Thursday evening, I stopped by the Kansas Soybean Association office to visit with the team there and other industry stakeholders. I enjoyed visiting with attendees and learning more about their organizations which play such an important role in our state. Thank you to Kansas Soybean CEO Kaleb Little for the invitation.
All Schools Day Parade
I enjoyed joining the All Schools Day Parade in McPherson on Friday. The All Schools Day Parade is one of my favorite events of the year, and I appreciate the residents who show up each year. Special thanks to Nic Winsky for driving my vehicle in the parade this year!