Passing the National Defense Authorization Act
This week, the Senate passed crucial investments to our military and national defense in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Passing NDAA is one of Congress’ most important tasks to make certain our military is equipped and ready to defend the nation. This year’s legislation includes critical investments for our nation’s weapons stockpile and cutting-edge cybersecurity technology. Just as importantly, NDAA includes a pay raise to our all-volunteer force and resources to help improve the quality of life for our servicemembers and their families.
I also worked to include several of my priorities in NDAA that enable surviving military spouses to retain certain benefits upon remarriage and provisions for analyzing and expanding TRICARE benefits. Additionally I worked to expand hearing aid coverage for dependents of retired servicemembers and authorized substantial investments in Fort Riley and Forbes Field.
The successful passage of these amendments and the overall Senate version of the NDAA underscores our capacity to unite for our nation’s greater good. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to reconcile the Senate and House versions of NDAA and passing final legislation in both chambers.
Op-Ed with Secretary Pompeo: America wins if we help Ukraine defeat Russia
This week I wrote an op-ed with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding why America benefits from helping Ukraine defeat Putin.
Kansas’ favorite son, General and later President Dwight D. Eisenhower, remarked after the end of World War II that, “history does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.” “Ike” recognized that the freedom we enjoy today is both a unique privilege and hard-won inheritance.
Allowing the war in Ukraine to fester will only prolong and deepen the instability already wrought, and it puts at greater risk the 100,000 U.S. servicemembers defending NATO’s borders – including those from Fort Riley. It is in our interests to help Ukraine degrade Russia’s warfighting capabilities, thereby reducing this threat to our servicemembers.
To achieve success, the United States must lead, alongside its NATO allies and partners in Europe. This should not, and will not, require American troops to fight in Ukraine. Instead, it requires providing the Ukrainians with the weapons they need to win the war on their own. Only by doing this will Russia be forced to conclude that further efforts to compel Ukraine to surrender will fail.
Ukraine’s battle for freedom and security is a noble one that we are right to support in the same spirit as those who came before us.
You can read my op-ed with Secretary Pompeo in the Fox News here.
U.S. Military Academy Board of Visitors
This week I attended the West Point Board of Visitor’s meeting at the United States Military Academy. The West Point Board of Visitors serves as an advisory committee that meets regularly and inquires about the ongoing work and issues at West Point. We discussed the recent storm damage at West Point and issues with recruiting to the academy, which is experiencing a lower number of applications from qualified cadets than the other academies.
As a United States Senator, one of my important responsibilities is nominating outstanding candidates to our nation’s prestigious service academies, including West Point. I take this role very seriously as these young men and women, who aspire to serve our nation, represent our future military leadership. It is crucial that we provide them with the opportunities necessary to prepare them for the challenges they will face.
In my endeavor to find the best and brightest, I make it a point to make sure that deserving candidates from all Kansas communities are not disadvantaged simply because they often lack access to advanced placement classes in their high schools. I firmly believe that talent and determination can be found in every corner of our state and country, and I want to help ensure these prospective leaders are not overlooked.
The task of training the next generation of officers is integral to ensuring our military remains ready and capable to defend against any threats to our nation. I take this responsibility to heart, and I will continue to leverage my roles in Congress to safeguard our nation’s security. Our military’s readiness, and indeed our nation’s future, relies heavily on these young individuals who are willing to serve, and I am committed to doing everything in my power to support their success.
SVAC Implementing the PACT Act: One Year Later
This week, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA’s) Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Shereef Elnahal, and Under Secretary for Benefits, Josh Jacobs, testified before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee about VA’s efforts to implement the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our PACT Act of 2022. The PACT Act was signed into law on August 10, 2022, almost one year ago, to help veterans who were exposed to toxins like Agent Orange in Vietnam or burn pit smoke in Iraq and Afghanistan connect with VA health care and benefits. It also provides benefits for the surviving family members of toxic-exposed veterans, requires research to help VA better identify and treat veterans who may be experiencing negative health effects as a result of their toxic exposure, and includes recruitment and retention incentives and expanded leasing authorities to improve VA’s workforce and create new and improved VA medical facilities. As the lead Republican on the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee, I will keep working to make certain that the PACT Act it is working for veterans and their families.
I encourage every Kansas veteran to visit the website here or call 800-698-2411 to see if you are eligible for health care or benefits due to the PACT Act. Importantly, if you are a veteran who thinks that you experienced a toxic-exposure during your time in the military and are experiencing negative health effects as a result, I encourage you to file a claim for service-connection through the Veterans Benefits Administration as soon as possible. There is no deadline to apply for benefits under the PACT Act. However, if you file a claim – or submit your intent to file a claim – by August 9th and it is granted, your benefits will be backdated to August 10, 2022. Additionally, if you are a post-9/11 combat veteran who separated from the military more than a decade ago and has not yet enrolled in the VA health care system, you could be eligible to enroll due to the PACT Act until September 30th.
You can watch my full remarks here.
Astronomy Award Presented by AURA
Last week, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) presented the Champions for Astronomy Award to Senator Shaheen and I, Chair and Vice Chair of the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee on Appropriations with jurisdiction over NASA. AURA is a consortium of 49 US institutions and three international affiliates that operate world-class astronomical observatories for the National Science Foundation and NASA. Since the James Webb Space Telescope’s launch in 2021, the photographs it has provided have increased our understanding of our solar system, allowing us the ability to look to distant worlds and understand the origins of our universe. I was proud to support the completion of this incredible project that is a symbol of America’s ingenuity.
The Role of Policy in Reducing Global Hunger
I had the opportunity to speak about the important role our Kansas farmers play in combatting global hunger this week during a World Food Program USA event. As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I know first-hand that food stability is essential to political stability. I’m honored to carry on the meaningful work of late Senator Bob Dole to expand our nation’s efforts to provide food to the most vulnerable populations around the world.
During the event I discussed why combating threats of hunger is not only the morally right thing to do, but is also the smart thing to do. Food security is national security: Food assistance provided by the United States leads to greater stability in regions of the world important to America’s strategic interests. When parents have access to food, they can provide a better future for their children. And when hunger no longer impedes a child’s ability to learn, they can remain and thrive in school, leading them down a path to greater opportunities.
I also discussed the consequences of Putin terminating the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Ukraine and Russia account for more than a quarter of the world’s wheat. The Black Sea Grain Initiative was a critical lifeline to those most in need worldwide and especially to those in hunger-stricken nations throughout Africa, Afghanistan and Yemen. The collapse of the Initiative is catastrophic for the world and could send global commodity and food prices much higher than we’ve ever seen. We must make certain the world knows Putin is the one responsible for the spiking food costs. Putin must not succeed in using propaganda to portray the West as the reason why people in grain-importing countries can’t afford to put food on the table. Many of these countries have been neutral so far; this is an opportunity to convince their leaders this war does impact them and Putin’s the reason for it.
Thank you to WFPUSA for inviting me to participate and for their leadership in combatting global hunger.
Providing Afghan Refugees a Pathway to Legal Residency
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to address my fellow Senators on an issue of paramount importance: the fate of our Afghan allies as we approach the second anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Many of these brave individuals, who escaped to the U.S., now face a daunting reality as their initial parole statuses near expiration.
The Administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan created an environment of uncertainty and a potential threat to our national security. Currently, Afghan nationals who escaped the United States only received screening in the chaos at the Kabul airport. If Congress does not act, the necessary vetting for these individuals will not happen. I worked with my colleagues to strengthen the vetting language in the Afghan Adjustment Act – creating a directive process that will ensure a more efficient legal pathway to citizenship exists for those Afghans who risked their lives to help U.S. personnel in Afghanistan while also flagging those whose presence in the United States is a threat to our national security.
The Afghan Adjustment Act is a bipartisan solution to ensure our national security is not threatened and provide Afghan refugees with the certainty they need to start their new lives here in the U.S.
The legislation has received the endorsement of veteran organizations including the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Veterans for Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Veterans for American Ideals, With Honor Action and the Association of Wartime Allies.
You can watch my full remarks here.
Floor Speech on the Federal Reserve
This week, I spoke on the Senate floor about the need for an independent review of the Silicon Valley Bank failure. Americans’ confidence in our financial system and its regulators was shaken this year, and hiring an outside investigative group to conduct a review of the Fed’s response would restore public confidence. This comprehensive review must be done by a party uninvolved in the failure of Silicon Valley Bank or the federal response to ensure the outcome is impartial. Meaningful oversight requires objectivity and transparency.
Americans deserve insight into the reasoning and conversations of regulators, White House officials and bank management involved in the response. As federal bank regulators put out stricter capital requirements this week in response to recent turmoil, it is crucial they take into account the trickle-down effect to small and mid-size institutions. A wholistic and independent review of the SVB collapse is the only way to get a non-partisan assessment allowing Americans to regain trust in our banking system and its regulators.
You can watch my full remarks here.
Meeting With Kansans
D.C. American Legion Boys/Girls Nation
On Thursday, I had the opportunity to meet with young Kansans visiting D.C. who are participating in the American Legion Boys Nation and American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation, both selective, educational programs for high school juniors. Through these respective programs, high school students learn about government, public service and civic responsibility and have opportunities to exercise leadership skills and participate in the political process. These young men and women were each elected by their peers from these respective programs to represent Kansas in Washington. While in the nation’s capital, they receive valuable educational and leadership experience as they learn about the structure and function of the federal government.
We also discussed the importance of prioritizing education, and the value of their involvement in American Legion’s youth programs. Visiting with our future leaders is always a highlight for me, and I know these young people will go on to do great things for our state and country in the future. Thank you to Kathrine Edwards and Jacqueline Goodman of Leavenworth, Adiel Garcia II from Olathe, and Creytin Jace Saner of Olathe for meeting with me.
Pittsburg State University President Dan Shipp & KBI Director Tony Mattivi
This week, I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Dan Shipp, President of Pittsburg State University, and Tony Mattivi, Director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI). The purpose of our meeting was to discuss the collaborative efforts being created not only for the students and faculty of Pittsburg State University and the KBI, but also for Kansas as a whole. I was glad to learn about the hard work undertaken by Dr. Dan Shipp and his team at Pittsburg State University, focusing on the growth and development of the Pittsburg community. Equally promising was the commitment shown by KBI Director Tony Mattivi and his team in further supporting local law enforcement efforts. I am confident that both parties will continue to collaborate, seeking innovative solutions to address the challenges our communities face today.
On Wednesday, I met with Philip Bradley of the Kansas Craft Brewers Guild to discuss the priorities of the Brewers Association, which represents craft breweries across the country. The 67 craft breweries in Kansas produce nearly 43,000 barrels of beer per year and provide over 3,500 well-paying jobs to the community, driving significant economic activity in Kansas. I appreciated the opportunity to hear about the state of craft brewing in Kansas and will continue to advocate for their priorities in Washington.
National FFA State Office Summit
On Wednesday I met with the Kansas FFA state officer team during their visit to our nation’s capital. I enjoyed the opportunity to hear about the positive growth of FFA chapters in our state. It was great hearing from students about their passions, goals and future career paths. These young men and women are dedicated to educating students, inspiring communities, and shaping the leaders and innovators of tomorrow’s agriculture industry. Thank you to Kai Cox, Long Island; Karli Neher, Pfeifer; Christian Pena, Sublette; Payton Ryba, Cheney and Sage Toews, Canton.
Kansas Association of Wheat Growers
I met with members of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers on Wednesday afternoon to discuss their priorities for the Farm Bill along with other issues that they see affecting Kansas farmers. They reiterated to me the importance of adequate crop insurance, especially when conditions in Kansas change so quickly as we’ve seen this year with some farmers experiencing crop loss caused by both drought and flooding. We also talked about the potential benefits of redefining wheat to be listed as a harvestable cover crop. Thank you to Shayna DeGroot of Manhattan, Kyler Millershaski of Lakin, and Chris Tanner of Norton.
The Thomas Family
This week I had the opportunity to meet up with Anthony and Carla Thomas, along with their children Leah, Landon and Liam during their trip to Washington D.C. It was great to speak with the Thomas family on local Hays events that have been happening this summer.
Community Visit in Otis
On my drive to Hays on Friday, I stopped in Otis to visit with residents and community leaders at Otis & Bison, Otis City Hall, Agency One Insurance Services, Messer Gasses, Bison State Bank and Rush County Farm Bureau. It was great to speak with members of the community and I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about how I can assist them in Washington, D.C.