Reaching an Agreement on Historic Legislation for Veterans
For far too long, veterans exposed to toxic substances while serving our nation have been denied access to health care and benefits through the VA. This includes many of the 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans who have potentially encountered toxic exposures from burn pits – areas near military bases used to burn chemicals, rubber, medical waste, plastics, and other waste that would emit toxic smoke. As leaders of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senator Jon Tester and I are committed to passing legislation to provide these veterans – and future generations of veterans – with the health care and benefits they deserve.
This past week, Sen. Tester and I reached a bipartisan agreement for the most comprehensive toxic exposure package the Senate has ever delivered to veterans in this country’s history. For months I worked with Sen. Tester, the VA and veteran service organizations to craft legislation to provide relief to all generations of veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service. Together, we will continue working until Congress delivers on its commitment to passing long-lasting solutions and comprehensive toxic exposure reforms for those who served our country.
Read more about the impact of the legislation in the Military Times.
Demanding Answers from FDA on the Baby Formula Shortage
As Kansas parents continue to struggle to find baby formula in stores, I joined several of my Senate colleagues in asking Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf about the agency’s plans to address the shortage. The shortage comes in the aftermath of Abbott Nutrition’s voluntary recall of formula possibly connected to infant death and sickness, prompting an FDA safety investigation that temporarily closed Abbott’s Michigan formula manufacturing plant. The FDA is only now allowing Abbott’s plant to restart production of formula. Both the voluntary recall and the FDA investigation exasperated the shortage. I am awaiting Commissioner Califf’s response on the FDA’s failure to mitigate the nationwide baby formula shortage and the steps available to limit the harmful impact on families and their newborns.
Read the full letter to the FDA here.
Meeting with the Alzheimer’s Association
As a member of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, I appreciated the opportunity to meet with the Alzheimer’s Association about legislation and additional resources needed to support Alzheimer’s research.
Thank you to the Alzheimer’s Association Kansas Director of Public Policy Jamie Gideon and the many Kansas advocates who traveled to our nation’s capital and for their tireless efforts to eradicate this terrible disease. I remain dedicated and hopeful that through this research and these opportunities, we will be able to effectively treat and prevent Alzheimer’s once and for all.
Introducing Alzheimer’s Research Legislation
This week, I joined a bipartisan group of senators in introducing a pair of bills to cement and build on the progress made to prevent and help treat Alzheimer’s disease. I introduced the NAPA Reauthorization Act to reauthorize the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) through 2035 and modernize the legislation to reflect strides that have been made to understand the disease. NAPA was originally signed into law in 2011 and convened a panel of experts who created a coordinated strategic national plan to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.
Additionally, I also introduced the Alzheimer’s Accountability and Investment Act. This legislation would set a requirement that the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to submit an annual budget to Congress estimating the funding necessary for NIH to fully implement NAPA’s research goals through 2035. These two pieces of legislation are vital to ensuring that research investments remain coordinated and their impact is maximized. Our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and the development of new treatments has made significant progress since NAPA was first signed into law in 2011. In my role on both the HELP and Appropriations Committee, I remain committed to providing necessary resources to help end this horrible disease.
Supporting Aid for Ukraine and National Security
The Ukrainian people and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have demonstrated tremendous courage as they continue to defend their homeland against Russia’s unjust invasion. Last week, I voted to support the Ukraine Supplemental Aid Package to provide weapons, valuable intelligence, medical supplies and humanitarian assistance to bolster Ukraine and send a message to authoritarian regimes that attacks against democracy will not go unanswered. Our NATO allies should also increasingly demonstrate their commitment to freedom and security by matching America’s support to defend Ukraine and to deter further Russian aggression in Europe. If Russian aggression goes unchecked, the cost could be much greater – both fiscally and in devastating casualties.
Additionally, this legislation includes an investment in our own national security by allocating resources to purchase more weapons to bolster our defense capabilities here at home. We must recognize that we have adversaries who seek to use force to destabilize our country and our allies and partners. We have a duty to answer these threats to preserve American security and prosperity.
Briefing on U.S. Military Support in Eastern Europe
This week, I met with General Christopher Cavoli, the Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe and Africa, at my office in Washington, D.C. When I visited Germany and Poland in March, I met General Cavoli, and I was pleased to receive an update from him on the war in Ukraine since our last meeting. His on-the-ground perspective helped me better understand the challenges our partners in Ukraine face on a daily basis. He reiterated the supplies we are sending to our Ukrainian allies are crucial to their ability to fight – and win – this unprovoked war initiated by Vladimir Putin. European deterrence is working, and I intend to continue to provide fiscally responsible support that will aid these determined Ukrainian soldiers and our American servicemembers, like those of Ft. Riley’s 1st Infantry Division, that are training them. I am thankful for General Cavoli’s service to his nation and his willingness to visit Washington, D.C. to brief members of Congress during these tumultuous times.
Reopening our Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine
On Wednesday, the Biden Administration re-opened America’s embassy in Kyiv. I sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month encouraging the re-opening to enhance cooperation with Ukraine and reinforce America’s full support for a Ukraine whole and free. In addition to this welcome development, the Senate unanimously confirmed Ambassador Bridget Brink to lead the embassy in Kyiv. The post had been vacant since 2019, and I’m pleased the Senate moved quickly after President Biden submitted her nomination last month.
Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce
On Wednesday, I met with members of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to discuss issues facing their businesses and provide an update on what is happening in Congress. The group was particularly interested in the ongoing conference committee process to come to an agreement on research and global competition legislation. My priorities for this conference committee are to bring opportunities for research and economic growth to Kansas and make certain the final product is focused on increasing U.S. competitiveness with China and other adversarial nations. I appreciate the chamber’s work in Kansas City and look forward to continuing to work with the chamber and its members to increase the economic standing of the region.
Traveling Vietnam Wall comes to Kansas City
On my way back from Washington, D.C., I had the honor to join veterans and members of the community in Kansas City to recognize the arrival of the Vietnam Traveling Wall. This memorial is a special way to bring a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. to veterans and their families in our own community.
Each name on the wall represents a vital and loved part of a family, a marriage and a community that was lost. A son, a spouse, a brother, a friend who did not come home. In vowing to never forget their sacrifice, we honor in perpetuity those who gave their lives for our country.
I want to thank Robert M. Dudley, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, for sharing with me what the wall meant to him. I hope many in the Kansas City region will have the opportunity to visit the wall set up at the World War I Museum and Memorial through Memorial Day and say thank you to the thousands of Vietnam veterans who deserve our gratitude, love and respect.
Big Brothers Big Sisters in Washington
On Wednesday, I met with Mary Shannon, the President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Kansas. We spoke about the work BBBS is doing to provide our youth with positive role models and setting them up for success in the future, as well as the importance of federal assistance through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs (OJJDP) at the Department of Justice (DOJ). For nearly one hundred years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has played an important role in our communities by providing mentorship to our youth who have often faced overwhelming adversity. Each year, their one-on-one mentoring program provides thousands of young Kansans with a positive role model and a friend to help them through tough times and set them on a path to success.
As the top Republican on the Senate Appropriation subcommittee, which funds grants used by BBBS, I remain committed to assisting Big Brothers Big Sisters in their work of providing many young people with a positive role model and better opportunities. Thank you to Big Brothers Big Sisters and all who are involved for your dedication to making a life better for our youth.
Welcoming KU’s Chancellor
I was pleased to talk with KU Chancellor Douglas Girod and other university leaders on Tuesday. We discussed updates regarding the university and issues that are important on their campus. I was able to congratulate the Chancellor on their men’s basketball NCAA national championship win and commended him on the completion of a successful school year.
Recognizing Lions Club International
I was pleased to host Lions Clubs International – the world’s largest service organization – for a reception in the Senate this week. Civic organizations like Lions Club contribute greatly to communities around the world and in Kansas, with more than 200 clubs and 6,000 members in our state. With a focus on service, they have equipped Americans for more than 100 years to serve their communities and meet humanitarian needs.
I have been a Lions Club member for 40 years, and I appreciated the opportunity to speak with Lions Club International President Douglas Alexander and the other organization leaders who traveled to our nation’s capital. Thank you for the pin and for presenting me with a “Journey of Peace,” a winning poster from the International Peace Poster Contest held annually.
Speaking with Kansas Producers
Nelson Poultry Farms
On Thursday, I met with Greg Nelson, who owns Nelson Poultry Farms in Manhattan. We were able to discuss issues affecting egg producers, including the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), egg pricing, agricultural labor issues and the negative impact of high input costs. We discussed the importance of getting young people involved in the poultry industry and how we can help create opportunities for individuals interested in joining the industry. Investing in a new generation of producers is incredibly important to ensure the stability of our agricultural workforce.
On Wednesday, I met with Doug Keesling of Keesling Farms in Chase and the President and CEO of Kansas Global Trade Services Laura Lombard, who lives in Wichita. We talked about the influence of China in North Africa and how American businesses can help individuals in North Africa dealing with food insecurity. Feeding hungry people is, most importantly, the morally right thing to do and will foster goodwill and political stability in countries facing famine, hunger and starvation.
Meeting with Intel CEO
Last week, I met with Pat Gelsinger, the CEO of Intel, to discuss the CHIPS for America Act and the conference committee on legislation to increase American global competitiveness in key technology areas. The CHIPS for America Act would provide funds to return semiconductor manufacturing capacity and semiconductor research to the U.S. Mr. Gelsinger relayed the importance of this legislation receiving funding soon, and we discussed the differences between the Senate-passed, bipartisan United States Innovation and Competition Act and the House-passed, partisan America COMPETES Act. As a member of the conference committee that is working on reconciling the differences between these bills, I will work to pass legislation that is focused on improving our research and development capability in semiconductors and other key technology areas, like artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing.
Urging Commerce to Stop Delaying
Offshore Drilling Permits
This past week, I urged Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to stop delaying permits for offshore oil and gas companies performing exploration work ahead of drilling wells. A mathematical error at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has caused a delay in issuing permits required to bring additional production online from existing federal oil and gas leases. At a time when prices at the pump are hitting record highs, Americans are suffering from the highest inflation in forty years. These high input costs hurt the Kansas agricultural community and only worsen supply chain backups. The Department of Commerce should work to fix this error and encourage domestic energy production as a key way to fight inflation, support American jobs and reduce our dependence on adversaries for energy sources.
Questioning NIH on Cancer Research
Last week, an Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) FY2023 budget request allowed me the chance to visit with Acting NIH Director, Dr. Lawrence Tabak. Congress recently authorized the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), which will focus on accelerated, high-risk research for cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Dr. Tabak and I discussed how NIH can ensure ARPA-H will not be duplicating work already being conducted at NIH.
The NIH FY2023 budget request also cut funding to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) by 2.9% in order to allocate increased funds to ARPA-H. I expressed my concern to Dr. Tabak about this funding tradeoff since ARPA-H is a yet untested model in biomedical research, and cuts to NCI would limit our ability to strengthen competitive cancer grants with medical research institutions in Kansas and across the country. Dr. Tabak explained the proposed funding for NCI was not based on the recently passed FY2022 appropriations levels, and NIH does not intend to decrease prioritization for NCI funding from the NIH budget.
Vetting Nominees on Overreaching Climate Policies
On Thursday, the Banking Committee considered Michael Barr to be Vice Chair of Supervision at the Federal Reserve and Jaime Lizarraga and Mark Uyeda to be Commissioners of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). I questioned the SEC nominees regarding the impact that the commission’s proposed climate disclosure requirements would have on small businesses. The anticipated rules regarding Scope 3 emissions will have significant negative downstream effects on millions of small businesses. I was pleased that both nominees agreed the SEC should fully consider the effects of these rules on America’s small businesses. Additionally, I asked Mr. Barr about preserving banks’ ability to be adequately prepare for future financial stresses. Banks played a key role in allowing businesses and families to stay afloat during the pandemic, and I will continue working to ensure Kansas banks are able to best support their local communities.
Recognizing National Police Week
I joined my colleagues in introducing and adopting a resolution marking National Police Week and reiterating support for the men and women in law enforcement. Our men and women in blue go above and beyond the call of duty to keep our communities safe. Today, and every day, we thank our law enforcement for their commitment to protect others and for answering the call to serve. I will always back the blue and want our law enforcement officers to know that we care about them; we respect them; and we’ve got your six.
Barring Funds for President Biden’s Disinformation Board
The Biden administration’s move to establish a Disinformation Governance Board within the Department of Homeland Security was a threat to the First Amendment rights of all Americans. Our country’s founding was grounded in opposing viewpoints, and we have long been a country that welcomes a “free marketplace of ideas.”
While the administration has put the board “on pause,” I joined legislation earlier this week to bar federal funds from ever being used for its establishment or to support its activities to make certain it never becomes reality.
Welcoming Fort Riley Commanding General
On Friday, I had the opportunity to attend the Fort Riley First Infantry Division Commanding General’s Annual Barbeque where I joined members of the community in welcoming Major General John V. Meyer III to his new leadership post. General Meyer recently served as the G3 Operations Chief for the U.S. Army in Europe and Africa—experiences that will serve him well as Big Red One soldiers continue to serve with distinction across Europe and particularly on the eastern flank of NATO countries. I look forward to working with General Meyer to make certain our men and women in uniform, as well as their families, have the resources they need. A special thanks to the many members of the community who showed up in support of General Meyer and his family.
KCK Chamber Congressional Forum
On Friday, I had the opportunity to speak to and take questions from the attendees of the KCK Chamber of Commerce 3rd Congressional district lunch. This public policy series was started in 1954 and features local, state and federal representatives speaking on issues relevant to the area’s business community.
I discussed the success we have had in bringing new economic developments to the Kansas City area. This past year, I secured $16 million in funding for equipment for the KU Cancer Center which will be useful as they embark on their plan to create a $500 million premiere Cancer Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
Recently, Urban Outfitters chose Wyandotte County to build an 880,000-sqaure-foot distribution center on land at the Kansas Speedway. This new facility will bring 1,970 new, good-paying jobs and $400 million in capital investment into Kansas. I worked closely with Kansas Department of Commerce to connect with Urban Outfitters, as we worked together to bring this business to Kansas. Thank you to President and CEO Daniel Silva for the invitation to join you and to the attendees for the insightful questions relevant to the business community.
Touring Johnson County Community College
On my way back to Washington, D.C. on Monday, I stopped at Johnson County Community College to visit with President Andrey Bowne and tour the Hugh L. Libby Center and Technical Education Center. This new center will help provide technical training for automotive, electrical, HVAC and plumbing engineering and technology. Thank you to President Bowne for the warm welcome and for sharing ways the college is shaping students.