Hearing the Voices of Kansans

Senator Jerry Moran
2017-06-19 21:15:15
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Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thanks for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. Please feel free to forward it on to your family and friends if it would interest them.

I ask that you please join Robba and me in keeping the families and friends of the seven American sailors lost on the U.S.S. Fitzgerald in your prayers. Every day our military men and women face constant dangers and threats, and we are forever thankful for the efforts of those who protect our freedoms.

I was shocked and saddened by the news of the shooting this week at a practice in Alexandria, Virginia for the Congressional Baseball Game for charity. Robba and I continue to pray for all impacted. I am always thankful for the efforts of the United States Capitol Police and all who work to keep those who serve in Congress and our staff safe.

Hearing the Voices of Kansans in Johnson County

I began this week with a townhall meeting on Monday morning in Lenexa. Thanks to all who joined me in Johnson County to share their feedback on some of our nation’s most pressing issues. I appreciated the passion of those who asked questions and offered their perspectives on topics from healthcare to Russian interference in our election to the importance of education.

Attending the 2017 International Airshow

This weekend, I joined a few of my Senate colleagues in attending the 2017 International Airshow in Paris for meetings with officials in our U.S. embassy, the United States European Command (EUCOM) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This annual event affirms America’s relationship with our allies abroad, which is critical to our security and prosperity, and I was pleased to have the chance to reinforce our common bonds. As a guest of the Greater Wichita Partnership, I used the opportunity to meet with various Kansans during the airshow seeking to grow their business and help recruit companies in the aerospace industry to build their business in Kansas.

The aerospace manufacturing industry employs over 2 million Americans and was the largest American export in 2016. As co-chair of the Senate Aerospace Caucus, I work closely with the Aerospace Industries Association and was pleased to welcome the industry's leading companies at the airshow as well as take part in the official opening of the U. S. Pavilion alongside Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. I received a MQ-9 demo from General Atomics during the event. 

I also had the opportunity to meet with American Battle Monuments Commission Deputy Secretary, Overseas Operations, John Wessels. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, part of my role is to directly oversee the American Battle Monuments Commission budget, and I am committed to making certain that we continue to honor the sacrifices and service of our nation’s heroes.

Participating in Hearings on the Proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budgets

Questioning Secretary Perdue on USDA Programs to Aid Kansans Recovering from Wildfires
The Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee I sit on held a hearing this past week with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to discuss the administration’s proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). I had the opportunity to discuss several important topics with the secretary including the USDA’s efforts to provide flexibility and timely relief under the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) to wildfire victims who are struggling to rebuild from the disaster this past spring. I also pressed the secretary about the administration’s proposed elimination of funding for Food for Peace and Mc-Govern-Dole Food for Education programs, which provide American-grown commodities to hungry people across the world. Lastly, I brought up the importance of trade to Kansas producers, funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD), rural broadband and conservation technical assistance. I look forward to working with this subcommittee on an appropriations bill that prioritizes the interests of Kansans. Please click here to watch video of our discussion. 

Requesting Secretary Tillerson’s Engagement in Solving Murder of Kansan Abroad
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared before the State/Foreign Operations subcommittee for Appropriations on Tuesday to discuss our nation’s international affairs budget. In today’s unstable world, the best way to put America first is to have an active role in promoting peace and prosperity. The safety of Americans overseas is paramount, and I asked Secretary Tillerson to engage with the United Nations to initiate an investigation into the murders of Michael Sharp, an investigator for the U.N., and one of his colleagues. I also expressed my concern with budget cuts that could adversely impact the safety of American diplomats who selflessly serve our country, often in dangerous circumstances. I concluded my questioning of the secretary by noting the risk of China’s and Russia’s expanding influence should the United States reduce its activities around the world, which would create new, costly problems. I appreciated Sec. Tillerson’s candor with me and the committee, and I look forward to working with him and my colleagues to advance America’s interests abroad. Please click here to watch video of our discussion. 

Sharing the Strengths of the Textron Scorpion with Secretary Mattis
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, I had the opportunity to question Secretary of Defense General James Mattis and Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford on the Fiscal Year 2018 Department of Defense budget request this week. We discussed the need to rebalance Brigade Combat Teams across the force as the U.S. Army works to increase end strength. Our exchange also focused on the impact low-cost, light-attack jets, such as Textron’s Scorpion, could have across the force. I appreciate Sec. Mattis and Gen. Dunford’s commitment to strengthening our nation’s military readiness and the insights they shared about the need for certainty in the appropriations process and the harmful effects of continuing resolutions on our nation’s military. Please click here to watch video of our discussion. 

Encouraging Nutrition Facts Regulations to Support Kansas Producers

I met with FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb this week to encourage the agency to extend the compliance deadline for the new nutrition facts label standards. In May 2016, FDA finalized changes to the nutrition facts label, including the way in which the FDA defines “dietary fiber.” However, in the rush to finalize the new rules, the FDA did not take the necessary time to review the science on all of the affected fiber products, leaving the approval status on more than two dozen types of fiber undetermined. As I expressed to Commissioner Gottlieb, this oversight on the FDA’s part directly threatened jobs in Kansas. I was pleased to see FDA’s announcement later in the week of its intention to extend the compliance deadline so that food companies have adequate time to meet the updated standards. This common sense announcement will make certain jobs are protected in Kansas and that consumers have access to improved nutrition information on food packaging.

Welcoming News for U.S. Beef in China

The Departments of Commerce and Agriculture took crucial steps this week toward the commercial shipment of U.S. beef to China for the first time since 2003. China has emerged as a major beef buyer in recent years, with imports increasing from $275 million in 2012 to $2.5 billion in 2016. Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the posting of technical documents related to the beginning of shipments of U.S. beef to China, confirming the finalization of this agreement between our two nations. Given the current low prices Kansas farmers and ranchers are facing, we need every available export market. China offers a great potential for beef sales, and I believe that the new opportunity in this market will boost not only our ag community, but also our national economy. As America evaluates our trading relationships around the world, I’ll continue to work to make certain the growth of ag exports is a top priority for the administration.

Prioritizing Cuba Trade Policy to Increase Exports

The president announced changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba this week that include tightening travel and trade restrictions with the island country. While I support the administration’s efforts to reevaluate our trading relationships to make certain we put America first, for Kansas’ economy and for our ag community, putting America first means exporting what we produce to countries across the globe. Cuba is a natural market for our nation’s farmers and ranchers, and when we don’t sell to Cuba, another country does. For example, Cuba imports nearly 80 percent of its food, yet buys its wheat and other ag commodities from countries such as Canada, France and China instead of the United States. I introduced legislation this year that would lift the trade embargo on Cuba so that Kansas farmers and ranchers have the ability to benefit from this market. I also believe that increased U.S. engagement with Cuba will empower its people and lead to an improved standard of living in that country. I remain committed to finding ways to increase trade with Cuba rather than cut off relationships that have the potential to create new jobs, bring in revenue and boost our national economy.

Meeting with Chairwoman of the Prairie Band Potowatomi Nation

I met with Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Chairwoman Liana Onnen this week to discuss the BUILD Act and the recently introduced HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Act, which both relate to housing for Native Americans on tribal lands. As a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss these issues essential to the Native American community. We discussed how tribal communities often have difficulties with access to credit opportunities, leading to further homelessness in Indian Country. I appreciate the chairwoman’s leadership on this topic and the opportunity to learn more about the issues facing Native American veterans.

Advocating for Iran Sanctions

This week the Senate passed the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act with overwhelming bipartisan support in a vote of 98-2. I spoke on the Senate floor about this legislation, which imposes additional sanctions on the Iranian regime for abuses of human rights, ballistic missile development and ongoing support for terrorism. Iran’s behavior is undermining stability throughout the Middle East, directly threatening America’s interests and Israel’s security. This bill sends a strong message to Iran that they cannot use the nuclear agreement of 2015 to pursue policies that perpetuate conflict or harm innocent civilians either within or outside Iran.

Included in this week’s Iran sanctions legislation were two amendments I supported that affirm America’s commitment to Europe’s security. The Senate first acted to codify existing sanctions on Russia for its activities in Ukraine and then imposed new sanctions on Russians engaged in cyber activities waged against our democracy here at home. Our legislation also gives Congress the power to review any effort to lift sanctions on Russia. Additionally, the Senate unanimously approved its commitment to the NATO alliance and collective defense. These are strong measures to penalize Russia for its disruptive behavior in Europe and the United States – we must demonstrate to our partners threatened by Russian activities that America is and will remain a reliable ally. Please click here to watch the full video of my remarks. 

Participating in a Commerce Committee Hearing on Automated Vehicles

On Wednesday, I joined my colleagues of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in holding a hearing to discuss the current state of automated vehicles, also known as self-driving cars, along with current barriers to nationwide deployment of this technology and its possible impact on interstate commerce. Specifically, I asked the panel of industry stakeholders, policy experts and safety advocates to describe the potential impact of automated vehicles in the near future and how they might be utilized in a rural economy such as ours. As Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Insurance, I also took the opportunity to discuss the liability issues that surround this evolving technology with the diverse panel. While the prospect of self-driving cars in America is exciting, we must make certain it is deployed in a way that makes certain our citizens are safe and their data secure. I look forward to being at the forefront of this discussion as we prepare for future movement toward self-driving cars.  

Spending Time with Electric Cooperative Youth Tour Participants

I had the chance to meet with a group of bright young students who traveled to Washington, D.C. this week as part of the Kansas Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. I quizzed the group about their hometowns and experiences and answered questions about service in the Senate and a number of legislative issues being considered by Congress. Thanks to all who attended.

Recognizing the Hard Work of Senate Page Mitchell Heiman

During the spring semester, I had the pleasure of sponsoring Mitchell Heiman, a 17-year-old Seneca native, who lived in Washington, D.C. for the last several months serving as a Senate page. At a ceremony held last Friday for this spring’s pages, at which Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke on the significance of their time in the Senate, Mitchell made our state proud by receiving awards for academic excellence in American literature and science. He was also among the few to be recognized by the Page School’s principal for distinction. I was pleased to know his parents were able to attend, as did former Senate page Trenton Kennedy, who I sponsored several years ago in the program. The hard work Mitchell put in at school and on the Senate floor is emblematic of our state’s work ethic, and I am certain this experience will stay with him for the rest of his life. I look forward to what the future holds in store for this outstanding representative of our state. More information about the Senate page program, which is available for high school students nationwide, is available here.

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