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There’s still more Congress can do to support Americans as they reignite our economy, and Senate Republicans just voted—again—to send aid to small businesses around the country. It’s sad but not surprising that so many of my Democratic colleagues today blocked another round of PPP funding, even though the Paycheck Protection Program has supported at least 800,000 jobs in Louisiana alone.”

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) released the following statement after Senate Democrats today blocked the Continuing Paycheck Protection Program Act, which would increase support for small businesses.

“The Paycheck Protection Program has helped Louisiana’s small businesses keep their doors open and workers on the payroll during the coronavirus pandemic. There’s still more Congress can do to support Americans as they reignite our economy, and Senate Republicans just voted—again—to send aid to small businesses around the country. It’s sad but not surprising that so many of my Democratic colleagues today blocked another round of PPP funding, even though the Paycheck Protection Program has supported at least 800,000 jobs in Louisiana alone,” said Kennedy.

The Continuing Paycheck Protection Program Act provides $257.7 billion to restart the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and allows small businesses to receive a second PPP loan. The bill sets aside $25 billion for entities with 10 or fewer employees and $10 billion for loans made by small community lenders, including community financial institutions, credit unions, insured depository institutions and Farm Credit System institutions.

The Continuing Paycheck Protection Program Act also simplifies the forgiveness application process for current and future PPP borrowers receiving loans of $150,000 or less. The bill expands eligible expenses to include supplier costs, personal protective equipment, property damage costs resulting from vandalism or looting and certain operations expenditures.

In addition, the bill gives the SBA authority to commit $780 billion in PPP loans. 

The Continuing Paycheck Protection Program Act increases transparency by giving $50 million for the SBA to audit loans.

“Hardworking Louisianians have already been defrauded, and now the system is kicking them while they’re down. The bottom line is that neither the receiver nor the court has the authority to prevent men and women from fairly asserting their claims against Stanford and his no-good sidekicks. The court must reverse this decision and restore the victims’ right to recover what Stanford stole from them.”

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), joined by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), today filed an amicus brief in the case of Zacarias vs. Janvey. The case asserts the rights of victims of Robert Allen Stanford, who orchestrated the second-largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.

Zacarias vs. Janvey seeks to overturn a Fifth Circuit Court ruling that grants receivers—who are appointed by courts to oversee victims’ claims for restitution—the power to block individual investors from pursuing their claims against Stanford and his accomplices. The senators’ brief argues that the receiver, Ralph Janvey, and the district court have exceeded the judicial power the U.S. Constitution and Congress have granted them.

“The court appointed Mr. Janvey to help make Allen Stanford’s victims whole again. Instead, he’s keeping those victims from pursuing justice on their own. He’s failing to deliver on his duties. Hardworking Louisianians have already been defrauded, and now the system is kicking them while they’re down. The bottom line is that neither the receiver nor the court has the authority to prevent men and women from fairly asserting their claims against Stanford and his no-good sidekicks. The court must reverse this decision and restore the victims’ right to recover what Stanford stole from them,” said Kennedy.

In 2012, Stanford was convicted for leading a Ponzi scheme in which he sold $8 billion in fraudulent certificates of deposit from his offshore bank, Stanford International Bank. More than 1,000 Louisianians from Baton Rouge, Covington and Lafayette lost significant amounts of their life savings to the fraud. Since the Ponzi scheme was uncovered, less than five percent of the $8 billion has been returned to the victims.

“A receiver—as a creature of the district court—may not wield powers that exceed those properly granted to the district court itself.  In rubber stamping the receiver’s request to bar claims that the receiver had no standing to assert itself, the district court has strayed beyond the judicial powers granted to it in Article III and by Congress. Such actions constitute judicial law-making and usurp Congress’s legislative power,” says the senators’ brief.

The text of the brief can be found here.

“We claim you in Louisiana. We’re proud of the fact, in Louisiana, that you were born in Metairie—a suburb of New Orleans. . . . I know your mom and dad still live there, and we’re very proud of you and your career.” 

“I don’t think our founders intended members of the U.S. Supreme Court to try to rewrite our statutes or the U.S. Constitution every other Thursday to prosecute a social or an economic agenda that they can’t get by the voters. And that goes on in America every day. We’ve reached a point where one single, solitary federal judge, in a limited venue, can enjoin a federal statute or an executive order of the president of the United States for the entire country. And our founders never intended that.” 

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) delivered the following opening remarks during today’s hearing on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to become an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Video of the senator’s full statement is available here, and excerpts are below.

“We claim you in Louisiana. We’re proud of the fact, in Louisiana, that you were born in Metairie—a suburb of New Orleans. We’re proud of the fact that you got a solid education at St. Mary’s Dominican High School. Come back and visit us. I know your mom and dad still live there, and we’re very proud of you and your career.”

“I hope we can talk about something else and that’s the role of the federal judiciary in American life. Now look, Judge, I’m not naïve. I understand this thing can turn sour real fast. We all watched the hearings for Justice Kavanaugh. It was a freak show. It looked like the cantina bar scene out of Star Wars. And I know, for someone unaccustomed to it, that it hurts to be called a racist. I think it’s one of the worst things you can call an American. I know that it hurts to be called a white colonialist, and I know it must hurt for someone of deep Christian faith like yourself to be called a religious bigot and to have it implied that, because you are a devout Christian, that you’re somehow unfit for public service. . . . It is unfair for my colleagues to suggest—some overtly, some more indirectly—that, if you’re put on the U.S. Supreme Court, you will be on a mission from God to deny health care coverage for pre-existing conditions for every American. I know that seems preposterous to you, and it seems that way to you because it is.”

“I think our founders intended federal judges to call balls and strikes. I don’t think our founders intended federal judges to be able to redraw the strike zone.”

“Politicians get to vote their preferences under our democracy. Judges do not.”

“I don’t think our founders intended members of the U.S. Supreme Court to try to rewrite our statutes or the U.S. Constitution every other Thursday to prosecute a social or an economic agenda that they can’t get by the voters. And that goes on in America every day. We’ve reached a point where one single, solitary federal judge, in a limited venue, can enjoin a federal statute or an executive order of the president of the United States for the entire country. And our founders never intended that.”

“In 2016, floods damaged many of Louisiana’s roads and highways, and this grant will restore infrastructure to make travel safer for communities in Bossier.”

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced a $23,816,218 FEMA grant to repair roads damaged by severe flooding in Bossier, La.

“In 2016, floods damaged many of Louisiana’s roads and highways, and this grant will restore infrastructure to make travel safer for communities in Bossier,” said Kennedy.

This funding is provided under the authority of the Robert T. Stafford Act. Repair costs include placement of geotextile fabric, lime stabilization, asphalt placement, construction design, surveying, mobilization, temporary barricades and equipment.

“Louisiana’s ports fuel much of the nation’s commerce. This critical funding is great news for Avondale, and, importantly, it will support jobs on the Westbank.”

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $9,880,000 in funding from the Department of Transportation to convert an aging wharf at the historic Avondale shipyard site to a modern cargo dock.

“Louisiana’s ports fuel much of the nation’s commerce. This critical funding is great news for Avondale, and, importantly, it will support jobs on the Westbank,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy in June wrote a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao asking her to consider Jefferson Parish’s application for the Avondale Dock Conversion Project.

This funding will support an estimated 2,000 new jobs, improve traffic flow and allow the Avondale Industrial Marine District’s port facility to handle cargo more effectively from the Westbank.

 

“This case is about fairness, plain and simple. Capitol Hill Baptist Church is right to ask that houses of worship receive the same treatment Mayor Bowser has given peaceful protestors under her coronavirus restrictions. . . . If the First Amendment gets trampled in our nation’s capital, it’s under threat everywhere.”

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, today joined fellow senators in filing an amicus brief supporting Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s position in the case of Capitol Hill Baptist Church v. Bowser.  

“This case is about fairness, plain and simple. Capitol Hill Baptist Church is right to ask that houses of worship receive the same treatment Mayor Bowser has given peaceful protestors under her coronavirus restrictions. The First Amendment protects both religious expression and peaceful demonstrations.

“If the mayor believes one group can assemble safely, there’s no legitimate health reason to curb the freedoms of another group whose rights are equally sacred in the eyes of the Constitution. I hope the mayor stops discriminating against religious groups immediately and embraces the rights of every house of worship in Washington, D.C. If the First Amendment gets trampled in our nation’s capital, it’s under threat everywhere,” said Kennedy.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 7 on the motion for a preliminary injunction.

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government exercises oversight over the District of Columbia and its federal funding.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) led the brief. Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) also joined the brief.

Background:

Mayor Muriel Bowser has issued an executive order banning outdoor church services of more than 100 individuals even if worshippers are socially distanced and wearing masks. Capitol Hill Baptist Church is located in Washington, D.C. and has complied with Mayor Bowser’s executive order prohibiting large scale gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Capitol Hill Baptist Church has applied for a waiver of the 100-person limit in order to hold services outside, but the mayor’s office denied its application, stating that waivers for houses of worship are being categorically denied. Since the executive order went into effect, however, Bowser and the District of Columbia have supported other large outdoor protests and gatherings.

The amicus brief argues that the District of Columbia’s denial of Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s waiver runs contradictory to the mayor and city’s approval of other large-scale gatherings and protests, and this selective enforcement infringes upon the church’s rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment. 

The brief further argues that the District is intentionally treating houses of worship differently than other groups, and this violates the church’s Fifth Amendment right to due process by denying it equal protection under the law. 

According to the brief, “the Mayor’s discrimination against houses of worship rests on a mistaken, and unconstitutional, premise that one particular exercise of free speech—a church’s desire to gather together and worship their God—is subordinate to other First Amendment-protected activities. This Court should enforce the First Amendment’s promise of free speech for all by issuing a preliminary injunction to prevent the Mayor and the District of Columbia from prohibiting outdoor religious services that adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.”

The brief also underscores the right to peaceful protests, citing Justice Alito, who wrote, “Public protests, of course, are themselves protected by the First Amendment, and any efforts to restrict them would be subject to judicial review.”

The text of the brief can be found here.

“Social media has many virtues, but too often it divides people by feeding them polarizing information—without their awareness or consent. . . . My bill would give Americans more control over their privacy and online experience.”

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) welcomed the introduction of the House companion of S.4756, the Don’t Push My Buttons Act. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) introduced the legislation, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is the bill’s lead co-sponsor.

“Social media has many virtues, but too often it divides people by feeding them polarizing information—without their awareness or consent. Platforms that incite conflict just to increase their ad revenue have a duty to inform users of that manipulation. My bill would give Americans more control over their privacy and online experience, and I applaud Congressman Gosar for introducing its companion in the House today,” said Kennedy.

“Tech companies are making users the product. Google and others are collecting user data and manipulating users, often unwittingly. Some may find content curation options convenient, but many users are creeped out and manipulated by data collection and content curation regarding personal habits, preferences, or beliefs. The Don’t Push My Buttons Act empowers users to choose, or decline, custom content curation based on collected personal data, empowering users to protect themselves from unwanted manipulation online,” said Gosar.

The Don’t Push My Buttons Act would narrow the scope of U.S. Code 47, Section 230 immunity by denying such immunity to platforms that use algorithms that attempt to optimize engagement by funneling information to users that polarizes their views, unless a user opts into such an algorithm.

The internet platform has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that a user of its service knowingly and intentionally elected to receive the content covered in this bill.

The text of Kennedy’s bill is available here. Kennedy’s speech about the bill is available here.

“Mike Foster worked hard to create jobs and improve education across Louisiana. I had the privilege of serving in his administration and seeing firsthand why so many Louisianians admire him. Becky and I are incredibly sad about his passing, but we are so happy to have known him. We are praying for Alice and the entire Foster family.”

“I introduced the Hurricane Laura Recovery Opportunity Zones Act to incentivize rebuilding and development projects in southwest and central Louisiana communities.”

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Hurricane Laura Recovery Opportunity Zones Act to increase investment in communities hit hard by the category four storm.

“A month after Hurricane Laura struck, Louisianians are already rebuilding their homes and businesses. I introduced the Hurricane Laura Recovery Opportunity Zones Act to incentivize rebuilding and development projects in southwest and central Louisiana communities,” said Kennedy.

The Hurricane Laura Recovery Opportunity Zone Act would incentivize building and development projects in low-income areas impacted by the storm by allowing investors to defer and potentially reduce capital gains taxes on assets sold after Aug. 28, 2020. Hurricane Laura Recovery Opportunity Funds would be the vehicle for investing in eligible low-income areas, which will spur economic development in areas devastated by the hurricane. 

Hurricane Laura Recovery Opportunity Zones are low-income census tracts in major disaster areas designated to receive individual assistance as a result of the Hurricane Laura federal disaster declaration. These Hurricane Laura Recovery Opportunity Zones allow investors to temporarily defer and partially exclude taxes on previously earned capital gains. 

Investors who reinvest those capital gains in Hurricane Laura Recovery Opportunity Funds would not be taxed on those gains until they sell their investments or until the end of 2030. Gains from investments in Hurricane Laura Recovery Opportunity Funds that are held for at least 10 years are excluded from tax.

This legislation also includes a sense of the Congress that capital gains rates should not be changed.

The bill text is available here.

Background:

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) authorized Opportunity Zones across the country in 2017, and now the new Hurricane Laura Recovery Opportunity Zones Act will build on that program to provide the same favorable tax treatment for investors interested in helping communities recover from the storm.

On Aug. 28, 2020, President Donald Trump granted a major disaster declaration for the state of Louisiana, triggering the release of federal funds to help people and communities recover from Hurricane Laura, which occurred Aug. 22 to Aug. 27, 2020.