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WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), along with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Reps. Mike Johnson (R-La.), Steve Scalise (R-La.), Clay Higgins (R-La.) and Garret Graves (R-La.) today urged President Joe Biden to grant a request for a major disaster declaration for Louisiana, which has been battered by winter storms. 

The letter is available below and here.

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Biden:

Thank you for your prompt action to issue an emergency declaration for the State of Louisiana due to the recent winter weather event that began on February 11, 2021. We are confident the federal resources unlocked by that declaration saved life and property as our communities responded to the crisis. The recovery process is now underway, and it is apparent additional federal assistance is warranted. As such, we respectfully ask that you grant the State of Louisiana’s request for a major disaster declaration.

As you are aware, many of the characteristics of this recent weather event were unprecedented, and its impacts stretched across huge swathes of the state. At the event’s peak, more than 200,000 Louisianians were without electricity, and seven hospitals and six nursing homes relied upon generators as their sole source of electricity.

The most significant impact, however, came in the form of disruptions to the delivery of water to impacted areas. Due to damaged water mains and related distribution infrastructure, roughly one-quarter of the state’s population experienced either a loss of access to safe drinking water or a loss of access to water altogether. These disruptions extended to hospitals and nursing homes, where bulk water was brought in via truck to continue services to our most vulnerable populations. All told, 63 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes issued emergency declarations in response to this event, and tragically, the state reports six fatalities stemming from the treacherous weather.

In addition to these considerations, we remain concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic and a record-setting 2020 hurricane season have placed a tremendous strain on the state’s ability to effectively recover from February’s winter weather event. In fact, the emergency declaration you issued for this event marks the tenth federal emergency or disaster the state has experienced in the past 24 months. For these reasons, we ask that you grant the State of Louisiana’s request for a federal disaster declaration as soon as possible. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) today introduced legislation that would prohibit the Export-Import Bank (EXIM) from providing loans to individuals and companies that are delinquent on repaying their tax debt.  

“American taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize businesses that haven’t even paid their own taxes, and I’m proud to work with Sen. Braun to bring accountability to the Export-Import Bank,” said Kennedy.

“The Export-Import Bank should not serve as an ATM for tax delinquents and this legislation will address this loophole, while also rooting out potential fraud from dozens of companies,” said Braun. 

The EXIM Bank currently requires companies applying for certain financing to self-certify that they do not have delinquent federal debt. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) analyzed federal data and identified billions of dollars in authorized EXIM transactions associated with dozens of companies that may have fraudulently applied for financing.

The GAO found that:

  • Federal law states that applicants who are delinquent on federal debts may not receive federal direct loans, loan guarantees or loan insurance until the delinquent debt is satisfactorily resolved. 
  • Financial pressures potentially incentivize participants or employees to commit fraud on applications to use EXIM.
  • Using data from the System for Award Management (SAM), GAO found that, from calendar years 2014 through 2016, EXIM authorized transactions with an aggregate authorization value of about $1.7 billion that were associated with 32 U.S.-based companies that had a delinquent federal debt indicator in SAM in the same month that EXIM authorized these transactions.

EXIM concurred with GAO’s recommendation that the bank should use available data instead of self-certification to prevent companies with delinquent federal debt from obtaining EXIM financing.

As a result of these findings, this legislation would ensure that:

  • EXIM could use SAM data and data-analytical approaches to detect applicants and participants with potentially delinquent federal debt and work with the Internal Revenue Service to confirm delinquencies. 
  • Companies that have fraudulently certified that they do not have federal debt would lose access to EXIM financing, and EXIM would deny applicants holding such federal debt. 
  • The president could waive the prohibition if the president determines that the work being carried out by an entity with delinquent federal debt significantly affects U.S. interests. 
  • Debt that is being repaid in a timely manner is not considered to be seriously delinquent federal debt.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $2,232,261 from U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for flood elevation projects in Erath, La. 

“Erath and much of Acadiana suffer from floods that have plagued our state. This FEMA funding will give Vermilion Parish residents protection for their homes and families, and I look forward to seeing these projects move forward quickly,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA grant will fund the elevation of 13 residential structures that have been damaged by repeated flooding. FEMA is funding 98% of the total cost of the project.

Kennedy is a member of the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over the National Flood Insurance Program.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Linemen Legacy Act to revise the Department of Homeland Security’s definition of “emergency response providers” to include utility line technicians.

The definition in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 grants first-responder status to an array of occupations such as law enforcement, emergency public safety personnel and fire and medical rescuers, but does not currently include utility linemen. 

“We saw the work utility linemen did to repair Louisiana’s electrical grid after Hurricanes Laura and Delta hit our state, and we’re seeing these servants back in action sooner than we thought. As ice storms fell on our state and took lines down with them, linemen were often first on the scene to make neighborhoods safe again. They save homes, businesses and lives. Simply put, linemen are first responders, so my bill would legally add utility line technicians to Homeland Security’s list of first-responder occupations. I hope my colleagues join me in giving these heroes the recognition they deserve by moving this bill forward,” said Kennedy.

This February, winter storms wreaked havoc across the state, leaving thousands of Louisianians without power and scattering live wires around residential areas. Hurricanes Laura and Delta also destroyed thousands of Louisiana’s utility poles, lines and substations last fall, particularly in the southwest portion of the state.

Kennedy also introduced the bill in the 116th Congress, and video of the senator’s statement is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) authored this op-ed, originally published in CNBC. 

Below are key excerpts from the article, which calls on President Biden to stop the federal government from sending taxpayer dollars to the deceased. 

“At a time when the national debt is $27 trillion—the largest it’s ever been—the least we can do is make sure that government relief payments are going to people who need them most.

“Unfortunately, too much of that money is ending up in the hands of fraudsters who capitalize on the deaths of their fellow Americans.”

… 

The struggle is perennial. In 2018, the Social Security Administration (SSA) sent checks worth $40 million to dead people in Maryland, Michigan, and Texas. Who knows how much more was lost in the other 47 states?

“Sadly, the IRS is very limited in what it can do to claw back improper payments. It can ask politely for the money back, but it’s unlikely that people who mistakenly believe the money is due them or those who are comfortable committing fraud will return the payments.

“Recovering the money legally can be a pricey pursuit in itself, and that process could add to the grief of families who have lost loved ones and now find themselves in a bureaucratic mess of the government’s making.

… 

“President Joe Biden has said he wants to be a unifying president. Well, now’s his chance to make the most of a winning issue. No taxpayer, regardless of party, is likely to support sending taxpayer money to dead people.

“The president has a rare opportunity to act now to fix this problem ahead of schedule, saving billions of dollars over the next few years. Millions of Americans have lost their livelihoods during the coronavirus pandemic.”

“Even in a polarized political climate, we can all agree that government shouldn’t be redistributing wealth to the dead.”

The full op-ed is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today defended the independence of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council), which focuses on streamlining the process for environmental permit approval for large infrastructure projects.

As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) during the 116th Congress, Kennedy worked to give the Permitting Council the freedom and resources it needs to move federal infrastructure projects forward in a timely manner.

“Louisianians know firsthand how important federal infrastructure investment is to communities across the country. They also know that bureaucracy often delays crucial road, bridge and levee construction. As a new administration begins, I hope the increased funding and independence that the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council gained last Congress continue so that the council can keep doing its work efficiently and transparently,” said Kennedy.

Congress established the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council in 2015. Since then, it has served as an impartial federal partner that oversees and coordinates multiple federal agencies that play a role in the federal environmental permitting of major infrastructure projects. The Permitting Council is funded through the FSGG Appropriations Subcommittee. 

The Permitting Council’s mission is to improve the timeliness, predictability and transparency of the permitting process. Under Kennedy’s FSGG chairmanship, the council’s annual funding increased by $9 million. In addition, the FY 2020 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill elevated the council from an office within General Services Administration located inside the White House to an independent entity.

Background:

The Permitting Council does not perform National Environmental Policy Act reviews or change environmental standards. Rather, the council works with the agencies involved in the infrastructure permitting process to establish and meet their deadlines. It also mediates differences among the agencies to prevent or minimize delays that occur when sister agencies are deadlocked in disagreement over matters of overlapping jurisdiction.

The Permitting Council is chaired by an executive director who is appointed by the president. The council is composed of agency representatives at the deputy-secretary level. The Permitting Council includes members from the following agencies:

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Army Corps of Engineers
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of the Interior
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Defense
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
  • Office of Management and Budget
  • Council on Environmental Quality

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and fellow lawmakers today sent a letter urging President Joe Biden to withdraw his nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

“We write to express our grave concerns regarding the nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to serve as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Mr. Becerra’s lack of healthcare experience, enthusiasm for replacing private health insurance with government-run Medicare-for-all, and embrace of radical policies on immigration, abortion, and religious liberty, render him unfit for any position of public trust, and especially for HHS Secretary,” wrote the lawmakers.

“Our nation cannot afford to lose valuable time in this battle by installing an HHS Secretary who is not up to the challenges we face. But that is exactly what you propose to do by nominating Mr. Becerra, a man with no meaningful experience in healthcare, public health, large-scale logistics, or any other areas critical to meeting our present challenges,” they continued. 

“Mr. Becerra’s extremism and contempt for those who take a different view contradict your calls for unity. His appointment would sow further division at a time our country needs to heal and would endanger lives at a time our citizens need life-saving treatments, vaccinations, and the freedom to work and worship together,” the lawmakers concluded.

Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) also signed the letter. A complete list of supporters can be found in the letter, which is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today condemned the Biden administration’s cancellation of an oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico scheduled for March 17. The sale of available leases was to be livestreamed from New Orleans and would have involved approximately 78.3 million unleased acres.

“Destroying jobs in an industry that makes up a third of Louisiana’s economy is no way to ‘Build Back Better.’ Louisiana is still recovering from the pandemic and a historic hurricane season, and President Biden decided to stop new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters. Now, the president has cancelled a lease sale worth tens of millions of dollars—one that the Obama Administration had approved. I urge President Biden to stop his war on Louisiana’s oil and gas jobs,” said Kennedy.  

On Feb. 12, less than one month into Biden’s presidency, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management officially announced the lease’s cancellation. This move comes in the wake of President Biden’s ban on new oil and gas leases on federal property, which if left unchanged is estimated to cost Louisiana up to 48,000 jobs by 2022.

The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands Act authorizes the Department of Interior to establish a lease sale schedule for the OCS, which covers approximately 160 million acres.

Beginning in 2014, former President Barack Obama worked on and ultimately approved a five-year lease plan for the years 2017-2022, which included a spring lease ultimately scheduled for this March. This schedule stipulated 10 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico through 2022. Last year’s leases generated a combined total of over $200 million in revenues for Gulf states and the U.S. Treasury. The most recent OCS lease sale occurred on Nov. 18, 2020. It covered over 500,000 acres and generated $120.8 million in lease revenue.

Louisiana’s energy industry supports thousands of jobs in the state and provides a significant revenue stream for environmental conservation, coastal restoration and storm protection. 

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $11,352,580 in grant funding from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support health care centers in Avondale, Opelousas, Batchelor and St. Gabriel, La.

“As Louisianians continue to battle the pandemic, it’s great to see HHS send resources to local health care centers that are helping communities on the front lines,”said Kennedy.

The following grants were awarded to each health care center:

  • Jefferson Community Health Care Centers: $4,149,929
  • Southwest Louisiana Primary Health Care Center: $3,265,587
  • Innis Community Health Center: $2,722,946
  • St. Gabriel Health Clinic: $1,214,118

WASHINGTON—Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) released the following statement upon voting “not guilty” in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump: 

“My job as a senator and juror in an impeachment trial is not—NOT—to defend, excuse or explain anyone’s behavior—not the Capitol rioters’, not the Democrats’, not the president’s. My job is to evaluate the evidence.

“In my judgment, impeachment is not supposed to be political sport where one party seeks advantage over the other at the expense of the country.

“The merits of the Democrats’ case were not even close.

“The Democrats afforded the president no due process in the House—no hearings, no investigation, no right to be heard, no defense. No one is above the law, but no one is beneath it.

“Second, the president is no longer the president. We were asked to impeach a guy in Florida. The Democrats never proved jurisdiction.

“Third, the Democrats charged President Trump with inciting a riot through his speech, but then the Democrats introduced evidence that the riot was pre-planned. The Democrats disproved their own case.

“There are one or two things I think we can all agree on: The nut jobs who violated the Capitol on Jan. 6 should be prosecuted and jailed. There can be no justice without order. Political violence is wrong. Always. It was wrong on Jan. 6, and it was wrong during the riots this summer.

“Finally, both parties should be big tents, but those big tents should each have a big door to kick out extremists who exist on both sides.”