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WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) has cosponsored the bipartisan Rural Hospital Support Act introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.). The legislation would prevent rural hospitals from closing by extending and modernizing critical federal programs to keep them financially stable.

The bill would permanently extend the Medicare-dependent Hospital and Low-Volume Hospital designations that are set to expire on October 1 of this year. Additionally, it would update the year that hospitals can base their operating costs from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2016. Louisiana has as many as 48 small, rural hospitals that could benefit from this legislation.

“Rural Louisiana depends on our rural hospitals. The Rural Hospital Support Act would help provide reliable care and peace of mind to rural Louisianians and control costs for taxpayers,” said Kennedy.

“These programs bring a lot of value for rural residents and taxpayers. Small, rural hospitals offer good-quality health care at a cost that compares well with urban hospitals’ cost. Congress should extend the programs that help keep the doors open for rural Medicare beneficiaries,” said Grassley.

“Every American deserves reliable access to health care. Rural hospitals can be the difference between life and death in many parts of the U.S. Often, a rural hospital means not only safe, dependable access to health care and emergency health needs, but economic safety and stability for an entire community. This legislation takes an important step to maintain that lifeline, especially for older adults and lower income Americans. I will continue to work to bring federal funding to rural communities and make sure older Americans have the health care support they need no matter where they live,” said Casey.

The Rural Hospital Support Act is supported by the Louisiana Hospital Association, Beauregard Memorial Hospital (DeRidder, LA), LaSalle General Hospital (Jena, LA), Natchitoches Regional Medical Center (Natchitoches, LA), Abbeville General Hospital (Abbeville, LA), Franklin Medical Center (Winnsboro, LA), the Alliance for Rural Hospital Access, American Hospital Association and the National Rural Health Association

Text of the legislation is available here

 

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and more than 20 other senators in introducing the Political Bias In Algorithm Sorting (BIAS) Emails Act. The legislation would prohibit email services like Google from using algorithms that are biased against conservatives while increasing transparency for political campaigns using these Big Tech platforms.

“The data show that Google has disregarded their consumers’ interests and targeted private communications to satisfy their own political preferences. This bias hurts Google’s users and erodes free speech on the platform. Our bill would require Big Tech platforms to submit transparency reports to make sure email service providers aren’t forcing their political bias onto unsuspecting users,” said Kennedy. 

The bill comes after a report from North Carolina State University found that nearly 70 percent of emails from Republican candidates were sent to spam email folders by Google from 2019 to 2020. Google sent fewer than one in 10 emails from Democrat candidates to spam folders during the same time. During that period, Outlook and Yahoo labeled Democrat emails as spam at a marginally higher rate than it did Republican emails.

The BIAS Emails Act would:

  • Prohibit large email platforms like Google’s Gmail from using filtering algorithms on emails sent from a political campaign unless the owner or user of the email account took action to apply a label such as spam. 
  • Require large email platforms to produce quarterly transparency reports noting several items including the number of instances in which emails from political campaigns—both Republican and Democrat campaigns—were flagged as spam.
  • Allow political campaigns to request a report on information specific to the individual political campaign including the total number of emails that reached the intended recipient’s primary inbox.
  • Require large email platforms to provide political campaigns best practices on steps the campaign can take to increase the number of emails reaching a recipient’s primary inbox. 

The bill text is available here.

Watch Kennedy’s exchange here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today questioned witnesses in the Senate Banking Hearing about FEMA’s Risk Rating 2.0 plan and why FEMA refuses to let Congress or other stakeholders see the algorithm that FEMA has implemented for flood insurance policyholders.

Risk Rating 2.0 enacted the biggest change in history to the way the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) calculates flood insurance premiums. Risk Rating 2.0 significantly raises flood insurance premiums on Louisianians who depend on NFIP to protect their homes from natural disasters.

Key comments from Kennedy’s questioning include:

Kennedy: “Dr. Van Doren, Mr. Theodorou, have either of your think tanks hired outside expertise to review the algorithm used by FEMA to set these new rates? Have either of you done that? . . . Why not?  . . . How do you know they’re accurate? You don’t know they’re accurate because FEMA won’t show them to you. If I refer to Milliman, I'm talking about a company—last year, had about $1.2 billion revenues, 4000 employees. They’re risk management experts. They represent large institutions, mostly insurance companies. Milliman designed this algorithm, did it not?”

Theodorou: “It's my understanding of that Milliman did. I have reviewed . . .”

Kennedy: “ . . . Who owns the algorithm? Does Milliman own it? Or does FEMA own it? You're both experts? Do you know?”

Theodorou: “I would say it's, it's the NFIP.”

Kennedy: “Do you know that for a fact?”

Theodorou: “I do not know that for a fact.”

Kennedy: “And you don’t know that for a fact because FEMA won't share this algorithm with anybody. They tell you, ‘If we show it to you, we’ve got to kill you.’ They won't even show it to Congress. But, yet, we're supposed to place blind trust in the federal government. What could possibly go wrong?

. . .

Kennedy: “ . . . they won't show anybody their algorithm. And, if you trust government, Mr. Theodorou, particularly on this program, you failed history class. Now, this is not right. I want to see this program fixed.” 

. . .

Kennedy: “Why does FEMA, Mr. Quinn, repeatedly keep hiring these lawyers and engineers who act like thieves? How much did U.S. Forensic make last year off of FEMA?”

Quinn: “I don't know, but I know they do very, very well, as does the Nielsen law firm. And they, they get paid quite well for perpetrating or supporting fraud, Sir.”

Kennedy: “And they get paid for not paying claims, not for paying them, right?”

Quinn: “That is correct.”

Kennedy: “Why does FEMA keep doing this?”

Quinn: “We have asked that question over and over. FEMA has told us that they do not have the ability to remove these fraudsters from the program. . . . I can't imagine the amount of wreckage that these organizations are doing in communities. I have personally lived through it. I've seen it in the bayous of Louisiana. I've seen it all over America.”

Dr. Peter Van Doren is a Senior Fellow at The Cato Institute.

Jerry Theodorou is the Director of the Finance, Insurance and Trade Policy Program at the R Street Institute.

Douglas Quinn is the Executive Director of the American Policyholder Association.

Background:

  • This Feb. 14, Kennedy urged President Joe Biden to stop the implementation of Risk Rating 2.0. 
  • On Sept. 22, 2021, Kennedy pressed FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell to delay the implementation of Risk Rating 2.0. 
  • On June 7, 2021, Kennedy introduced the Flood Insurance Fairness Act to stop the Biden administration from unilaterally making changes to NFIP, including Risk Rating 2.0. 
  • On April 15, 2021, Kennedy called on Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to hold a hearing to examine Risk Rating 2.0.

Watch Kennedy’s exchange here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) released the following statement upon President Joe Biden’s nomination of U.S. Magistrate Judge Dana Douglas to a seat on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals:

“I enjoyed meeting with Judge Douglas recently. I look forward to reviewing her record and getting to know her more in the coming weeks and when she comes before the Judiciary Committee.”

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Inmate Financial Accountability Task Force Act to ensure that crime victims receive the restitution offenders owe them. 

“Convicted felons shouldn’t be able to hoard their money for cigarettes, snacks and games while dodging what they owe to their victims and their own children. I’m thankful to work with Congressman Gooden to make sure that crime victims get the restitution they’re entitled to—and that it comes from the pockets of the people who wronged them,” said Kennedy. 

Criminals in federal prison should not be shielded from their debts and obligations. Victims of their crimes deserve payment, and the mothers and fathers of their children deserve on-time child support payments. This bill would inject more accountability into the criminal justice system and is long overdue,” said Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas), who introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Because victims of crime rarely see any of the financial compensation they are owed, the Inmate Financial Accountability Task Force Act wouldcreate a task force to examine the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) collection of victim restitution, child support for inmates’ children and fines.

While there have been several high-profile cases, including the Boston Bomber and Larry Nassar, of inmates who have spent thousands of dollars on themselves while paying the bare minimum in restitution to victims, the problem with collecting restitution remains widespread. Analysis from the Government Accountability Office found that the Justice Department collected just four percent of restitution owed from 2014 through 2016—only $1.5 billion of the $34 billion ordered.

Currently, the restitution process is outdated and fragmented. It involves several state and federal agencies, the judicial system and law enforcement organizations. In addition, it is challenging for law enforcement to monitor, deter and report illicit financial activity within BOP accounts in real-time.

The task force would issue a report to Congress with suggestions to prevent illicit financial activity and suggest best practices for federal agencies to improve the collection of money owed to victims and child support due to inmates’ children.

Text of the bill is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and other Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to prosecute criminal protests outside the home of judges.

“We continue to be baffled over the lack of prosecutions under Title 18, Section 1507 of the U.S. Code. We understand it is the policy of the Justice Department not to discuss any pending or potential investigations, but this is an urgent matter of national importance,” wrote the senators. 

Last week, a man attempted to assassinate Justice Brett Kavanaugh after learning where the justice lived by watching videos of the protests in front of his house. Reports indicate that those seeking to intimidate the justices at their homes plan to expand their campaign of harassment to their children’s schools.

“While judges serve a public office, the principle of judicial independence means that their deliberations should be free from influence outside the courtroom. . . . This means especially that their deliberations should be free from harassment and intimidation, nowhere more than in their homes where their families reside,” they continued. 

“The responsibility of a judge—or justice—is to follow and apply the law according to his or her judgment. It is not to do so according to the judgment of their community, or the desires of their political party, or the will of the mob. It is only their judgment that counts. This is why they are given life tenure, so that external considerations—such as politics or public opinion—will not influence their constitutional duties.

“Given these important distinctions it is only fitting that Congress prohibited the parading and picketing of judges’ houses in order to influence their decisions. It is a measure that preserves judicial independence,” the lawmakers explained.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) also signed the letter.

The letter is available here.

WASHINGTON—Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today announced a $6,160,056 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant in disaster aid for Louisiana.

“This much needed $6 million will go towards supporting our State Police, and will help the city of Thibodaux clear debris,” said Kennedy.  

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $4,534,943 to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety (State Police) for emergency protective measures as a result of Hurricane Ida.
  • $1,625,113 to the city of Thibodaux for debris removal as a result of Hurricane Ida.

WASHINGTON—Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), in addition to 29 other colleagues, in opposing a proposed rule from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that would require publicly-traded companies to make certain climate-related disclosures in registration statements and reports. In voicing their concerns regarding the SEC’s regulatory overreach, the senators called for the rule to be rescinded due to the burden it would place on farmers, agricultural producers and ranchers.

While farmers and ranchers have never been subject to SEC oversight, the proposed rule’s Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions reporting requirement would place a major reporting burden on the many agricultural producers that provide raw products to the value-chain. This substantial reporting requirement would significantly burden small, family-owned farms with a new, complex and unreasonable compliance requirement, resulting in costly additional compliance expenses, reduced access to new business opportunities, and potential consolidation in the agriculture industry,” they wrote. 

“Should the SEC move forward with this rule, it would be granted unprecedented jurisdiction over America’s farms and ranches, creating an impractical regulatory burden for thousands of businesses outside of the scope of the SEC’s purview, including our nation’s farmers and ranchers,” they continued.

The letter is available here.

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) led Louisiana’s congressional delegation in urging the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to address staffing shortages and roles at Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Oakdale in Allen Parish.

FCC Oakdale houses approximately 2,000 federal inmates and faces unsustainably low staffing levels that is nearing crisis. There are approximately 116 staff vacancies, including 65 vacancies for correctional services staff, at the facility. These vacancies force FCC Oakdale to rely on mandatory overtime in order to meet the basic safety needs of its mission.

“The use of mandatory overtime and augmentation as a solution to chronic staffing shortages is a dangerous practice. These practices lead to exhaustion, fatigue, and apprehension among FCC Oakdale employees. Sadly, these solutions are increasingly becoming the norm at FCC Oakdale and elsewhere,” wrote the lawmakers.

“As concerned members of the Louisiana Delegation, we write to inquire about actions the Bureau of Prisons plans to take in order to maintain adequate staffing levels at the FCC Oakdale facility. We ask that you consider using existing authorities, such as the ability to provide retention bonuses, that will keep staff onboard and allow FCC Oakdale to attract additional personnel needed to perform critical staffing functions,” they explained.

The delegation’s request would not require any additional funding, as the BOP already has funds that could be used to support safety by providing retention bonuses to Oakdale staff.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Mike Johnson (R-La.), Julia Letlow (R-La.), Clay Higgins (R-La.), Garret Graves (R-La.) and Troy Carter (D-La.) also signed the letter.

The full letter with its specific requests for information is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), joined a group of more than 10 senators, led by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), in introducing the Keep Our Communities Safe Act. The legislation would close the “catch-and-release” loophole. That policy requires the government to release illegal aliens into the United States’ interior after detaining them for six months, if no other country accepts them for deportation.

“America’s border crisis threatens our national security and the safety of our local communities. We can’t afford to send violent offenders out into the country, and the Keep Our Communities Safe Act would make sure that officials don’t ‘catch and release’ offenders when they are here illegally,” said Kennedy.

The Keep Our Communities Safe Act would close the loophole that prevents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from detaining illegal immigrants for more than six months when:

  • The alien’s release would threaten the safety of the community and the alien either is an aggravated felon or has committed a crime of violence; 
  • The alien would be removed in the reasonably foreseeable future;
  • The alien would have been removed if not for the alien’s refusal to make all reasonable efforts to comply and cooperate with DHS efforts to remove him or her;
  • The alien has a highly contagious disease;
  • The alien’s release would have serious adverse foreign policy consequences; or
  • The alien’s release would threaten national security.

Full text of the bill can be found here.