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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) today urged the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to use their new authorities to lower the pharmaceutical industries’ excessive production of opioids. 

Kennedy and Durbin’s bill, the Opioid Quota Reform Act of 2018, was signed into law as part of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.  This legislation granted the DEA new authority over opioid production by requiring opioid quotas to be adjusted to reflect diversion, overdose deaths and public health. 

Between 1993 and 2015, the DEA allowed production quotas on various painkillers to increase at a startling rate. Since then, billions of opioids have been prescribed and sold around the nation fueling the current opioid epidemic.

“Recent reporting from the Washington Post revealed that the pharmaceutical industry flooded every corner of the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills between 2006 and 2012 — egregious volumes of painkiller production that was undertaken with DEA approval and awareness,” the Senators wrote.  “While we appreciate the initial steps taken in recent years to reduce the aggregate production quotas for schedule II opioids, we remain concerned that they are still far too high.  Approximately thirteen billion opioid doses were put on the market in 2017 — enough for every adult American to have at least a three-week prescription of painkillers.” 

 

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

 

Dear Acting Administrator Dhillon:

As our nation confronts the worst drug overdose epidemic in its history, we write to urge the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to tackle the opioid crisis by utilizing new authorities that Congress provided to establish more sensible opioid production quotas for 2020.  Section 3282 of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (P.L. 115-271) strengthened DEA’s statutory quota-setting authority by enhancing transparency and requiring opioid quotas to be adjusted to reflect diversion, overdose deaths, and public health.  As the bipartisan authors of that section, we strongly encourage you to use this new authority to rein in the pharmaceutical industry’s incessant demand for excessive levels of opioid production. 

 We have previously shared our deep concern that, between 1993 and 2015, DEA allowed aggregate production quotas for oxycodone to increase 39-fold, hydrocodone to increase 12-fold, hydromorphone to increase 23-fold, and fentanyl to increase 25-fold.  Recent reporting from the Washington Post revealed that the pharmaceutical industry flooded every corner of the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills between 2006 and 2012—egregious volumes of painkiller production that was undertaken with DEA approval and awareness. 

While we appreciate the initial steps taken in recent years to reduce the aggregate production quotas for schedule II opioids, we remain concerned that they are still far too high.  Approximately thirteen billion opioid doses were put on the market in 2017—enough for every adult American to have at least a three-week prescription of painkillers.  As powerful painkillers are aggressively marketed and prescribed at high rates, this sheer volume of available opioids heightens the risk for illicit diversion and abuse.  For example, four in five new heroin users first began their addiction with prescription painkillers.

We have written on several occasions urging DEA to exercise its statutory quota authority to serve as the gatekeeper for how many opioids are allowed to be sold legally each year in the United States.  As DEA proposes and finalizes the schedule II opioid production quotas for 2020, we urge you to apply DEA’s new authorities to prevent and limit opioid diversion due to excessively high production levels.  Thank you for your commitment to addressing the opioid epidemic.  We look forward to our continued engagement on this issue.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) sent a letter Wednesday to U.S. Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton expressing security concerns about the collection of personally identifiable information (PII) for the Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT) database.  U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) joined Sen. Kennedy in sending this letter.

The CAT is a data management platform that tracks all trade information from broker-deals, trading venues, retail investments and stock exchanges.  The CAT collects personally indefinable information (PII) of every American with money in the stock market, which makes the database an attractive target for foreign cyber-attacks.

Put simply, the costs of storing the PII of millions of Americans in the CAT and exposing it to Chinese hackers far outweighs any benefit to the SEC in overseeing the equity markets,” wrote the senators. “A hack of this database that leads to identity theft would also diminish the SEC’s reputation and its credibility in the eyes of the public – especially given this opportunity to reverse course.”

The full text of the letter is below:

 

July 24, 2019

 

The Honorable Jay Clayton
Chairman
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
100 F Street, NE
Washington, D.C. 20549

Dear Chairman Clayton:

We write to you regarding the national security risk China poses to all American investors because of the planned collection of their personally identifiable information (PII) by the Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT) database. The CAT is a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) creation that requires broker-dealers, trading venues and stock exchanges to report all trade information and retail investor information to a single database. Given the aggressive nature of the Chinese Communist Party’s cyber agenda and the risk this presents to the American people, we are asking the Commission to prohibit the collection of any retail investor PII by the CAT. While we support the SEC using the CAT to conduct market surveillance using non-retail investor information, we are worried that including the PII of every American with money in the stock market will create an easy target for China’s cyber-attack initiatives. 

Nine years have passed since the CAT was conceived, and Americans views on data collection have changed dramatically. Americans have become increasingly concerned about the risks cyberthreats pose to their sensitive personal and financial information and are very worried about identity theft. Massive breaches at government agencies and numerous U.S. companies by China over the last decade have demonstrated that no entity is immune from their attacks.

Intelligence officials recently highlighted, in stark terms, the threat that cybercriminals pose.  In its January 2019 “Worldwide Threat Assessment,” the U.S. intelligence community noted that state actors “increasingly use cyber operations to threaten both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways – to steal information, to influence our citizens, or to disrupt critical infrastructure.” The report called out China in particular, stating that it “remains the most active strategic competitor responsible for cyber espionage against the U.S. Government, corporations, and allies.” Another report described China’s cyber command as “fully institutionalized” within the Communist Party, employing more than 100,000 soldiers charged with carrying out operations against the U.S. government, its companies, and its people.

China’s attacks on American interests illustrate how active their cyber soldiers have become. Just last year, China stole a National Security Agency hacking tool, EternalBlue, to use against “the U.S. where it is most vulnerable.” The Chinese are widely believed to be behind the hacking of over 20 million personnel records at the Office of Personnel Management in 2015, the theft of the PII of thousands of U.S. Navy personnel, the recent attacks shutting down essential services in American cities around the country, and several breaches of private sector company databases in recent years. Intelligence officials have warned that China’s cyber activity has risen in recent months and the Chinese cyber division is targeting critical infrastructure in the financial sector, among others.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested that one goal of China’s attacks is to use the sensitive information of susceptible Americans to recruit them to act as double agents against the U.S.

These brazen efforts are part of China’s long-term strategy to undermine America’s economic and military standing in the world. A single database that includes the PII of every American investor would be a target too tempting to ignore. Chinese hackers could use this information to manipulate or disrupt our equity markets, trade stocks based upon material nonpublic information, steal entire portfolios and sell them on the dark web, or blackmail American citizens. We cannot allow any of those outcomes.

Put simply, the costs of storing the PII of millions of Americans in the CAT and exposing it to Chinese hackers far outweighs any benefit to the SEC in overseeing the equity markets. A hack of this database that leads to identity theft would also diminish the SEC’s reputation and its credibility in the eyes of the public – especially given this opportunity to reverse course.

We call on the SEC to put the security of the American people first and end its policy of putting the PII of every American saver and retiree into the largest single database of market-sensitive information in history.

We believe you will agree that the national security risks posed by China and other foreign adversaries are too great to ignore, and we believe the SEC should take the steps necessary to safeguard our markets and protect millions of American investors from the threats posed by cybercriminals.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced the bipartisan Phair Relief Act on Wednesday to lower drug costs for seniors and improve financial certainty for community pharmacies.

Under the Medicare Part D program, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) act as middlemen between pharmacies and insurers, negotiating price concessions from pharmacies. PBMs should pass on these savings to patients to lower the cost of drugs, but this is seldom the case.  PBMs that abuse these practices harm both local community pharmacies and seniors.

One of these abuses is the routine of PBMs requiring clawback fees from pharmacies. These fees are known as direct or indirect remuneration (DIR) fees.  When pharmacies are asked for unexpected, retroactive fees months after dispensing a drug to a patient, it makes it challenging for pharmacies to financially plan ahead.  DIR fees increase seniors’ out-of-pocket costs at the point of sale for their medications and contribute to an unsustainable environment that forces many community pharmacies to shutter their doors.

This legislation will put a five-year freeze on these DIR clawbacks, and it will establish enhanced oversight over these fees.  The legislation also establishes standardized quality metrics that PBMs would have to use to assess any fees after the five-year freeze ends. 

When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) proposed a similar policy in a proposed rule last fall, they estimated that requiring PBMs to account for these retroactive DIR fees at the point of sale would save seniors between $7.1 and $9.2 billion over 10 years on their out-of-pocket drug costs. 

Click here for the full text of the legislation.

 “The high cost of prescription drugs is one of the biggest problems that Americans face today.  This legislation will help change that,” said Sen. Kennedy. “Middlemen negotiators like PBMs should not be receiving the benefits of lower drug costs.  The customers at the pharmacy counter should be the primary beneficiaries of price cuts.  This legislation promotes transparency and accountability in the pharmaceutical drug industry by prioritizing patient care instead of middlemen profits.”

 “Montanans’ drug costs are too high,” said Sen. Tester. “This bipartisan bill will help bring them down by giving community pharmacists needed relief from burdensome fees—that’ll be passed on to their customers as lower costs. And it goes a step further by shining a light on how pharmacies are reimbursed for claims – requiring transparency and standardized reporting so folks can get the full picture of how much their prescriptions cost and why.”

“Prescription drugs cost too much,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Getting rid of loopholes and incentives lowers drug costs for patients and for taxpayers.”

“For many West Virginians, prescription medicine can be the difference between wellness and illness or even life and death, and in rural states like ours, pharmacists are the most trusted and frequently seen health care providers. That’s why I’ve focused many of my efforts on the important role pharmacists can play in lowering drug costs,” said Senator Capito. “This bipartisan legislation will not only help lower prescription drug prices for seniors, but it will also make it easier for local pharmacists to serve their communities. It’s a commonsense next step in our broader efforts to lower prescription drug costs and improve the health and well-being of West Virginians and all Americans.”

“Pharmacy middle-men shouldn’t be pocketing secret kickbacks instead of passing discounts onto customers. By requiring more transparency, we can hold the industry accountable to Ohio taxpayers and patients,” said Brown.

“The high cost of prescription drugs has been straining Montana’s hardworking families and seniors for far too long,” said Sen. Daines. “This bipartisan bill will shine a light on the complex drug pricing system and lower prescription drug costs for Montanans by ensuring savings are going to consumers instead of lining the pockets of pharmacy middlemen. This critical legislation will also assist seniors on a fixed income who rely on low out-of-pocket costs and access to their community pharmacy to gain access to needed medications.”

“The Phair Relief Act gives us the chance to resolve in law many of the issues we’ve debated during Senate Finance Committee hearings regarding PBMs and their interactions with pharmacies and patients,” said Sen. Lankford. “Drug price variance and a lack of relief from ever-increasing prices continues to frustrate patients from my state, but local pharmacies have been limited by PBM fees, rules, and cost issues. I am proud to join my colleagues in offering a proposal today that puts forward a broad set of common-sense reforms that will help solve some of those issues and set us on a path to address rising drug prices in our nation. I look forward to the bill’s full consideration.”

“If we don’t finalize DIR reform, another year could pass before seniors see drug prices lowered at the pharmacy counter,” said Sen. Manchin. “That’s why I’m joining my colleagues in introducing the Phair Relief Act – a bipartisan bill that will provide real cost savings to Medicare beneficiaries and reduce seniors’ out of pocket costs for prescription drugs. The Phair Relief Act will save seniors around the country $7.1 and $9.2 billion. Passing this legislation is crucial to help our seniors make ends meet and provide relief in our increasingly expensive healthcare system.”

The following organizations have offered their support for this legislation: the National Community Pharmacy Association (NCPA), National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) and American Pharmacists Association (APhA).

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced today that the Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded a $5.4 million grant for the construction of a new terminal building at the Lafayette Regional Airport.

Since Sen. Kennedy took office in 2017, the DOT has awarded more than $50 million in grants for projects at the Lafayette Regional Airport.

“The number of people flying in and out of Lafayette is increasing every day.  This grant will equip the airport to meet the growing demand for air travel in Acadiana,” said Sen. Kennedy

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in introducing a resolution supporting the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.

In June, 94,897 individuals were apprehended between ports of entry at the southern border, which brought the total number of apprehensions this year to 688,375.  This resolution commends CBP officers for their dedication and service during the escalating humanitarian crisis at the border.

The resolution also calls on Congress to pass legislation that will support the CBP and better manage the flow of migrants entering the U.S.

“Our Border Patrol agents dedicate their lives each and every day to secure our borders and protect the American people,” said Sen. Kennedy. “I am so grateful for their work and the sacrifices that they make to keep our country safe. I am proud to cosponsor this resolution to honor the men and women of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”

“I’m proud to introduce this resolution. To the Border Patrol agents, you’re doing an incredible job, said Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “This system is broken. It’s not a crisis, it’s a disaster. Congress has a duty to act.”

Click here to view the text of the resolution.

Click here to view the full press release from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) on Tuesday introduced the Commercial Fishing and Aquaculture Protection Act of 2019, which would establish a permanent disaster assistance program for commercial fishing and aquaculture operations.

Fisheries and other seafood producers in Louisiana frequently face significant losses due to hurricanes, flooding or changes in water salinity.  This legislation would help alleviate those losses by providing revenue-based relief, similar to the well-established USDA disaster programs for farmers.

“The commercial fishing industry is part of our culture and a vital part of our economy in Louisiana,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “The shrimp and oyster seasons produced significantly lower yields on average this year due to disastrous freshwater intrusions in the Gulf.  We need to give our fishing industry a break.  This legislation will establish a program to help fishermen cope with disaster conditions like these.”

“Farmers and ranchers who experience serious losses have access to well-established USDA programs to help them survive down years.  Commercial fishermen, including aquaculture operations, do not have that option,” said Sen. Hyde-Smith.  “The disastrous law salinity conditions in the Gulf this year show us that it is time to do more for this important economic sector.  Fisheries and aquaculture are not just important to Mississippi and other southeastern states, but every region with a coast.  Our domestic seafood industry starts with the fisherman—the harvester or producer, and without them we would be forced to depend on lower quality foreign imports.”

Earlier this month, Sen. Kennedy joined the Louisiana Congressional delegation in sending a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross urging him to provide disaster aid for Louisiana’s seafood industry.   

A copy of the legislation is available here.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today announced a $9.8 million FEMA grant to replace the interior contents of several Ascension Parish schools that were damaged by flooding in 2016.

The grant will fund replacement furniture, textbooks, computers, kitchen equipment, band instruments and other school-related supplies.

This grant will restock Galvez Middle School, St. Amant Primary School, Galvez Primary School, Lake Elementary, St. Amant High School and maintenance and distribution facilities that support the schools.

“This grant is an investment in our teachers and students as they work to put our schools back together after catastrophic flooding in 2016,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Replacing important items like books and computers will help our students get off to a good start this new school year.”   

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) announced today that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance their legislation that will make it easier and more affordable for artists to defend their intellectual property from theft.  This legislation, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, S. 1273, establishes a Copyright Claims Board at the Copyright Office for small business entrepreneurs, like photographers, musicians and graphic designers, to file suit against copyright infringers.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined as cosponsors of the legislation this week.

“Money and complexity of the court system should not be barriers for small business entrepreneurs and artists to sue copyright infringers, who are very obviously breaking the law,” said Sen. Kennedy. “Louisiana’s rich culture and history are rooted in the successes of talented artists, musicians and creators.  The CASE Act will ensure that Americans’ creative spirit is preserved and protected.” 

“A copyright is not meaningful unless it is enforceable, and right now thousands of creators are effectively unable to enforce their rights when it comes to infringements costing a few hundred or a few thousand dollars,” Durbin said. “Our bipartisan bill, supported by a wide variety of stakeholders, creates a voluntary, streamlined process to resolve small claims. We can help small businesses and entrepreneurs protect their hard work and I urge the full Senate to pass this bill.”

“Independent artists who rely on copyright laws to protect their work play an important role in our communities, but the current system makes it difficult for them to receive damages in a cost-effective manner,” said Senator Tillis. “I applaud the Judiciary Committee for passing this bipartisan bill that will provide a more efficient way for copyright holders to protect their intellectual property and ensure that our content creators can be properly paid when their work is used without authorization.”

“In its current form, the copyright system leaves no practical way for many creators to protect their rights as copyright holders. Federal district court litigation is simply too expensive and too complex for small photographers, artists, and the like to pursue valid claims against copyright infringers. The result is a system where those who rely most on their copyrighted works for their livelihoods are forced to sit back and watch while others use those copyrighted works free of charge,” Senator Hirono said. “The CASE Act will go a long way toward fixing this situation. By creating the Copyright Claims Board, the CASE ACT establishes a venue where small creators can actually enforce their intellectual property rights and finally bear the fruit of their work. I will continue working with my colleagues on this issue as we move this bill forward for passage through the full Senate.”

Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year.

Click here or the photo below to watch Sen. Kennedy’s remarks about the CASE Act in today’s Senate Judiciary markup meeting:

 

 

Supporters of the CASE Act include:

  • American Association of Independent Music
  • American Intellectual Property Law Association
  • American Photographic Artists
  • American Society for Collective Rights Licensing
  • American Society of Journalists and Authors
  • American Society of Media Photographers
  • Association of American Publishers
  • Authors Guild
  • Conservatives for Property Rights
  • Copyright Alliance
  • Digital Media Licensing Association
  • Dramatists Guild of America
  • Future of Music Coalition
  • Garden Communicators International
  • Graphic Artists Guild
  • Horror Writers’ Association
  • Nashville Songwriters Association International
  • National Press Photographers Association
  • National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981
  • News Media Alliance
  • North American Nature Photography Association
  • Novelists, Inc.
  • Recording Academy 
  • Professional Photographers of America
  • Recording Industry Association of America
  • Romance Writers of America
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America; Screen Actors Guild
  • American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)
  • Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators
  • Songwriters Guild of America
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today announced an important provision in the bipartisan National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization and Reform (NFIP Re) Act that will protect homeowners from taxpayer-funded consultants with a track record of unfairly lowering property damage assessments.

The bill allows FEMA to fire consultants, contractors, law firms, engineering firms and any other third-party company involved in NFIP contracts who deliberately mishandles claims to lower what insurance companies must pay to homeowners after a disaster.  Currently, FEMA can only make a termination when there is a criminal conviction.

For example, a federal judge accused contractor U.S. Forensic of “reprehensible gamesmanship” for rewriting engineer reports to lower the amount of property damage that could be attributed to Superstorm Sandy.  Despite these accusations, U.S. Forensic still can participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.

“Homeowners already are victimized when their property is destroyed.  They shouldn’t be victimized twice,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “ Unfortunately, bad actors continue to receive federal contracts despite reprehensible behavior in minimizing property damage.  Thankfully, this bill includes my provision allowing FEMA to more easily fire fraudulent contractors.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today announced that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced his legislation to remove the red tape from small-scale LNG exports.  The bill will encourage investment in an emerging industry and create more Louisiana energy jobs.

The Small Scale LNG Access Act expedites the approval of natural gas exports equal to or less than 51.75 billion cubic feet per year.  There is demand for small-scale LNG shipments in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.  However, the current permitting process is stifling U.S. companies from meeting that demand.

Sen. Kennedy introduced the bill with U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.).

“Louisiana already leads the world in large-scale LNG exports.  Entering the market to export small-scale LNG shipments will lead to even more well-paying jobs for Louisiana workers,” said Sen. Kennedy. “This bill is about creating opportunities for our families in an industry with limitless potential.”

“The Small Scale LNG Access Act unleashes the potential of American natural gas, creating good-paying jobs for hardworking families in Louisiana,” said Dr. Cassidy.

“I thank my colleagues on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for marking up and passing this important bill to expedite approval of small-scale natural gas exports, strengthen an emerging sector of Florida’s economy, and bolster our existing ties with Caribbean and Latin American nations,” Rubio said. “As nefarious actors, including the criminal regimes in Venezuela and Cuba, continue to undermine democracy and commit human rights atrocities in the region, we must ensure they cannot benefit from expedited access to American energy exports.”

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