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WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) in introducing the Freedom Riders Congressional Gold Medal Act to award surviving Freedom Riders the Congressional Gold Medal for their contributions to civil rights. The medal will be displayed in an appropriate Smithsonian museum.

“Sixty years ago, the Freedom Riders started a courageous journey that took them from our nation’s capital to New Orleans. Their brave actions supporting civil rights richly deserve the Congressional Gold Medal. I’m happy to partner with Sen. Warnock to honor the legacy of the Freedom Riders and recognize the heroic members of this group who are still with us,” said Kennedy.

“The Freedom Riders literally put their lives and limbs on the line in order to bring about an America that lives up to its own stated ideals. They are nothing short of American patriots, and honoring them more than 60 years after their historic acts is the least we can do. Their stories from those dark days and learning from the late Rep. John Lewis—my parishioner—has been a well of inspiration. I know I would not be serving in the Unites States Senate if it were not for the courage of these American heroes, so I am deeply honored to join with Senator Kennedy to introduce this bill,” said Warnock.

In 1961, 13 Freedom Riders boarded buses in Washington, D.C. to protest racial segregation in public transportation, ultimately arriving in New Orleans, La.

Five months after the first Freedom Riders embarked on their historic ride, the Interstate Commerce Commission in conjunction with U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy issued a federal order banning segregation at all interstate public facilities based upon “race, color or creed.”

This bill would honor the Freedom Riders on the 60th anniversary of their bravery. Of the original 13, there are currently two surviving Freedom Riders, Hank Thomas of Stone Mountain, Ga. and Charles Person of Atlanta, Ga.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and more than 90 other senators and representatives in writing to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, condemning HHS’s recent reversal of protections for faith-based adoption and foster care agencies.

On November 18, HHS announced it was rescinding waivers previously issued to faith-based adoption and foster care agencies in South Carolina, Michigan and Texas that allowed them to qualify for HHS grants while operating in accordance with their deeply-held religious beliefs.

HHS also announced it was moving to strip the Office for Civil Rights of its authority to enforce the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act and the religion clauses of the First Amendment.

“The freedom to work with faith-based agencies is vital to many foster families. Many studies have shown that faith is often a key motivator in a family’s decision to foster children. Families recruited through church or religious organizations on average foster more than two and a half years longer than other foster parents,” the lawmakers wrote.

“We find it disturbing that one day before it released its 2021 [Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System] report, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—with your express approval—announced the rescission of waivers that were previously granted to faith-based adoption and foster care agencies in Michigan, Texas, and South Carolina. As you know, rescinding the waivers puts providers in these states in the untenable position of choosing between serving children under the Title IV-E foster care program or operating in accordance with the tenets of their faith—the same faith that drives them to serve children in the first place. HHS should be welcoming child welfare providers, not excluding them. Children are too important to be pawns in political games,” continued the lawmakers.

“Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, your focus on reversing structural and individual religious freedom protections—protections which have worked well—demonstrate that you are placing ideology over the interests of the law, children, and faith-based partners who only want to continue serving their communities in peace. It is our hope that you will promptly correct these unprecedented actions and abide by your promises made to Congress,” concluded the lawmakers.

The letter is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today released the following statement upon supporting the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the Senate voted to pass today:  

“This year’s NDAA provides better pay for our troops and better resources for them to defend America and our allies. As authoritarian regimes like Russia and China become more aggressive by the day, we must modernize America’s armed forces and make sure misguided woke policies don’t handicap our military. Not only does this bill increase defense spending, but Republicans also stripped a bevy of harmful Democrat priorities out so that our troops can focus on what they do best,” said Kennedy.

The 2022 NDAA:

  • Increases topline defense spending by $25 billion above the amount in President Biden’s budget. This spending increase includes a 35 percent increase for military construction and a 20 percent increase for shipbuilding.
  • Gives the troops a pay raise of 2.7 percent.
  • Counters China’s aggression by supporting Taiwan and other Indo-Pacific allies by authorizing $7.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative.
  • Counters China’s aggression and promotes democracy by requiring a report on U.S. efforts to help Taiwan defend itself.
  • Counters Russia’s aggression by increasing funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative by $50 million.
  • Authorizes $27.8 billion for nuclear weapons programs and makes modernizing nuclear arms a priority.
  • Establishes a commission to study the war in Afghanistan, including the disastrous withdrawal under President Biden.
  • Maintains longstanding prohibitions on closing Guantanamo Bay and transferring terrorists to U.S. soil.
  • Protects service members from being dishonorably discharged for refusing to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

The final version of the NDAA also removes several controversial measures that Democrats attempted to include in the bill, including provisions that would:

  • Force women to register for the draft.
  • Mandate that the TRICARE program cover the morning-after pill.
  • Promote “Red Flag” laws that could strip veterans of their Second Amendment rights without due process.
  • Strip F-35 aircraft from the Air National Guard.
  • Require the Department of Defense (DOD) to hire “gender advisors.”
  • Impose a strict, burdensome “diversity and inclusion” regime on DOD contractors.
  • Mandate that the DOD track “extremist activities” among troops and prohibit troop ties to “extremist organizations” without providing a definition of “extremist.”
  • Make the mayor of Washington, D.C. the commander-in-chief of the District’s National Guard, which is a federal entity.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in introducing the Protecting Our Democracy by Preventing Foreign Citizens from Voting Act to prohibit federal funding to states and localities that allow non-citizens to vote.

“Allowing non-citizens to vote in our elections makes a mockery of U.S. citizenship. Some Americans were born here, and some immigrated here legally, but no citizen should have his or her vote nullified by a foreign citizen’s ballot. I’m proud to partner with Sen. Rubio to stop federal funds from flowing to states or localities that undermine Americans’ voting rights,” said Kennedy.

“It’s ridiculous that states are allowing foreign citizens to vote. However, if states and localities do let those who are not U.S. citizens to vote in elections, they shouldn’t get U.S. citizen taxpayer money,” said Rubio.

The Protecting Our Democracy by Preventing Foreign Citizens from Voting Act would:

  • Prohibit federal funds from going to any state or local government that allows foreign citizens to vote in any federal, state or local election, and
  • Require state or local governments, upon the application, approval and receipt of any federal funds, to certify they do not allow foreign citizens to vote.

Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) also cosponsored the legislation.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) will introduce a companion bill in the House.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $5,390,297 in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for emergency protective measures as a result of Hurricane Delta in Lafayette Parish as well as for recovery efforts as a result of Hurricanes Gustav and Isaac.

“For many Louisianians still rebuilding, hurricanes aren’t a distant memory. I am glad to see these resources from FEMA help our state heal from disaster,” said Kennedy.

FEMA awarded $1,633,429 to Lafayette Parish to cover emergency protective measures in response to Hurricane Delta. These measures included acquiring resources for emergency response and pay, materials and lodging for repair and response crews. FEMA covered 75 percent of the cost of this project.

FEMA awarded the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness two grants to offset the administrative costs of recovery efforts for Hurricanes Gustav and Isaac. The first grant provides $2,680,405 for recovery from Hurricane Gustav and covers 90 percent of the cost. The second totals $1,076,462 for recovery from Hurricane Isaac and covers 75 percent of the project.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Small Business Mergers, Acquisitions, Sales and Brokerage Simplification Act to help small business owners access the services of small business merger and acquisition (M&A) brokers. M&A brokers assist small business owners who want to sell their businesses or merge with other firms so that their companies can continue expanding and supporting job growth.

“Whether they want to buy new ventures, sell their businesses or retire, small business owners depend on M&A brokers to help them navigate these changes. We need to ensure that Main Street entrepreneurs have consistent access to financial services so that America’s small businesses—and the jobs that depend on them—can continue to thrive,” said Kennedy. 

The bill would allow small business M&A brokers to organize sales and purchases of ownership and control of private companies without registering as “broker-dealers” with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). 

Removing the requirement to register with the SEC and FINRA would remove a bureaucratic roadblock for M&A brokers. This would make their services more affordable and accessible to small business owners who need help buying or selling companies.

Text of the Small Business Mergers, Acquisitions, Sales and Brokerage Simplification Act is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and nine other Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee in writing to Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) requesting a full committee hearing in Washington, D.C. to address the rising crime wave.

The senators wrote the letter after Durbin held a hearing titled “Combating Gun Trafficking and Reducing Violence in Chicago” in Chicago, Ill. on Dec. 13. The senators previously requested that Durbin allow virtual or phone participation in that hearing, but the chairman denied this request.

“Beginning in the summer of 2020, the country has experienced a sustained and unprecedented 30% increase in murders. This spike has correlated with a move toward depolicing, after the eruption of over 500 riots nationally,” the senators wrote.

“In June of 2021, the Biden Administration unveiled its own strategy to reduce violent crime. We were troubled to see how much of the President’s strategy focuses on lawful gun acquisition and lawful gun owners. For example, one of the tenets of the President’s plan is finding ways to sue legal gun manufacturers, an initiative that would do much to interfere with Americans’ access to guns but nothing to target murders or reduce crime. . . . Legally owned firearms play an important role in allowing Americans to protect themselves during a violent crime surge. A 2013 CDC-commissioned study found that as many as millions of people a year defend themselves with a firearm,” they continued.

“We therefore request that you hold a full committee hearing in Washington, D.C. on the spike in murders and the challenges that law enforcement is facing. Ineffective bail policies, cumbersome restraints on police officers, and the impact of the ‘progressive prosecutor’ movement are exacerbating this surge. While it would have been helpful to explore the effects of these factors on crime in Chicago, given the many other cities that are impacted by the crime surge, we believe it would be even more useful if we could explore these problems on a national scale with the full committee,” concluded the senators.

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.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today wrote to Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Michael Carvajal demanding answers about staffing shortages in Federal Correction Complexes (FCC) in Pollock and Oakdale, La. FCC Pollock and FCC Oakdale have experienced staffing shortages that have been exasperated by COVID-19, and the BOP director has failed to respond to Kennedy’s formal questions (QFRs) about the shortages.

“As of the date of this letter, I have not received a response from you. In other words, QFRs have remained unanswered for eight months. This is unacceptable. . . . Federal agencies must respond to congressional inquiries in a timely way. As a result of your failure to respond, the staffing crisis at FCC Oakdale has actually gone from bad to worse since the Judiciary Committee held the BOP oversight hearing earlier this year,” Kennedy wrote.

“Our men and women in law enforcement, including those working some of the most dangerous jobs in our federal prisons, must have every resource available to them to ensure their safety. Sufficient staffing levels are crucial to that safety. To that end, I ask that you respond to this letter by December 31, 2021, with the date that the BOP will restore FCC Oakdale to its 2016 staffing levels, per the direction of Congress,” Kennedy concluded. 

To meet custody requirements in the wake of staffing shortages, these facilities have had to pay increased overtime and siphon personnel from other departments to increase the number of guards on duty. 

The BOP has also ordered FCC Oakdale to reduce existing staff levels to 93 percent of current levels, even though it has lost personnel because of President Biden’s vaccine mandate. If this reduction occurs, the facility will have approximately 120 fewer personnel than it did in 2016, which is the level Congress has funded and required the facility to maintain.

Text of the letter is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) today introduced the Protecting Access to Credit for Small Businesses Act to stop Democrats from turning the Small Business Administration (SBA) into a direct lender for the 7(a) program through their partisan spending plan.

“Fraud and inefficiency characterize the Small Business Administration’s history in direct lending. The government shouldn’t encroach on a space where private lenders are already doing a good job getting funds to the small businesses that need them. I’m proud to partner with Sen. Scott to stop the SBA from replacing community and other private lenders with bureaucrats,” said Kennedy.

“Forcing community banks and local credit unions to compete with a massive government agency is inefficient and wrong. Funneling tax dollars through the federal government in order to loan it back to small business owners with interest makes no sense. This is just another example of Democrats’ misguided plan for a big government takeover of virtually every aspect of American life and private institutions,” said Scott.

The Protecting Access to Credit for Small Businesses Act would block the SBA from issuing direct 7(a) loans.

Background

  • In October, Kennedy sent a letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House and Senate Small Business Committee Chairs Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) warning against their plan to make the SBA a direct lender.
  • The SBA Office of the Inspector General estimates that the federal government’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program issued $79 billion in potentially fraudulent loans. The EIDL program was rife with fraud and unnecessary delays throughout the pandemic.
  • The American Bankers Association, Consumer Bankers Association, Independent Community Bankers of America, Bank Policy Institute, Credit Union National Association and National Association of Federally Insured Credit Unions support the Protecting Access to Credit for Small Businesses Act. 

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), John Thune (R-N.D), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Steve Daines (R- Mont.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) also cosponsored the legislation.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) in introducing the Streamlining EIDL Act to improve the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) application process for small businesses and to fight fraud in the program.

“Louisiana’s small businesses contend with enough adversity as it is. They don’t need bureaucracy to make it harder to get straight answers on their EIDL applications or to combat fraud. I’m thankful to work with Sens. Risch and Hickenlooper to improve the EIDL program so that small businesses can get back to investing in their communities,” said Kennedy.

“Small businesses in Idaho have struggled to get meaningful answers on their EIDL applications from the SBA. They’ve been forced to submit the same document multiple times, received vague and ambiguous responses from the agency, and in some cases, had to contend with fraudsters submitting false applications on their behalf. Small businesses deserve a program that actually functions the way it should, and the Streamlining EIDL Act will go a long way to fix the flaws in the EIDL application process and make these disaster loans accessible to small businesses,” said Risch.        

“Economic Injury Disaster Loans have been a lifeline for small businesses throughout the pandemic. This bill will help businesses stay open and prevent fraud, a win-win,” said Hickenlooper.

Applicants to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) EIDL program often experience a lag in the application process because of slow and unorganized review procedures. Applicants also have to contend with fraudulent applications submitted in their names.

The Streamlining EIDL Act would:

  • Impose deadlines on the EIDL program application process,
  • Require the SBA to conduct a comprehensive review of the process for submitting EIDL applications,
  • Direct the SBA to submit a report to Congress detailing steps it has taken to correct how it has handled identity theft cases, and
  • Require the SBA to report how it has recovered improper payments and how it is reconciling previous identity theft allegations with newly filed identity theft allegations.

Sens. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) also cosponsored the legislation.

Text of the Streamlining EIDL Act is available here.