Senate includes Kennedy, Carper legislation to stop improper payments to dead people, save taxpayer dollars in funding package
Dec 21 2020
WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate will vote to pass the major provisions of Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tom Carper’s (D-Del.) Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act as part of the government spending bill. The bill, introduced by Kennedy and Carper in 2019, would help save millions of federal dollars by curbing erroneous payments to deceased individuals.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains the most complete federal database of individuals who are reported to have died. However, only a small number of federal agencies have access to this official list, and most federal agencies rely on a slimmed down, incomplete and less timely version of the death information. In addition, the federal government’s centralized improper payments screening initiative, the Treasury Department’s Do Not Pay program, lacks access to the complete death information. As a result, many federal agencies make erroneous payments to people who are actually deceased.
“Every so often, Washington actually saves taxpayer dollars instead of watching that money circle the bureaucratic drain. Today, the Senate made the commonsense move to include the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act as part of the government funding bill. Now we can make sure taxpayer dollars work on behalf of hardworking Americans instead of fraudsters who take advantage of flaws in the system. I’m thankful for Sen. Carper’s leadership in helping save billions in taxpayer money from flowing to ghosts,” said Kennedy.
“This has been a long, hard fight for many years, but this is good news for American taxpayers. As government officials, one of our most important responsibilities is to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. That’s why, for years, I have worked across the aisle to assess federal government spending and eliminate billions of taxpayer dollars in waste, fraud and abuse. But there is still work to be done because we know that year after year, the federal government continues to mismanage billions of dollars through improper payments. The money saved by curbing improper payments to the deceased can be used to fund health care programs or invest in our decades-old infrastructure. With a little hard work and bipartisanship, we can take the common sense steps necessary to reduce improper payments and put these funds to better use for the American people. I want to thank my wingman, Senator Kennedy, for his leadership on this issue,” said Carper.
In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). Bipartisan companion legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.).
Key provisions in the bill include:
Providing Do Not Pay with access to the complete death database. Under current law, only federal agencies that directly manage programs making beneficiary payments have access to complete death data. This legislation provides the federal government’s centralized improper payments screening service, Do Not Pay, with access to the complete death data to help agencies identify and prevent improper payments.
Improves management of death data. The legislation safeguards the Social Security Trust Funds by allowing the SSA to recoup the costs of managing this data. The legislation allows for the SSA to correct errors in the death data and ensures states can maintain their death registration systems.
Improving Death Data Sharing in the Future. The legislation requires the National Academy of Public Administration to conduct an independent study of the sources and access to state-owned death data for use by federal agencies for program administration and payment integrity and to report on options for future distribution of death data government-wide.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, secured language to require the General Services Administration and the federal courts to submit a plan to Congress for building a new courthouse in Lake Charles, Louisiana following the severe damage Hurricane Laura did to the Edwin F. Hunter, Jr. U.S. Courthouse.
“I saw firsthand how Hurricane Laura wrecked Lake Charles, and I’ve been fighting for a new federal courthouse since then. I’m glad to see the federal courts there get the green light they need to rebuild as the Lake Charles community keeps putting the pieces back together after a wicked hurricane season,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy also worked with the General Services Administration to identify the appropriate resources for building a new courthouse in Lake Charles.
The appropriations bill requires the General Services Administration to submit a plan within 150 days of the passage of the bill that “fully meets the operational needs of the Federal courts” through the new Lake Charles facility.
President issues executive order based on Kennedy’s effort to reunite Americans with $26 billion in unclaimed savings bonds
Dec 21 2020
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has issued an executive order based on Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) legislation requiring the Treasury Secretary to provide states with information to help their residents claim approximately $26 billion in unredeemed savings bonds.
“Government is always delighted to collect taxes, but it’s not often that Big Brother goes out of its way to reunite people with their hard-earned money. I’m thankful that the president’s executive order does just that by making the government pay up on matured savings bonds, even if the original investors have passed away.
“People in Louisiana and all over the country are pinching pennies to make it through this pandemic. It’s common sense and basic decency that the Treasury would help men and women find unclaimed savings bonds that rightfully belong to them and their families, and they can thank President Trump for this massive step forward. I look forward to seeing the Treasury right this wrong—right away,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which has jurisdiction over the U.S. Treasury. His bill to equip states with information needed to identify who owns unclaimed bonds passed the Senate unanimously in July.
The executive order, inspired by Kennedy’s bill, would require the U.S. Treasury to:
- Begin, before year’s end, a pilot program with multiple vendors to continue digitizing the records of unredeemed savings bonds.
- Make the digitized information on unredeemed bonds publicly available while keeping that information secure.
- Conduct consumer research to determine why individuals often do not redeem their savings bonds upon maturity.
- Collaborate with state counterparts to identify owners of unredeemed savings bonds.
- Issue a public report on all the above initiatives within six months of the president’s signing the executive order.
Louisiana estimates that approximately $337 million in unredeemed savings bonds belong to its residents. Other states estimate that their residents have more than $1 billion in matured, unclaimed savings bonds. These bonds are currently sitting in the Treasury, but the department has previously taken little initiative to return the proceeds to their owners.
Last December, Kennedy secured $25 million for the Treasury Department to digitize and distribute records of unclaimed U.S. savings bonds. The funding is helping the Treasury reunite unclaimed savings bonds with their rightful owners.
At Kennedy’s urging, the Treasury also launched Treasury Hunt, an online search tool that allows bond owners to find information such as whether bonds are no longer earning interest or are owned by deceased family members. More than $23 million has been returned to bond owners through Treasury Hunt.
Government savings bonds were originally sold as part of an effort to finance America’s victory in WWI, and returning those bonds to their owners honors the patriotism of the Americans who invested in their nation as a global leader for freedom.
Kennedy, senators announce historic bipartisan agreement on American Innovation and Manufacturing Act
Dec 21 2020
WASHINGTON – Today Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in announcing a historic bipartisan agreement to include the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act in the government funding bill.
“More than ever, foreign competition demands we protect American jobs by keeping the U.S. competitive in global industry. Investing in next-generation refrigerants will create thousands of jobs, save billions of dollars and safeguard the environment, all of which matter deeply to Louisianians. I’m grateful to have worked with Chairman Barrasso and Sen. Carper to champion the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act and bring American production into the future,” said Kennedy.
“HFC chemicals are in every home – from our cars, to our air conditioners. The emissions from the use of these chemicals contribute to climate change. This agreement will authorize a 15-year phase down of their use, while safeguarding consumers and American manufacturers,” said Barrasso.
“Inside nearly every home in this country are hydrofluorocarbons, potent greenhouse gases used as coolants in air conditioning and refrigerators. The cruel irony is that, while HFCs keep our homes cool and our groceries cold, they heat up our planet. With a global warming effect that is thousands of times more potent than carbon, HFCs are slowly destroying our planet. Fortunately, there is a solution – one that would have huge economic benefits for our country. For years, Senator Kennedy and I have been working to pass legislation that would put American workers and industries in the driver’s seat of the global phasedown of these super-polluting chemicals. By implementing a national phasedown of HFCs, we can reap close to $39 billion in economic benefits while creating tens of thousands of new jobs. I thank Senator Kennedy for being such a good partner on this legislation and thank Chairman Barrasso for his work to help us to find a compromise that can get this bill across the finish line. Thanks to all our efforts, Congress is now on the cusp of passing the most significant climate solution in more than a decade, and American workers and families will reap the benefits for decades more to come,” said Carper.
The appropriations package will now include, for the first time, a provision for a 15-year phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) at a national level, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The amendment is based on Kennedy’s AIM Act and requires EPA to implement an 85 percent phase down of the production and consumption of HFCs, so they reach approximately 15 percent of their 2011-2013 average annual levels by 2036.
The legislative language matches the agreement reached earlier this year by Kennedy, Barrasso and Carper to protect critical uses of HFCs.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) published this op-ed in the Baptist Message on December 18, 2020.
Below are key excerpts from the article, which focuses on the challenges Louisianians have faced in 2020 and reasons to be confidently hopeful this Christmas season.
“This year not been easy for Louisiana.
“No one could have foreseen when 2020 began that, in just a few months, an unprecedented pandemic would shut down America’s economy and a novel coronavirus would infect more than 200,000 Louisianians, with over 6,000 confirmed deaths.
“As if the coronavirus didn’t cause enough loss, Louisiana has also had a particularly bad hurricane season, too. In August, Hurricane Laura killed at least 28 Louisianians, destroyed over 10,000 homes, and caused up to $14 billion in damages. Tragically, while we were still recovering from Laura, Hurricanes Delta and Zeta followed, further devastating much of the state.
“Louisianians are tough. We have been through worse and always come out stronger. We are tired. We will, however, make it through this challenging year and be the better for it, with God’s help.
“It can be difficult to focus on God’s love in such hard times. But this is exactly when we must draw encouragement from the Lord. The same God who loved us by being born into humble surroundings and dying in our place is the same God who will carry us through any trial we ever face—whether that storm is called Laura or COVID-19.
“So whatever life’s trials, whatever we have suffered through this year, we can hold onto God’s love and know that we didn’t make it through 2020 by ourselves and we don’t face 2021 alone.”
Read the full op-ed in the Baptist Message here.
Dec 18 2020
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump today signed into law Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) bill to protect American investors and their savings from foreign companies that operate on U.S. stock exchanges while refusing to submit to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) oversight.
The Senate passed the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act unanimously in May, and the House passed the bill unanimously earlier this month. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) was an original cosponsor of the legislation.
“Communist China has been the bully on the playground of America’s stock exchanges for years, and that stops today. With President Trump’s signature, Chinese firms that flout the rules that American and other companies follow do so at their own peril. Any foreign company that doesn’t submit to our audits has to grow up or get off U.S. exchanges—they can’t keep using our markets to exploit workers and families. I’m grateful to the president for calling Chinese Communist dishonesty to account by making fairness and common sense the law. Thanks to the partnership of Sen. Van Hollen and bipartisan, bicameral consensus, Americans finally have protection against Chinese Communist lackeys that would defraud them on U.S. soil,” said Kennedy.
The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act prohibits securities of a company from being listed on any of the U.S. securities exchanges if the company has failed to comply with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s (PCAOB) audits for three years in a row.
The bill would also require public companies to disclose whether they are owned or controlled by a foreign government, including China’s communist government.
Many Americans invest in U.S. stock exchanges as part of their retirement and college savings, and dishonest companies operating on the exchanges put Americans at risk, as Luckin Coffee did. This legislation protects the interest of hardworking American investors by ensuring that foreign companies traded in America are subject to the same independent audit requirements that apply to their competitors in America and other countries.
Congress established the PCAOB to inspect audits of public companies, ensuring the information companies provide to the public is accurate, independent and trustworthy.
Currently, China’s communist government refuses to allow the PCAOB to inspect audits of companies registered in China and Hong Kong. Such companies represent a keen risk to American investors as nearly 11 percent of all securities class action lawsuits in 2011 were brought against Chinese-owned companies accused of misrepresenting themselves in financial documents.
According to the SEC, 224 U.S.-listed companies are located in countries where there are obstacles to PCAOB inspections. These companies have a combined market capitalization of more than $1.8 trillion.
In the last 10 years, the number of Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges has increased significantly, as those firms take advantage of the capital available in America.
The bill text is available here.
Kennedy, Cramer, colleagues call on administration to wave tax filing penalties for those delayed by COVID-19
Dec 17 2020
WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Senate Banking Committee members, led a bipartisan letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig urging the Trump Administration to wave late filing penalties for taxpayers whose filing delay is caused by COVID-19.
“Many taxpayers are facing economic hardships and business closures due to COVID-19. Taxpayers expect fair treatment from their government, and the current unwillingness to provide an expedited process for taxpayers and their advisors to request pandemic-specific relief places an undue burden on them. We ask that you move to address these issues immediately so the American people can receive the relief they urgently need,” the senators wrote.
In the letter, the senators urge the Trump Administration to:
- Create a special COVID-19 first-time abatement option for taxpayers eligible for normal first-time abatement where taxpayers can attest to filing difficulty directly caused by the pandemic;
- Provide written guidance directing IRS customer service representatives to grant reasonable-cause and COVID-related abatement requests liberally;
- Develop and advertise specific COVID-related examples that qualify for reasonable-cause abatement; and
- Develop a dedicated telephone number, or dedicated prompt, for taxpayers and their advisors to call to request COVID-related penalty relief.
Kennedy and Cramer were joined on the letter by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.).
Kennedy chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which has jurisdiction over the IRS and Treasury Department.
The letter is available here.
WASHINGTON – The Senate today unanimously passed John Kennedy’s (R-La.) Improving Mental Health Access for Students Act to improve college students’ access to available mental health resources. The legislation requires higher education institutions to print the contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Crisis Text Line and an on-campus mental health program on the back of student identification cards or provide that information on the school’s website.
“Now, more than at any point in my life, young people need helping hands and listening ears. Mental health resources can be lifesaving, and college students deserve to know what help is available to them when they need it most. I hope the House takes the opportunity to send this bill to the president’s desk so young people who are facing new public health and social challenges know that they’re not alone,” said Kennedy.
In 2017, suicide took the lives of over 47,000 people, making it the tenth leading cause of death overall in the U.S. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, and 39% of college students report experiencing a significant mental health issue.
Video of the senator’s floor speech about the bill is available here.
Dec 14 2020
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, published this op-ed in the Baton Rouge Business Report on December 11, 2020.
Below are key excerpts from the piece, which examines the threat posed by foreign companies that are listed on U.S. stock markets but refuse to submit to the same auditing rules as other firms:
“Luckin Coffee, known as ‘China’s answer to Starbucks,’ has a casual relationship with the truth. In April, the company was forced to disclose that its chief operating officer, Jian Liu, inflated its 2019 sales by $310 million. The revelation caused Luckin Coffee’s shares to fall by 80%, and its value to drop from $12.7 billion to less than $800 million.
. . .
“Luckin Coffee was finally delisted from the American NASDAQ stock exchange, but the damage was done. Americans who invested in the Chinese company had already suffered tremendous financial damage.
“The problem is that Luckin Coffee is just one of almost 200 Chinese companies listed in America not subject to inspection by the federal Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB). These companies claim that Chinese secrecy laws prevent them from sharing ‘sensitive’ paperwork for auditing by the PCAOB.
. . .
“To combat this threat, Congress just unanimously passed a measure with two main provisions: First, the bill requires foreign companies to certify that they are not owned or controlled by a foreign government—like Communist China. The provision also requires companies to disclose any involvement by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials. Second, any foreign company that does not open its books for PCAOB auditing for three consecutive years will be banned from trading stocks on U.S. markets.
“That’s key to how this bill, the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable (HFCA) Act, will protect investors at home. Many Louisianians and their fellow Americans rely on their stock portfolios for their retirement and education savings. It’s past time we safeguarded them from fraud by kicking bad actors off our markets.
. . .
“The HFCA Act passed without a single ‘nay’ vote because it will strengthen the credibility of U.S. stock markets, ensuring everyone plays by the same rules. As we recover from the economic challenges of a pandemic, the HFCA Act gives Louisiana investors peace of mind.
. . .
“China’s deception has gone on for long enough. With bipartisan agreement already forged, the HFCA Act is now on the president’s desk, where he can sign it into law before more good people get hurt. Americans deserve accountability from foreign companies, and it’s finally within reach.”
The full op-ed is available here.
Dec 09 2020
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), together with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Reps. Clay Higgins (R-La.), Steve Scalise (R-La.), Mike Johnson (R-La.), Garret Graves (R-La.) and Ralph Abraham (R-La.), today asked President Donald Trump to request supplemental disaster funds to help Louisiana recover from extensive hurricane damage caused by this season’s storms.
“We ask that you request emergency appropriations for the many Federal agencies with experience in long-term disaster recovery who are standing by and well-equipped to provide relief to families in Louisiana and take action to protect life and property ahead of the next disaster. These include the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, and emergency appropriations for federal highways. Finally, we ask that you take into consideration the cumulative impact of this hurricane season on Louisiana and use your authority under Sec. 1232 of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act to approve an increase in the Federal cost-share for Hurricanes Laura, Delta, and Zeta. Louisiana has borne the brunt of this exceptionally destructive season, and we believe these actions will allow Louisiana to recover in the most efficient manner possible,” wrote the lawmakers.
This year, five categorized storms struck Louisiana, affecting all 64 parishes. The most powerful of these storms, Hurricane Laura, hit southwest Louisiana as a Category 4 storm and is one of the strongest storms to make landfall in American history. Hurricane Laura alone caused an estimated $14 billion in damages to homes, businesses, and infrastructure. Hurricane Delta added to the damage when it made landfall in the same area just 42 days later.
The letter is available here.