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Watch Kennedy’s comments here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) explained the need to target Russia’s oil and gas industry following the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine and condemned President Biden’s attack on America’s oil and gas industry.

Below are key excerpts from Kennedy’s remarks.

“There’s one thing I don’t get. We’re all in agreement that we need to kick Putin and Russia out of the international community, and the West is in agreement that we need to kick Putin and Russia out of the international marketplace. How do you do that without attacking his oil? How do you do that without attacking his natural gas?

“As I read the president’s sanctions, he hasn’t sanctioned all Russian banks, and he hasn’t thrown all Russian banks out of SWIFT. And why has he not done that? Because he wants to continue to allow Putin to sell his oil and natural gas.”

. . .

“I think that both Putin and Xi are taking advantage of the West’s—including but not limited to the United States’—frontal assault on oil and gas. If Europe stops purchasing oil and gas from Russia tomorrow—which is the only way you’re going to cut off his cash flow—then there’s going to be a deficit, and America’s got to fill it.

“And we can’t do that as long as the Biden administration is shutting down drilling in the Gulf, shutting down drilling in ANWAR, refusing to open the Keystone Pipeline, instructs FERC to hang all over the backs of every pipeline company in America, and I could go on and on and on.

“So, we can’t have it both ways, and that’s the issue that the president needs to address straight up with the American people. How are we going to win this struggle with Russia without attacking their oil and gas?

“Final point: I know Americans are really tired of foreign entanglement, but we’ve got to respond to this threat. Because, if we don’t, we’re going to wake up, and we’re going to see Russia dominant in central and eastern Europe, we’re going to see Iran dominant in the Middle East, and we’re going to see China dominant in East Asia, and it’s not going to be a safe place for America.”

. . .

“Name two countries who don’t give a damn about reducing CO2 emissions: Russia and China. Name other people in parts of the world that do care about reducing CO2 emissions: The West, Europe, the United States of America, John Kennedy—I care.

“The reduction of CO2 emissions is an important policy. So is national security. And what Russia and China have done here—they have taken advantage of the effort to reduce CO2 emissions, which, to the Biden administration, means a frontal assault on oil and gas.”

. . .

“I need you to ask my friend Secretary Yellen a question. We just gave Putin $18 billion in special drawing rights. Secretary Yellen said, ‘Oh, we’ve got to issue these special drawing rights—make the IMF do it—these gift cards.’ . . . She didn’t bother to explain that most of these gift cards, these special drawing rights, are going to the wealthiest countries. The small countries get the little end of nothing, and she just handed Vladimir Putin $18 billion, and we didn’t hear a word from her. And we didn’t hear a word from the IMF. You couldn’t have found them with a search party. You couldn’t have found them with Google. They just turned the money over. I’d be a little curious about that.”

Video of Kennedy’s comments is available here.

Background:

Kennedy implored the Biden administration and Treasury Secretary Yellen not to approve tens of billions of U.S. dollars to fund dictators, including Putin and Xi Jinping, last year. Nevertheless, the Biden administration approved a $650 billion IMF allocation without Congressional approval.

Kennedy’s bill, the No Dollars for Dictators Act, would have prevented that $18 billion from flowing to Putin.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Hospital Transparency Compliance Enforcement Act to increase penalties on hospitals that hide the true costs of their items and services from patients.

“Patients need to know the true cost of hospital items and services. This bill would protect patients by clarifying how much a hospital visit might really cost so that they can make informed choices about their care,” said Kennedy.

The Hospital Price Transparency Rule requires hospitals to establish and make public a list of the prices that hospitals charge for items and services. Hospitals must also display charges in a consumer-friendly manner. As of July 2021, however, less than six percent of hospitals comply with this transparency rule, according to some estimates.

This January, the government implemented higher penalties on hospitals that don’t comply with the transparency rule. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires non-compliant hospitals with 30 or fewer beds to pay a penalty of $300 per day, those with 31 to 550 beds to pay between $310 and $5,500 per day and those with more than 550 beds to pay $5,500 per day.

The Hospital Transparency Compliance Enforcement Act would:

  • Double the current government penalties on non-compliant hospitals. Penalties would increase to $600 per day for hospitals with 30 or fewer beds, $620 to $11,000 per day for hospitals with 31 to 550 beds and $11,000 per day for hospitals with more than 550 beds.

  • Require all hospitals to comply with the higher penalties within 100 days after the end of the public health emergency.

  • Prohibit hospitals from shielding information on their websites using webpage coding.

  • Give non-compliant hospitals 60 days after notice of non-compliance to pay their monetary penalty.

  • Require the CMS to publish the names of hospitals that have not complied.

Text of the Hospital Transparency Compliance Enforcement Act is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) in writing to Senate leaders Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to oppose more supplemental COVID relief funding. The senators pointed out that unused funds still exist from previous funding packages and that continuing to overspend will contribute to rising inflation.

Kennedy has also made it clear to Senate leadership that Congress has no business directing additional money to COVID spending when Washington Democrats refuse to pass disaster aid that states like Louisiana desperately need.

“Since the start of the pandemic, Congress has spent almost $6 trillion over two years through the enactment of six supplemental spending packages. While there was a need for an initial COVID response, billions in current unobligated COVID funds, 40-year high inflation, and the downward trends in COVID’s impact on our nation’s health and economic stability, make it clear that additional spending at this time is not warranted or appropriate,” the senators wrote.

“According to the latest information provided by the Congressional Budget Office, as of the end of January of this year, over $811 billion in COVID relief funds remain either unobligated or unspent. Given these balances, it is clear that additional funding is not needed at this time. For example, the Biden Administration has plans in place to send out one billion COVID tests and 400 million N95 masks, neither of which have any way to track their use. The Biden Administration acts as if they want new ways to spend money, not as if they are strapped for cash, as their recent $30 billion request may appear,” continued the senators.

“Dumping trillions of dollars into an American economy that was already on the rise has had crippling effects on this nation. Compared to January of 2021, food and grocery costs are up 7 percent, home heating costs are up over 46 percent, and used car prices are up over 40 percent. The federal government cannot continue to spend without regard to the impact on prices, the economy, and our constituents at home. It is clear that throwing even more money at COVID is unsustainable and irresponsible,” the senators concluded.

Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) also signed the letter.

The letter is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and other members of the Senate Banking Committee in writing to President Biden to express concern over his nomination of Sarah Raskin as Vice-Chair of Supervision on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

“As you are aware, members of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (Banking) were compelled to deny a quorum for the markup scheduled for February 15, 2022, due to the simple fact that Ms. Raskin has continually failed to produce forthright answers to questions posed by committee members,” wrote the senators.

“. . . our actions to deny a quorum were not the result of Ms. Raskin’s radical public comments and beliefs about using federal financial supervisory powers to advance climate change policy. Rather, it was the continual evasion and lack of candor about her time on the board of Reserve Trust, a fintech trust company, where Ms. Raskin was a director from 2017 to 2019,” the senators continued. 

“. . . Ms. Raskin has continually provided vague or nonresponsive answers to committee questions regarding her past use of the ‘revolving door.’ Her lack of candor raises the question of whether Ms. Raskin leveraged her past experience and relationships within the Federal Reserve System to obtain preferential treatment for Reserve Trust. Specifically, Reserve Trust had its first application for a Federal Reserve Master Account denied, but subsequently approved following a phone call from Ms. Raskin to the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City,” continued the senators.

The senators listed several of Raskin’s obfuscations, including her failure to list her time and compensation at Reserve Trust on her committee questionnaire and her failure to answer repeated questions in her nomination hearing and in questions for the record about potential activities she undertook while at Reserve Trust to help the company obtain a Federal Reserve Master Account.

The senators asked Biden to direct Raskin to provide proper answers to certain questions about her past and to provide additional information on the process the Biden administration used to investigate Raskin’s background when nominating her.

“We share the same goal of honesty and transparency in government, especially among those nominated to the highest positions of your administration. However, without greater insight into Ms. Raskin’s past activities, we cannot, in good faith, support the advancement of her nomination process,” the senators concluded.

The letter is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in introducing the Preventing Usurpation of Power and Privileges by Extralegal Territories’ Sedition (PUPPETS) Act to sanction individuals who assist in establishing puppet governments in Ukraine.

“Putin isn’t waging his war of aggression alone. Those who join in his terrorism should also bear its consequences—personally and politically. Russia’s war is one of terror, and America won’t tolerate it or excuse its co-conspirators,” said Kennedy.

“The world will become a very scary place if we allow thugs like Putin to invade sovereign nations without severe consequence. We must be clear and unyielding in our support for the Ukrainian people’s fight against a merciless tyrant, and that begins with calling his actions for what they are—an act of terrorism. Any participants in or supporters of this evil scheme should be prepared to face the consequences,” said Rubio.

The PUPPETS Act would designate certain entities as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). Such a designation blocks property and prohibits transactions with these entities and their members, and adds all their members to the Terrorist Exclusion List, which prevents their entry into the U.S.

The bill would designate as FTOs several entities, including the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and any entity claiming to be the government of any other region of Ukraine that is not the government elected in Ukraine’s most recent national and local elections. The bill would prevent U.S. flagged aircraft and ships from taking any action that would imply recognition of sovereignty for these entities.

The PUPPETS Act would also designate as a State Sponsor of Terrorism any government that the Secretary of State finds to have recognized or assisted the DPR, LPR or other Russian puppet governments in Ukraine. These governments would be barred from receiving U.S. foreign assistance.

Rep. Carlos Giménez (R-Fla.) introduced the bill in the House.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) to introduce the Deterring Communist Chinese Aggression Against Taiwan Through Financial Sanctions Act, which would impose devastating financial sanctions on the Chinese government if Communist China invaded or blockaded Taiwan or attempted to change the status of Taiwan’s governance through by force.

“Russia is not acting alone in its hostile war of aggression—Moscow is banding together with Beijing to bully the world. Now more than ever, we must make it clear to the Chinese Communist Party that armed aggression towards Taiwan would deal a devasting blow to China’s economy. As we know, waiting too long to sanction bad actors can create major national security risks at home. We can’t let China seize the moment to attack one of America’s key partners in the Pacific,” said Kennedy. 

“Taiwan is one of America’s most important partners in the Asia-Pacific, and its peace and stability are in our political, security, and economic interests. We have watched Communist China’s increasingly frequent actions to harass and intimidate the Taiwanese people, through regular military encroachments and cyberattacks. We must be clear that these intimidation tactics will not be ignored. As Beijing quietly watches Putin’s invasion of and assault on Ukraine, America must stand strongly behind our partners in democracy and leave no ambiguity as to our resolve to condemn and punish tyrants who attack our partners. Passing this bill will make clear to General Secretary that if he mimics Putin’s invasion then he will be met with economic isolation and severe financial sanctions. I urge my colleagues to join me in this important work, and I hope to see this bill move swiftly through the Senate,” said Scott. 

“The situation in Ukraine is the very real consequence of weak leadership and a lack of a true deterrence for Russia. Taiwan is a friend, good trading partner, and beacon of freedom and democracy. Our bill threatens crippling financial sanctions as a deterrence to China trying to follow in Putin’s footsteps as it relates to Taiwan,” said Cramer. 

The Deterring Communist Chinese Aggression Against Taiwan Through Financial Sanctions Act would:

  • Sever all financial transactions between the U.S. and China if China engages in an armed aggression against Taiwan or its territories, invades Taiwan or its territories, blockades Taiwan or its territories or attempts to change the status of Taiwan’s governance through the use of force. Penalties include:
    • Prohibition on transactions of property
    • Revocation of visas and restrictions on Chinese nationals involved in the use of force against Taiwan
    • Prohibition on any transfers of credit or payments between financial institutions with Communist China
    • Ban on investment in equity or debt of sanctioned persons
    • Prohibition on financial engagements with Chinese military companies, software companies, financial messaging systems and digital currencies.
  • Require the president to implement such sanctions 30 days after a triggering event.

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Require Employees To Uniformly Return Now (RETURN) Act to require teleworking Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees to return to in-office work in order to resolve a massive IRS tax return backlog.

“The IRS’s employees are working from home while it faces a mountainous tax return backlog. The RETURN Act would bring these employees back into the office so the IRS can eliminate the backlog and get hardworking Americans their tax refunds,” said Kennedy.

The IRS is facing a backlog of nearly 24 million tax returns from 2020. The IRS claims one factor causing the backlog was the pandemic, which forced IRS employees to work from home. As of January 2022, almost 70 percent of IRS employees were still teleworking full-time despite the federal workforce having a 98 percent vaccine mandate compliance.

The RETURN Act would require all IRS employees teleworking due to pandemic precautions to return to full-time, in-office work until the IRS Commissioner determines the backlog is resolved.

The bill would maintain telework options that existed for select circumstances prior to the pandemic and allow a five-day grace period after enactment to allow employees to transition back to the office.

Text of the RETURN Act is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to identify and bring to justice criminals guilty of targeting Catholic churches and worshipers. 

“In August 2020, I wrote a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) expressing alarm over the violence in the United States aimed at Catholics and their institutions and property. In that correspondence, I highlighted examples of the senseless acts of destruction that had taken place: For example, rioters attacked a bookstore run by nuns, vandals demolished reverent statues, and arsonists set churches on fire. In one case, criminals targeted a church while worshipers were still inside. I concluded by asking that the department, which you now head, act swiftly and carefully to bring an end to these heinous crimes,” Kennedy wrote.

Kennedy pointed out that the DOJ never responded to that letter and that violence against Catholicism has continued largely unchecked.

“Data compiled by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops shows that almost 80 additional attacks have occurred in America since August 2020. While arson still seems to be a popular offense, graffiti and the beheading of holy statues have also become crimes of choice. . . . In my state of Louisiana, a delinquent broke the heads off statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary and threw planters and statues at the church’s stained-glass windows,” continued Kennedy.

“The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Yet during the COVID-19 pandemic, people of faith experienced significant interference with the practice of their religion. If the government continues to let these crimes go unpunished, it will further inhibit the people’s practice and enjoyment of their fundamental, constitutional right. Thus, I again ask that the DOJ increase efforts to identify and prosecute criminals targeting Catholic people and property so that the tens of millions of Catholics in our country can continue to practice their faith safely,” Kennedy concluded.

Kennedy’s August 2020 letter is available here.

The letter is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Tracking Bad Actors Act to create a public database of people who have committed financial crimes or have civil liability for financial misdeeds. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) is an original cosponsor of the bill.

“Financial fraudsters prey on investors like vultures. The Tracking Bad Actors Act would help expose these offenders to protect American families and workers against financial fraud,” said Kennedy.

“The world of finance is too opaque, and the Tracking Bad Actors Act would allow people in Wyoming and elsewhere to easily search a database to determine if their accountant or financial manager has broken federal financial laws. I’m proud to work with Senator John Kennedy to help consumers and bring greater transparency to our national financial sector,” said Lummis.

The Tracking Bad Actors Act would require the federal government to create a public database of bad actors convicted or held criminally or civilly liable for securities violations. This database would allow investors and brokerage firms to guard against people known to have engaged in fraud.

This information would be made available to the public, free of charge. To the extent practical, the bill would require the database to contain all enforcement actions agencies have taken.

The database would be operational within three years of the bill’s becoming law.

Text of the Tracking Bad Actors Act is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $16,157,989 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for south Louisiana in disaster relief.

“Louisianian families have suffered a brutal year-and-a-half of hurricanes. They are strong, but they need help, and this $16 million will help our state recover,” said Kennedy.  

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $5,357,821 to Plaquemines Parish for debris removal related to Hurricane Ida.
  • $4,281,255 to the Jefferson Davis Electric Cooperative for state management costs as a result of Hurricane Laura.
  • $3,040,097 to the South Lafourche Levee District for debris removal related to Hurricane Ida.
  • $2,263,025 to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development for debris removal related to Hurricane Zeta.
  • $1,215,791 to Lake Charles Memorial Hospital for emergency protective measures related to Hurricane Delta.