WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) urged Ambassador-at-Large in the Office of International Religious Freedom, Rashad Hussain, and Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Ian Campbell, the current leading U.S. diplomat in Finland, to closely examine the Finnish government’s criminal prosecutions of Rev. Dr. Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen for expressing their religious beliefs.
“The origins and circumstances of the criminal prosecution against Rev. Dr. Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen are clear: these Christians are on trial for their faith—which is, apparently, incompatible with Finnish law. Even more concerning, Rev. Dr. Pohjola is a Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, and Dr. Päivi Räsänen is a Member of the Finnish Parliament. If these Finnish leaders are unable to engage in freedom of speech and the free exercise of their Christian faith, what ultimately protects ordinary people exercising their faith in Finland and elsewhere from similar abuses of power at the hands of intolerant governments?” wrote Kennedy.
Kennedy noted Congress’s 1998 passage of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), which establishes an annual report on international religious freedom, detailing the status of religious freedom in foreign countries, violations of religious freedom by foreign governments, and the United States’ efforts and policies in support of religious freedom.
“Under IRFA’s authority, the Office of International Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State was established to promote ‘universal respect for freedom of religion or belief for all’ because the United States ‘recognizes religious freedom as an inalienable right and is therefore committed to its preservation and advancement for all,’” wrote Kennedy.
“I ask that you stand up for religious freedom and stand against any erosion of this fundamental right—no matter where this erosion may occur,” concluded Kennedy.
While this criminal prosecution began in April 2021 and focuses on events occurring years earlier, the case is only now approaching a final verdict at trial.
The letter is available here.
Mar 01 2022
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) released the following statement in response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address.
“Here's the unvarnished truth as I see it: President Biden has mismanaged Covid. President Biden has mismanaged the economy. President Biden has opened up our southern border, and President Biden has sent inflation sky-high. President Biden has forfeited America's energy independence. President Biden's Justice Department has treated caring parents like criminals, while his tolerance for the Defund the Police movement has helped turn our cities and our streets over to criminals. President Biden has mismanaged Afghanistan, and I pray he doesn't mismanage Russia’s war of aggression.
“And tonight, I heard President Biden say that he aims to stay the course. Isn’t that just like Washington, D.C.? Figure out what doesn't work, and keep doing it.
“For Louisiana families, that’s bad news. It’s bad news at work. It’s bad news at the grocery store. It’s bad news at home, and it’s bad news at the gas pump. It’s bad news for the education of our children. It’s bad news for the security of our country.
“American sovereignty and national security depend on America’s energy independence. We know that. That’s not a startling realization—that’s just a known fact that we all understand. And that depends, in part, on Louisiana’s oil and natural gas resources—resources that this president continues to ignore. He also continues to ignore the good jobs that oil and gas create.
“Right now, the Biden administration doesn’t seem to accept or address the reality of a new Axis of Evil. China and Russia’s de facto alliance anchors a group of bad actors—of outlaws, of tyrants—that are getting bolder and more aggressive every day.
“Because of the president’s own policies at home and abroad, inflation continues to surge at the grocery store—we know that—and at the gas pump, and at the clothing store, and everywhere, and I didn’t hear a solution from him tonight. He still wants to spend more and borrow more.
“What President Biden doesn’t want to do is secure our border. I didn’t hear a plan for doing that tonight, either. We don’t know who’s coming across our border into our country. We have absolutely no idea, and President Biden doesn’t seem to care about the drug or human trafficking that rage on.
“Meanwhile, our kids—we’re only as valuable as our children, folks—our kids are falling behind because their schools were closed for far too long. The president did a whole lot more to intimidate parents than to get teachers back in the classroom.
“A better future for these kids and for all Americans demands principled, clear-eyed, tough leadership, and I hope the American people see some soon.”
View Kennedy’s full statement here.
Kennedy, Sullivan call on Biden to strengthen American power in the face of Russia, China ahead of SOTU
Mar 01 2022
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and more than 20 other senators in urging President Biden to boost defense spending and reverse his anti-energy policies so the U.S. would be better positioned to compete against Russia and China. The letter comes ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address, which the president will deliver tonight.
“. . . as our nation prepares for this new era of authoritarian aggression led by the dictators in Russia and China, we have serious concerns that we encourage you to address in tonight’s State of the Union and thereafter act upon immediately,” the senators wrote.
“First, you must submit a robust military budget that significantly increases defense spending to reflect the realities of our geostrategic competition with China and Russia. Your Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget proposed significant real cuts to the Department of Defense when, at the same time, you proposed massive increases to almost every other federal agency and department. Putin and Xi were undoubtedly encouraged that the President of the United States proposed significant budget cuts to his own armed services,” the senators continued.
“Second, your Administration’s energy policies—which focus on restricting, delaying, and killing the production of American energy—have had the predictable but catastrophic effect of driving up energy prices for American working families, increasing pinks slips for American energy workers, and significantly empowering our adversaries, especially Putin, who has used energy as a weapon for decades,” continued the senators.
The senators pointed out that the Biden administration has worked to disarm America’s energy sector and expressed hope that Biden will make a course correction in his State of the Union address. They encouraged the president to take several actions to reverse his anti-energy policies, protect America’s national security and support American allies, including:
- Rescind the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline.
- Commit to fast-tracking and producing American energy on federal lands.
- Direct the Department of the Interior to finalize a new five-year offshore lease plan by June 30, 2022.
- Sanction Russian oil and gas exports to America and U.S. allies.
- Issue all pending export licenses and announce an initiative to surge American liquefied natural gas exports to America’s allies and partners in Europe who are dependent on Russian energy.
“The American people are looking to their President to rise to this critical moment. Our national security, global stability for ourselves and our allies, as well as the prosperity of every American family are on the line,” concluded the senators.
The letter is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) and more than 30 other lawmakers in urging Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to advocate that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prevent member countries from facilitating exchanges of Russia’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). The lawmakers also oppose any additional SDR allocations that would bolster Russia’s reserves as it wages a war of aggression against Ukraine.
“The hostile invasion of Ukraine this week demonstrates why the IMF should have never approved its latest $650 billion general allocation of SDRs in August 2021. As Republicans have repeatedly raised, general SDR allocations are not targeted and have no conditions on what the SDRs can be used for,” the lawmakers wrote.
“The Biden Administration’s support for the IMF’s $650 billion general allocation, of which more than $17 billion went to Russia, ran counter to U.S. sanctions against Moscow even before the invasion of Ukraine. We cannot allow these reserve assets to help the regime withstand the latest sanctions announced by the President, let alone offer additional billions through further allocations,” continued the lawmakers.
“As the largest shareholder of the IMF, the United States has a responsibility to ensure that the Fund is not misused to support Russia’s warmongering in Ukraine. We urge you to take all necessary measures to prevent this,” they concluded.
The IMF created the SDR as an international reserve asset to supplement IMF member countries’ official reserves. The IMF distributes these assets to member countries based on each country’s IMF quota, which depends on its size relative to the global economy. Member countries receive SDRs and can exchange them for U.S. dollars or for the currencies of other IMF members.
In addition to this letter, Kennedy introduced the No Dollars for Dictators Act in June 2021 to prohibit the IMF’s SDR allocations from going to perpetrators of genocide and state sponsors of terrorism unless Congress authorizes the allocation.
The lawmakers also directed the letter to Acting U.S. Executive Director of the IMF Elizabeth Shortino.
The IMF distributes SDRs according to each country’s economic standing in the global economy.
While some have claimed that SDRs offer the U.S. a no-cost way to assist poor countries, this is demonstrably false. The $650 billion IMF allocation made in August 2021 will require the U.S. to issue debt in order to cover loans issued through SDRs. The U.S. will have to pay interest on such debt, and that interest will exceed any interest that the U.S. may receive on the loans it issues.
There is no requirement that countries—including Russia, China and Iran—that receive loans from the U.S. through SDRs ever repay the principal. As a result, the financial burden of these loans will fall on the U.S. taxpayer.
The letter is available here.
Feb 25 2022
“I look forward to meeting with Judge Jackson and learning more about her.”
MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) released the following statement upon Russia’s waging war against Ukraine:
“Putin is invading and waging war on a sovereign nation and its people. There’s no room for weakness in response. President Biden should impose swift, comprehensive, crippling sanctions on Russia. The only path to peace is through unwavering strength.”
MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $5,379,934 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for south Louisiana in disaster relief related to Hurricane Ida.
“Louisiana is still suffering from the tremendous damage that Hurricane Ida inflicted on our state, and these funds will help our state recover,” said Kennedy.
The FEMA aid will fund the following:
- $4,280,747 to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office for emergency measures related to Hurricane Ida.
- $1,099,187 to the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Department for emergency protective measures related to Hurricane Ida.
Feb 24 2022
MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today addressed the United States’ response to Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine. Key excerpts from his remarks are below:
“Weakness invites the wolves. That’s always been true, and we’re seeing it with the Russian aggression—Putin’s aggression—into Ukraine. The American record in standing up to Putin has not been good under Democratic presidents.
“President Obama, Vice President Biden, and President Biden have blinked with respect to past Russian aggression in Belarus, in Crimea, in Syria. The debacle in Afghanistan, I think, emboldened Putin.
“What do we need to do now? We need to teach Putin about time travel and knock him into next week. I’m not talking about a war. I’m talking about expelling Putin, not just from international markets, but from the international community. We need to make him a pariah.”
. . .
“All of the world’s people who love democracy need to stand together and say, ‘No,’ to Putin, that, ‘If you want to act like this, you can’t be part of the international community, and you can’t be part of the international markets.’ We need to crush the ruble, we need to stop all exports to Russia, and we need to make sure Putin knows we mean business.
“This will send not just a message to Putin, but to President Xi in China, to the Ayatollah in Iran. I think that Putin and President Xi in China and the Ayatollah are working together. This is a defining moment in history.”
. . .
“We’ve got to sanction not just Russian banks, not just Russian governmental officials, but we’ve got to sanction all the oligarchs and plutocrats who keep Putin in power and who have money hidden all over the world, including in the United States.
“We need to seize their assets, including Putin’s assets in the United States, and don’t think that he doesn’t—through surrogates—own assets here.
“We also need to throw Russia out of the SWIFT financial system—it’s an international payment system, of which Russia is a part. We need to throw him out of that.”
. . .
“One more thing: President Biden needs to stop his frontal assault on oil and gas, on pipelines, on LNG.
“He needs to open up drilling in the Gulf. . . . He needs to open up every pipeline we’ve got, including the Keystone Pipeline. He needs to call all of his regulators and tell them to stop telling banks not to loan capital to the oil and gas industry.”
. . .
“For the last 14 months, President Biden and his people have done everything they could to shut down oil and gas in this country. If the president doesn’t reverse that immediately, we’re going to see $6, $7, $8, $9, $10/gallon gas, and America’s going to be weak as rainwater.”
View Kennedy’s complete remarks here.
MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $29.9 million in National Telecommunications and Information Administration funds to expand broadband in Acadiana.
“Broadband expansion is crucial for Louisianians who need high-speed internet. This $29.9 million will help improve broadband access for Louisiana families in Acadiana,” said Kennedy.
The $29.9 million will fund the Acadiana Regional Public/Private Partnership project to support broadband deployment in Acadiana and serve more than 22,000 households. The funding was provided through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
Feb 23 2022
MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and the Louisiana congressional delegation urged leaders on the Senate and House Appropriations Committees to dedicate additional disaster recovery funds for Louisiana.
“This is an urgent crisis: families across Louisiana are struggling to house people and meet their basic life-sustaining needs today. We respectfully request swift action to make good on the promise of the down payment in the September Continuing Resolution and appropriate additional supplemental funding dollars for unmet needs in Louisiana. South Louisiana has been hit by unprecedented disaster and needs the support of the Congress to put them on the path to a full recovery,” the lawmakers wrote.
Congress must pass an additional government funding bill by March 11, 2022, and a year-and-a-half of natural disasters—including a historic winter storm, severe flooding and Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Zeta and Ida—has left Louisiana in need of additional recovery aid.
The delegation also called for Congress to invest more in pre-disaster mitigation and protection from future floods.
Kennedy also spoke on the Senate floor ahead of the most recent funding extension to urge Congress not to forget Louisianians’ need for disaster relief aid in the upcoming government funding deal.
Kennedy fought for nearly $600 million in disaster relief to be included in the short-term funding bill that became law after passing the Senate on Sept. 30, 2021. The legislation also extended the National Flood Insurance Program without raising the debt limit. This law provided $595 million to Louisiana.
Kennedy is the only member of the Louisiana delegation who sits on an appropriations committee.
- On Feb. 16, the Senate Small Business Committee passed the Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act, which would allow rural homeowners, renters and small businesses to access disaster relief more easily in the wake of a natural disaster. Kennedy helped introduce the bill.
- On Oct. 19, 2021, the Senate passed the State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act, which Kennedy helped introduce. The bill would allow state governments to use unspent pandemic relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund to provide relief for natural disaster victims and to invest in infrastructure needs. The bill is waiting for a vote in the House.
- On Aug. 2, 2021, Kennedy offered an amendment to the Senate’s infrastructure bill providing $1.1 billion in disaster relief to Louisianians recovering from Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta. The Senate blocked the amendment.
- On July 21, 2021, Kennedy joined Louisiana’s congressional delegation in urging the Office of Management and Budget to prioritize Louisiana’s request for supplemental disaster relief.
- On July 15, 2021, Kennedy introduced and asked the Senate to pass the Gulf Coast Hurricane Aid Act of 2021. The bill would provide $1.1 billion in disaster relief to Louisianians recovering from historic storms. The Senate blocked the bill’s passage.
- On May 18, 2021, Kennedy urged President Biden to provide supplemental disaster relief for southwest Louisiana.
- On Sept. 4, 2020, Kennedy wrote to Senate leadership, Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), to request that the Senate consider emergency supplemental aid to help Louisiana residents recover from Hurricane Laura.
The letter is available here.