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“Louisiana workers who lost jobs to the pandemic need a lifeline. Our businesses need help to keep their employees on payroll. Parents need tools to keep their kids learning, and they need more options for returning to work safely. Senate Republicans just voted to deliver all this and more. Unfortunately, Democrats again killed the bill and snuffed out hope for the aid Louisiana families so desperately need.”

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) released the following statement after Senate Democrats today blocked a $500 billion coronavirus relief bill aimed at helping families, small businesses, schools and health services.

“Louisiana workers who lost jobs to the pandemic need a lifeline. Our businesses need help to keep their employees on payroll. Parents need tools to keep their kids learning, and they need more options for returning to work safely. Senate Republicans just voted to deliver all this and more. Unfortunately, Democrats again killed the bill and snuffed out hope for the aid Louisiana families so desperately need. Why are Democrats so intent on stopping America’s economic recovery in its tracks?” said Kennedy.

The relief package would inject $259 billion of liquidity into the financial system, which would support loans to eligible businesses, states and municipalities. The bill includes crucial liability protections for hospitals, health care workers, businesses, schools, nonprofit institutions and local government agencies.­­

The bill focuses relief on both workers and employers. It provides $300 per week in additional federally funded unemployment benefits through Dec. 27, 2020 to individuals who qualified for benefits under the CARES Act. The bill also creates a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and simplifies the forgiveness process for current and future PPP borrowers with loans of $150,000 or less.

The legislation provides $105 billion to help all students in elementary, secondary and higher education continue to learn. The bill gives an additional $5 billion to support child care providers so that parents can return to work while keeping their children safe.

The bill makes America more prepared for pandemics by increasing the country’s ability to manufacture vaccines and therapeutics domestically, providing $31 billion for vaccine, therapeutic and diagnostic development and distribution. The package would increase state and national stockpiles of medical supplies for public health emergencies and provides $16 billion for testing, contact tracing and surveillance in states.

The bill provides $20 billion to address coronavirus-related impacts on our farmers, ranchers, growers and processors. In addition, it authorizes $500 million for direct federal assistance to fishers, fishery participants and communities impacted by the pandemic.

“Thousands of utility linemen are putting their safety at risk to repair Louisiana’s electrical grid after Hurricanes Laura and Delta devastated our state. In my book, these heroes are first responders, so my bill would legally add utility line technicians to Homeland Security’s list of first-responder occupations. I hope my colleagues join me in giving these brave linemen the recognition they deserve by moving this bill forward.”

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced a bill to revise the Department of Homeland Security’s definition of “emergency response providers” to include utility line technicians. The definition in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 grants first-responder status to an array of occupations such as law enforcement, emergency public safety personnel and fire and medical rescuers, but does not currently include utility linemen. 

“Thousands of utility linemen are putting their safety at risk to repair Louisiana’s electrical grid after Hurricanes Laura and Delta devastated our state. In my book, these heroes are first responders, so my bill would legally add utility line technicians to Homeland Security’s list of first-responder occupations. I hope my colleagues join me in giving these brave linemen the recognition they deserve by moving this bill forward,” said Kennedy.

This fall, Hurricanes Laura and Delta destroyed thousands of Louisiana’s utility poles, lines and substations, particularly in the southwest portion of the state. More than 8,300 utility line technicians are working in disaster conditions to rebuild electrical infrastructure across Louisiana.

There’s still more Congress can do to support Americans as they reignite our economy, and Senate Republicans just voted—again—to send aid to small businesses around the country. It’s sad but not surprising that so many of my Democratic colleagues today blocked another round of PPP funding, even though the Paycheck Protection Program has supported at least 800,000 jobs in Louisiana alone.”

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) released the following statement after Senate Democrats today blocked the Continuing Paycheck Protection Program Act, which would increase support for small businesses.

“The Paycheck Protection Program has helped Louisiana’s small businesses keep their doors open and workers on the payroll during the coronavirus pandemic. There’s still more Congress can do to support Americans as they reignite our economy, and Senate Republicans just voted—again—to send aid to small businesses around the country. It’s sad but not surprising that so many of my Democratic colleagues today blocked another round of PPP funding, even though the Paycheck Protection Program has supported at least 800,000 jobs in Louisiana alone,” said Kennedy.

The Continuing Paycheck Protection Program Act provides $257.7 billion to restart the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and allows small businesses to receive a second PPP loan. The bill sets aside $25 billion for entities with 10 or fewer employees and $10 billion for loans made by small community lenders, including community financial institutions, credit unions, insured depository institutions and Farm Credit System institutions.

The Continuing Paycheck Protection Program Act also simplifies the forgiveness application process for current and future PPP borrowers receiving loans of $150,000 or less. The bill expands eligible expenses to include supplier costs, personal protective equipment, property damage costs resulting from vandalism or looting and certain operations expenditures.

In addition, the bill gives the SBA authority to commit $780 billion in PPP loans. 

The Continuing Paycheck Protection Program Act increases transparency by giving $50 million for the SBA to audit loans.

“Hardworking Louisianians have already been defrauded, and now the system is kicking them while they’re down. The bottom line is that neither the receiver nor the court has the authority to prevent men and women from fairly asserting their claims against Stanford and his no-good sidekicks. The court must reverse this decision and restore the victims’ right to recover what Stanford stole from them.”

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), joined by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), today filed an amicus brief in the case of Zacarias vs. Janvey. The case asserts the rights of victims of Robert Allen Stanford, who orchestrated the second-largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.

Zacarias vs. Janvey seeks to overturn a Fifth Circuit Court ruling that grants receivers—who are appointed by courts to oversee victims’ claims for restitution—the power to block individual investors from pursuing their claims against Stanford and his accomplices. The senators’ brief argues that the receiver, Ralph Janvey, and the district court have exceeded the judicial power the U.S. Constitution and Congress have granted them.

“The court appointed Mr. Janvey to help make Allen Stanford’s victims whole again. Instead, he’s keeping those victims from pursuing justice on their own. He’s failing to deliver on his duties. Hardworking Louisianians have already been defrauded, and now the system is kicking them while they’re down. The bottom line is that neither the receiver nor the court has the authority to prevent men and women from fairly asserting their claims against Stanford and his no-good sidekicks. The court must reverse this decision and restore the victims’ right to recover what Stanford stole from them,” said Kennedy.

In 2012, Stanford was convicted for leading a Ponzi scheme in which he sold $8 billion in fraudulent certificates of deposit from his offshore bank, Stanford International Bank. More than 1,000 Louisianians from Baton Rouge, Covington and Lafayette lost significant amounts of their life savings to the fraud. Since the Ponzi scheme was uncovered, less than five percent of the $8 billion has been returned to the victims.

“A receiver—as a creature of the district court—may not wield powers that exceed those properly granted to the district court itself.  In rubber stamping the receiver’s request to bar claims that the receiver had no standing to assert itself, the district court has strayed beyond the judicial powers granted to it in Article III and by Congress. Such actions constitute judicial law-making and usurp Congress’s legislative power,” says the senators’ brief.

The text of the brief can be found here.

“We claim you in Louisiana. We’re proud of the fact, in Louisiana, that you were born in Metairie—a suburb of New Orleans. . . . I know your mom and dad still live there, and we’re very proud of you and your career.” 

“I don’t think our founders intended members of the U.S. Supreme Court to try to rewrite our statutes or the U.S. Constitution every other Thursday to prosecute a social or an economic agenda that they can’t get by the voters. And that goes on in America every day. We’ve reached a point where one single, solitary federal judge, in a limited venue, can enjoin a federal statute or an executive order of the president of the United States for the entire country. And our founders never intended that.” 

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) delivered the following opening remarks during today’s hearing on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to become an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Video of the senator’s full statement is available here, and excerpts are below.

“We claim you in Louisiana. We’re proud of the fact, in Louisiana, that you were born in Metairie—a suburb of New Orleans. We’re proud of the fact that you got a solid education at St. Mary’s Dominican High School. Come back and visit us. I know your mom and dad still live there, and we’re very proud of you and your career.”

“I hope we can talk about something else and that’s the role of the federal judiciary in American life. Now look, Judge, I’m not naïve. I understand this thing can turn sour real fast. We all watched the hearings for Justice Kavanaugh. It was a freak show. It looked like the cantina bar scene out of Star Wars. And I know, for someone unaccustomed to it, that it hurts to be called a racist. I think it’s one of the worst things you can call an American. I know that it hurts to be called a white colonialist, and I know it must hurt for someone of deep Christian faith like yourself to be called a religious bigot and to have it implied that, because you are a devout Christian, that you’re somehow unfit for public service. . . . It is unfair for my colleagues to suggest—some overtly, some more indirectly—that, if you’re put on the U.S. Supreme Court, you will be on a mission from God to deny health care coverage for pre-existing conditions for every American. I know that seems preposterous to you, and it seems that way to you because it is.”

“I think our founders intended federal judges to call balls and strikes. I don’t think our founders intended federal judges to be able to redraw the strike zone.”

“Politicians get to vote their preferences under our democracy. Judges do not.”

“I don’t think our founders intended members of the U.S. Supreme Court to try to rewrite our statutes or the U.S. Constitution every other Thursday to prosecute a social or an economic agenda that they can’t get by the voters. And that goes on in America every day. We’ve reached a point where one single, solitary federal judge, in a limited venue, can enjoin a federal statute or an executive order of the president of the United States for the entire country. And our founders never intended that.”

“In 2016, floods damaged many of Louisiana’s roads and highways, and this grant will restore infrastructure to make travel safer for communities in Bossier.”

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced a $23,816,218 FEMA grant to repair roads damaged by severe flooding in Bossier, La.

“In 2016, floods damaged many of Louisiana’s roads and highways, and this grant will restore infrastructure to make travel safer for communities in Bossier,” said Kennedy.

This funding is provided under the authority of the Robert T. Stafford Act. Repair costs include placement of geotextile fabric, lime stabilization, asphalt placement, construction design, surveying, mobilization, temporary barricades and equipment.

“Louisiana’s ports fuel much of the nation’s commerce. This critical funding is great news for Avondale, and, importantly, it will support jobs on the Westbank.”

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $9,880,000 in funding from the Department of Transportation to convert an aging wharf at the historic Avondale shipyard site to a modern cargo dock.

“Louisiana’s ports fuel much of the nation’s commerce. This critical funding is great news for Avondale, and, importantly, it will support jobs on the Westbank,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy in June wrote a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao asking her to consider Jefferson Parish’s application for the Avondale Dock Conversion Project.

This funding will support an estimated 2,000 new jobs, improve traffic flow and allow the Avondale Industrial Marine District’s port facility to handle cargo more effectively from the Westbank.

 

“This case is about fairness, plain and simple. Capitol Hill Baptist Church is right to ask that houses of worship receive the same treatment Mayor Bowser has given peaceful protestors under her coronavirus restrictions. . . . If the First Amendment gets trampled in our nation’s capital, it’s under threat everywhere.”

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, today joined fellow senators in filing an amicus brief supporting Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s position in the case of Capitol Hill Baptist Church v. Bowser.  

“This case is about fairness, plain and simple. Capitol Hill Baptist Church is right to ask that houses of worship receive the same treatment Mayor Bowser has given peaceful protestors under her coronavirus restrictions. The First Amendment protects both religious expression and peaceful demonstrations.

“If the mayor believes one group can assemble safely, there’s no legitimate health reason to curb the freedoms of another group whose rights are equally sacred in the eyes of the Constitution. I hope the mayor stops discriminating against religious groups immediately and embraces the rights of every house of worship in Washington, D.C. If the First Amendment gets trampled in our nation’s capital, it’s under threat everywhere,” said Kennedy.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 7 on the motion for a preliminary injunction.

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government exercises oversight over the District of Columbia and its federal funding.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) led the brief. Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) also joined the brief.

Background:

Mayor Muriel Bowser has issued an executive order banning outdoor church services of more than 100 individuals even if worshippers are socially distanced and wearing masks. Capitol Hill Baptist Church is located in Washington, D.C. and has complied with Mayor Bowser’s executive order prohibiting large scale gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Capitol Hill Baptist Church has applied for a waiver of the 100-person limit in order to hold services outside, but the mayor’s office denied its application, stating that waivers for houses of worship are being categorically denied. Since the executive order went into effect, however, Bowser and the District of Columbia have supported other large outdoor protests and gatherings.

The amicus brief argues that the District of Columbia’s denial of Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s waiver runs contradictory to the mayor and city’s approval of other large-scale gatherings and protests, and this selective enforcement infringes upon the church’s rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment. 

The brief further argues that the District is intentionally treating houses of worship differently than other groups, and this violates the church’s Fifth Amendment right to due process by denying it equal protection under the law. 

According to the brief, “the Mayor’s discrimination against houses of worship rests on a mistaken, and unconstitutional, premise that one particular exercise of free speech—a church’s desire to gather together and worship their God—is subordinate to other First Amendment-protected activities. This Court should enforce the First Amendment’s promise of free speech for all by issuing a preliminary injunction to prevent the Mayor and the District of Columbia from prohibiting outdoor religious services that adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.”

The brief also underscores the right to peaceful protests, citing Justice Alito, who wrote, “Public protests, of course, are themselves protected by the First Amendment, and any efforts to restrict them would be subject to judicial review.”

The text of the brief can be found here.

“Social media has many virtues, but too often it divides people by feeding them polarizing information—without their awareness or consent. . . . My bill would give Americans more control over their privacy and online experience.”

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) welcomed the introduction of the House companion of S.4756, the Don’t Push My Buttons Act. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) introduced the legislation, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is the bill’s lead co-sponsor.

“Social media has many virtues, but too often it divides people by feeding them polarizing information—without their awareness or consent. Platforms that incite conflict just to increase their ad revenue have a duty to inform users of that manipulation. My bill would give Americans more control over their privacy and online experience, and I applaud Congressman Gosar for introducing its companion in the House today,” said Kennedy.

“Tech companies are making users the product. Google and others are collecting user data and manipulating users, often unwittingly. Some may find content curation options convenient, but many users are creeped out and manipulated by data collection and content curation regarding personal habits, preferences, or beliefs. The Don’t Push My Buttons Act empowers users to choose, or decline, custom content curation based on collected personal data, empowering users to protect themselves from unwanted manipulation online,” said Gosar.

The Don’t Push My Buttons Act would narrow the scope of U.S. Code 47, Section 230 immunity by denying such immunity to platforms that use algorithms that attempt to optimize engagement by funneling information to users that polarizes their views, unless a user opts into such an algorithm.

The internet platform has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that a user of its service knowingly and intentionally elected to receive the content covered in this bill.

The text of Kennedy’s bill is available here. Kennedy’s speech about the bill is available here.

“Mike Foster worked hard to create jobs and improve education across Louisiana. I had the privilege of serving in his administration and seeing firsthand why so many Louisianians admire him. Becky and I are incredibly sad about his passing, but we are so happy to have known him. We are praying for Alice and the entire Foster family.”