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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) issued the following statements today after three Louisiana nominees were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

The committee approved:

•           Kurt D. Englehardt to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit.

•           Barry W. Ashe to be the U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

•           Brandon J. Fremin to be U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana.

“All of these nominees have stellar legal qualifications and will serve Louisiana well.  They’ve tackled tough legal cases with great skill and knowledge,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “I look forward to congratulating them after the full Senate approves them.”

“Confirming good, qualified judges and U.S. attorneys who will uphold the Constitution is one of our top priorities in the Senate, and Kurt Englehardt, Barry Ashe and Brandon Fremin fit the bill,” said Dr. Cassidy. “I’m glad their nominations are moving forward and urge the full Senate to approve them without delay so they can begin serving the people of Louisiana and our country.”

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Sen. Kennedy (R-La.) Gives Floor Speech On The Benefits Of The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act 

The American economy needed a shot in the arm, and that shot in the arm was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.’ 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate today to highlight the benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  As a direct result of the bill, more than three million Americans have received wage increases, more generous benefits, and bonuses.

“We’re already beginning to see what meaningful tax relief looks like for middle and working-class Americans,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “In just 47 days, well over three million American workers have received wage increases, benefits increases, and bonuses.  Finally, we are on track to see better than average economic growth.  The American economy needed a shot in the arm, and that shot in the arm was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  I think the outlook for our economy is better now than it has been in 10 years.  I can guarantee you that 47 days from now, for millions of Americans and their families, it will look even better.”

Click here or the photo below to watch Sen. Kennedy’s full floor speech:

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R. La.) today introduced bipartisan legislation called the Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act, also known as the CLASSICS Act, with Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.).  Joining Sens. Kennedy and Coons are original co-sponsors Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Corey Booker (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-T.N.).  Their bill will help close a flawed loophole that leaves some of our most cherished artists out of the federal copyright system.

Currently, federal copyright law does not protect sound recordings made before Feb. 15, 1972.  This has resulted in confusion, litigation and an unfair playing field for iconic artists in Louisiana and across the U.S.  The CLASSICS Act would acknowledge these artists’ contributions by compensating them when digital radio services use their recordings.  The act would bring federal law up to speed with the modern age of music platforms.

 “Artists who made music prior to 1972 are getting a raw financial deal because of an antiquated loophole in our legal system.  Our bill, the CLASSICS Act, will give the recognition and compensation these artists deserve.  Louisiana is the birthplace of jazz.  Artists who contributed to that uniquely New Orleans sound are pioneers who deserve the same copyright protections as everyone else,” said Sen. Kennedy. “I will add that, in my opinion, music made after 1972, with the exception of Meatloaf’s work, isn’t as good as the classics anyway.”

“The music performed and recorded by artists before February 15, 1972, is an important part of our shared cultural heritage.  It’s the music many of us listened to growing up on records and cassettes, and it simply is not fair that when we listen to that music today on digital platforms, those legacy artists are not compensated even though their modern counterparts are,” said Senator Coons.  “I’m pleased to join my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to introduce the CLASSICS Act and fix this long-standing disparity, and I thank the many different segments of the music industry that have worked hard to achieve this consensus solution.”

“I want to thank the sponsors of the CLASSICS Act for honoring the rich musical heritage of Louisiana by introducing legislation to ensure that our legacy artists are treated fairly by digital music services.  The work of so many icons of American music who recorded before 1972 is part of the fabric of our cultural history and deserves equal treatment under the law,” said Trombone Shorty, New Orleans-based musician, singer-songwriter, producer.  “It’s their recordings that inspired me and whole generations of artists to make music, and I am grateful to all of the sponsors of the CLASSICS Act for respecting their contributions.”

“As a proud California resident and an artist who recorded music before and after 1972, I’m deeply grateful to the Senate sponsors for this important bill that will finally allow artists like me to get paid by digital radio services for our pre-’72 recordings,” said Mary Wilson of The Supremes.  “It’s unacceptable that songs by my group The Supremes like “Stop! In the Name Of Love” or “Baby Love” – both staples of SiriusXM’s “‘60s on 6” station – are treated with less value than our 1976 hit “I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking” and so many others recorded after 1972. With this bill, we are finally giving legacy artists the respect they deserve.”  

The CLASSICS Act is supported by the American Association of Independent Music, the Recording Industry Association of America, Pandora, musicFIRST, the Internet Association, the Recording Academy, SoundExchange, Screen Actors Guild?American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, American Federation of Musicians, the Content Creators Coalition, the Future of Music Coalition, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, the Living Legends Foundation. 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced $1.76 million in FEMA Public Assistance Grants to help the Livingston Parish Public School System recover from the devastating flooding in 2016.

“This funding will help the Livingston Parish Public School System rebuild after the flood,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “As we continue to restore our communities, it’s imperative that we work together nationally and locally to make sure that we have the necessary funds available.  Every bit helps.”

“The struggles brought by the Great Flood of 2016 have put the Livingston Parish Public School System in a difficult financial position,” said Livingston Parish Public Schools Superintendent Rick Wentzel.  “With assistance from our Congressional delegation as they carry our concerns to the nation's capital and push for federal funding to support our recovery, we continue to move forward thoughtfully to ensure we meet our goals of educating all students and providing the essential services they need to be successful.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined 66 of his colleagues in the U.S. Senate in urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to reauthorize critical funding for community health centers.  There are 35 federally qualified health centers in Louisiana that served more than 375,000 patients last year. 

“Millions of people across the country rely on community health centers to provide quality health care for individuals and families.  These centers provide comprehensive medical services without courting controversy like Planned Parenthood does.  Community health centers are vital to Louisiana families,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “It is imperative that a two-year extension of funding for these centers be included in the government funding bill.”

In addition to Sen. Kennedy, the senators who signed on to the letter include: Roy Blunt (R. Mo.), Debbie Stabenow (MI.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), John Boozman (Ark.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Christopher Coons (Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Steve Daines (Mont.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), John Hoeven (N.D.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Angus King (Maine), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Jack Reed (R.I.), James Risch (Idaho), Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Tina Smith (Minn.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Tom Udall (N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Mark Warner (Va.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), and Roger Wicker (Miss.).

 

February 5, 2018

 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell                        The Honorable Charles Schumer

Majority Leader                                                        Minority Leader

United States Senate                                               United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510                                          Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:

We write to express our concern over funding for community health centers, which expired on September 30, 2017.  We strongly urge you to reauthorize this funding immediately.

Community health centers serve a vital function, providing affordable health care to our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.  They provide quality medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care to more than 27 million patients, including 330,000 of our nation’s veterans and 8 million children, at over 10,000 sites nationwide.  By offering preventative care, treating chronic conditions, and working to fight the opioid epidemic, community health centers are not only greatly improving the health and well-being of those they serve, they are also saving significant taxpayer dollars.  

Without extension of the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), community health centers will lose seventy percent of their funding.  This will result in an estimated 2,800 site closures, the loss of 50,000 jobs, and approximately 9 million Americans losing access to their health care.  Moreover, community health centers operate as small businesses and require a level of predictability to operate and respond to the needs of their communities.  Since the expiration of the CHCF, community health centers have not been able to adequately plan for everything from staffing needs to securing loans for capital projects. In addition, the expiration of the National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education program threatens the ability of health centers to meet their workforce needs.

For more than fifty years, community health centers have experienced strong bipartisan support.  In fact, twenty bipartisan senators cosponsor legislation which reauthorizes funding not only for community health centers but also for the National Health Service Corps.

We look forward to working with you to reach a bipartisan agreement to fund the community health center program and enable our community health centers to continue providing high quality and affordable care to those in need.

 

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Sen Kennedy: ‘We can start by cutting off payments to corpses.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) introduced the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act.  This common sense, bipartisan legislation will remove bureaucratic hurdles that are allowing billions of dollars in improper payments to be made with taxpayer money.  The Social Security Administration alone made $9.8 billion in improper payments in 2015.  Stopping these improper payments will safeguard money for senior citizens.

Joining as cosponsors are Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.).  In the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) have introduced companion legislation.

“It’s pretty simple: Don’t pay dead people.  Taxpayer dollars are precious.  They’re almost as precious as a newborn baby.  We need to be wise stewards of those dollars, especially when we’re struggling with the federal debt so much that we may have to change the Treasury Department’s name to the Debt Department,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “One simple fix would be to stop paying dead people.  An Algiers woman was just indicted for collecting almost $300,000 in Social Security payments meant for her mother who’s been dead for nearly 10 years.  That money never should have been sent in the first place.  This goes beyond party politics, and it needs to stop.”

“Year after year, we have heard about a fundamental set of problems with how government agencies keep track of deceased individuals,” said Senator Carper.  “This legislation would take a number of common-sense steps to fix those problems and, in return, curb hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, in improper payments to people who are ineligible for federal benefits because they are dead.  Simply put, we need to sharpen our pencils and stop making the kind of expensive, avoidable mistakes that lead to wasteful spending and make our agencies and programs vulnerable to fraud and abuse.  I look forward to working with Senators Kennedy, McCaskill and Peters, and our colleagues in the House and Senate to advance this bill and prevent improper payments to dead people in the future.”

Improper payments continue to increase each year despite previous efforts to reduce them.  Federal agencies spent $132 billion on improper payments in 2015 alone.  The Carper-Kennedy bill would give agencies that provide or administer federally funded benefit programs access to death information maintained by the Social Security Administration, among other improvements.

Key provisions in the bill include: 

  • Allowing Federal Agencies 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.  The Act allows all appropriate federal agencies to have access to the complete death data for program integrity purposes, as well as other needs such as public safety and health.
  • Requiring Use of Death Data to Curb Improper Payments. The Act would require that federal agencies make appropriate use of the death data in order to curb improper payments.
  • Improving the Death Data. The legislation would establish procedures to ensure more accurate death data.  For example, the bill requires the SSA to screen for “extremely elderly” individuals.  This is in response to a 2015 Inspector General Report that identified 6.5 million individuals currently listed as being older than 112 years of age as still alive.

 

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today announced a plan that would generate millions of dollars for stalled road and bridge projects across Louisiana without levying tolls or tax increases.  Most significantly, the plan would finally give the state the funding needed to finish the Comite River Diversion Canal in order to protect Louisiana families from further devastating flooding.

Working with the Louisiana Department of Treasury, Sen. Kennedy has developed a plan that calls for leveraging noncash securities (stocks, exchange-traded funds and mutual funds) held by the state’s Unclaimed Property Division to generate nearly $150 million in construction funding.  The current upswing of the stock market makes it a ripe time to convert the noncash securities into cash.  A similar alternative funding mechanism was used to finance work on Interstate-49 North and Interstate-49 South.  The plan would capitalize on the securities without diminishing anyone’s Unclaimed Property.

Based on the current approved cost estimate, $150 million is needed to complete the Comite River Diversion Canal.  Leveraging the noncash securities would free up money for the state’s portion of the total cost as well as for roads and bridges that are in deplorable condition.   

Click here or click the photo below to watch the video.

“We’re not taking away anyone’s Unclaimed Property.  Your lost money will be there whether you wait two years or 20 years to claim it,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “We would simply leverage this asset in order to help pay for projects across the state, including the Comite River Diversion Canal.  Enough Louisiana families have lost their homes because the diversion canal project has been buried in mothballs and bureaucracy for decades.  It’s past time to get this thing done so homeowners don’t have to worry every time there’s a downpour.”

“At the same time, I’m not trying to direct the Governor or the Treasurer on how to do his job.   This is just an idea I’ve been tossing around, and I think it’s a good one,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “If the Governor is willing to support this plan for Comite, then I and the delegation can work at the federal level to secure any remaining funds needed to finish this project once and for all.  But we need to know that these funds will be used for Comite or another worthy infrastructure project.   This is one-time, nonrecurring revenue, and it shouldn’t be used to fill a budget hole created by the state spending more than it takes in year after year.”

The Comite to Mississippi River Diversion Project would connect the Comite River with the Mississippi River through a set of canals in the northern region of East Baton Rouge Parish between Zachary and Baker.  This project could mitigate flooding in Baton Rouge.

Below is a list of other projects that could be considered:

  • Alexandria
    • Upgrades to MacArthur Drive would better connect I-49N and I-49S across Alexandria.  This project has an estimated cost of $110 million and would close off many of the access points along MacArthur Drive to improve traffic flow.
  • Port Fourchon
    • The LA-1 Bridge connecting Golden Meadow with Fourchon is a $343 million project.  This project would create a more reliable connection between Port Fourchon and the rest of Louisiana to transport commerce.
  • Lafayette
    • The Ambassador Caffery to I-90 South Interchange improvement has a cost of approximately $105 million and would improve traffic flow in southeast Lafayette.
  • Greater New Orleans
    • Widening I-10 between William Blvd and Veterans Blvd could alleviate traffic in and out of the western New Orleans.  This project would widen the number of interstate lanes to eight and has an expected cost of $150 million.
  • Shreveport
    • The Jimmie Davis Bridge between Southeast Shreveport and Bossier City needs to be replaced.  This project would provide a new bridge and cost around $60 million.

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today spoke with Chris Cuomo on CNN’s New Day about President Trump’s State of the Union address.

“President Trump’s State of the Union address showed the true strength and fortitude of the American people,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “The American people are better off today than they were a year ago.  We are seeing the economic engine of our nation move forward in ways we wouldn’t have thought possible.  Last night, President Trump laid out an ambitious plan for our country, and I look forward to working with him to achieve these important goals.  We need to lower prescription drug costs.  We need to invest in our nation’s infrastructure.  We need an immigration system that looks like someone designed it on purpose.”

Click here or the image below to watch the Senator’s full interview.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R. La) invited Calvin Franklin to attend the President Trump’s State of the Union address.  Sen. Kennedy and Franklin became friends through Franklin’s role as a Senate custodian through Goodwill’s AbilityOne Program.  Franklin is a 23-year-old Washington, D.C., native who enjoys playing in his local soccer and fast-pitch softball leagues. 

“I am proud to take Calvin as my guest to the State of the Union.  He works hard behind the scenes at the U.S. Senate and deserves a front row seat to history unfolding,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “I’m excited that he will be able to enjoy this moment and look forward to hearing what he thinks about the experience.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued a statement today applauding President Trump for inviting Cajun Navy 2016 founder Jon Bridgers to the State of the Union.

“The results seen by the Cajun Navy 2016’s efforts to help those in need are an example of what can be accomplished when you don’t have stacks of governmental red tape to cut through,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “What the Navy was able to get done in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey is simply incredible.  I cannot think of a better way to honor this group than by inviting its founder, Jon Bridgers, to the State of the Union.”

Jon Bridgers founded the Cajun Navy 2016, as a non-profit rescue and recovery organization to respond to flooding in south Louisiana.  Last year, the Cajun Navy 2016 set out to provide aid to those in Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey.  He and the Cajun Navy 2016 have helped thousands of people across the South, and to this day, they are helping collect resources and donations for those who lost their homes in the storms.

Sen. Kennedy dropping off supplies at one of the Cajun Navy 2016’s drop off points.

 

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