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WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans in asking Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray for answers regarding Malik Faisal Akram.

A British national, Akram held four people hostage at the Beth Israel Congregation in Colleyville, Texas, for hours on Jan. 15 and reportedly “was the subject of a short, low-level investigation by the U.K.’s MI5 domestic intelligence agency in the second half of 2020.” The investigation was “based on information that he may have been involved in Islamist terrorism.”  

“In light of the numerous red flags in Akram’s record, we are extremely concerned about the adequacy of our visa adjudication and admission screening protocols. As Akram’s own brother told reporters: ‘How had he gotten into America? . . . Why was he granted a visa? How did he land at J.F.K. airport and not get stopped for one second?’” the senators wrote to Mayorkas and Blinken.

The senators asked Mayorkas and Blinken to list all U.S. nonimmigrant or immigrant visas that Akram possessed and to provide the most recent date that Akram was admitted to the U.S.

The lawmakers requested a number of records including a copy of Akram’s “A-File,” and raised questions regarding issues such as the security information sharing agreement between the U.S. and U.K. under the Visa Waiver Program. They further asked detailed questions about the process through which Akram apparently entered the U.S. without significant scrutiny, especially in light of previous concerns about terrorists utilizing the Visa Waiver Program.

The senators also wrote to Wray asking whether the FBI considers Akram to have been an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist, what kinds of communications the FBI had with the U.K. regarding Akram prior to the synagogue attack and whether the FBI placed Akram under surveillance upon his arrival in the U.S. They also raised questions about what information relating to Akram was contained in available databases, including his criminal history and data shared by international partners.

The letter to Mayorkas and Blinken is available here.

The letter to Wray is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) in asking Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General Joseph Cuffari to investigate the Biden administration policies that have produced the worst border crisis in U.S. history. 

“Multiple sources have confirmed to Congress that the Biden Administration was warned by career professionals that the rapid implementation of several border and immigration policies would lead to a predictable surge at the border. Our concern is that the Biden Administration proceeded to implement these policies despite the harm they would cause to our border and immigration system. Moreover, the Biden Administration did not take adequate steps to prepare for the resulting surge and as a result, a humanitarian crisis has developed,” the senators wrote.

“Congress and the American people deserve to know if the border crisis was preventable or even worse, intentional,” they continued.

The senators asked Cuffari to provide a comprehensive review and report of the crisis and related records. The request includes “[a]ll information provided to the Biden transition team regarding the border, specifically what information was conveyed either in briefings, documents, or communications regarding the consequences of undoing the former Trump Administration’s immigration and border security measures.”

The senators also requested the total number of illegal aliens that the government has processed and released into the interior of the U.S. as well as a breakdown of all vetting procedures used before the administration releases illegal aliens into the interior of the country.

Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) also signed the letter.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and more than 80 other members of the House of Representatives signed the letter as well.

Background

In March 2021, Kennedy visited the U.S.-Mexico border to witness the effects that the Biden administration’s reckless immigration policies are having on America and on vulnerable women and children at the hands of cartels and human traffickers.

That March, Kennedy also introduced the Empowering Immigration Courts Act, the Terrorist Deportation Act, the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act and the Criminal Alien Removal Clarification Act to empower immigration courts and make dangerous aliens deportable.

In November 2021, Kennedy questioned DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the Biden administration’s mishandling of the immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The letter is available here.

 

Watch Kennedy’s comments here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today released the following message addressing this year’s March for Life in Washington, DC:

“When I was a kid growing up in Zachary, I’ll always remember that my dad would say, ‘Son, you will never know love until you have a child. It’s not like the love for a parent, or the love for a spouse, or the love for a brother or sister. It’s special.’ 

“And of course, I was a kid, and I always used to say, ‘Oh, sure, Dad.’ Boy, Dad was right. And I found out when God smiled on Becky and me and we got our son Preston when he was just a few days old.

“It gives me great hope to know that so many Americans are united on the issue of defending innocent, unborn life. And I want to thank everyone—every single one of you—who is coming to our nation's capital today for playing such an important role in this historic, this noble struggle. You—we—are all fighting to give a voice to the voiceless. What’s more American than that? And to defend the defenseless. What’s more American than that?

“Now, advocates for abortion claim that they’re fighting for the right to choose—but babies don’t choose to die, and human life is precious. It is so precious. It has value whether it’s 82 years-old or 82 seconds-old. 

“My prayers are for all life, and my prayers are with every American marching today for life. God bless you, and thank you, God, for life.”

Video of Kennedy’s comments is available here

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $5,748,068 in grant funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for debris removal from Hurricane Laura in Westlake, La.

“Hurricane Laura hit Westlake hard, and many are still rebuilding. I am grateful for resources that will help southwest Louisiana continue to recover,” said Kennedy.

FEMA awarded the city of Westlake two grants to cover the cost of debris removal. The first totals $4,161,248 and covers 90 percent of the project. The second $1,586,820 grant funds 100 percent of the project. These funds will cover the cost of contract labor and tools needed to complete debris removal projects.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and other Judiciary Committee senators in asking Attorney General Merrick Garland and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona for answers regarding the National School Boards Association (NSBA) letter sent to President Joe Biden in September 2021. That letter prompted a Justice Department (DOJ) memo that directed the FBI to investigate parents protesting at local school board meetings.

“We now have reason to believe personnel at the NSBA coordinated its September 29 letter with, or acted at the behest of, the sitting Secretary of Education, as well as White House personnel—in a letter that asks for the PATRIOT Act to be used against American parents,” the senators wrote to Garland.

The lawmakers cited a recently uncovered email thread between two NSBA officials that links “writing a letter to provide information to the White House” to “a request by Secretary Cardona.”

“We are concerned about the prospect of the Secretary of Education requesting that a trade association write a letter to the President of the United States so that you, the Attorney General, might have the requisite cover to deploy federal law enforcement in such a questionable manner,” the senators continued.

The senators asked Garland several questions, including when the attorney general first learned of Cardona’s request and why the Counterterrorism Division of the FBI is administering a threat tag entitled “EDUOFFICIALS.”

“By involving the National Security Division and the Counterterrorism Division of the FBI in local matters, you have created widespread fear that the national security apparatus of the United States is keeping tabs on them,” the senators concluded.

Kennedy and the other Republican members of the Judiciary Committee also sent a letter to Cardona questioning him about his involvement with the NSBA.

“It appears that you, the Secretary of Education, instructed a trade association to write a letter to the President of the United States so that the Attorney General might have the requisite cover to deploy federal law enforcement in a manner so as to scare American parents out of speaking freely at school-board meetings and petitioning their local governments,” the senators wrote to Cardona.

The senators previously wrote letters to Garland on Dec. 6 and Oct. 7, 2021 criticizing the DOJ crackdown on parents’ freedom of speech and asking Garland to withdraw the memo targeting parents. 

The letter to Garland is available here.

To letter to Cardona is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today released the statement below after the Senate failed to pass legislation imposing sanctions on the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline. This pipeline would make America’s European allies more dependent on Russian energy, particularly liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“America was the top supplier of Europe’s LNG imports for months in 2021—and Louisiana produces most of the LNG that the U.S. exports. But instead of playing to America’s strengths or promoting security for our freedom-loving allies, President Biden is tightening the Kremlin’s stranglehold on Europe’s energy. The Senate vote today makes America’s friends more dependent on Russian gas precisely while President Putin is salivating over Ukraine like he’s the lord of eastern Europe,” said Kennedy.

The Biden administration has previously waived sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and has opposed legislation that would sanction the Russian pipeline.

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) today introduced the Expanding Access to Capital for Rural Job Creators Act to examine problems small businesses in rural areas face when they attempt to access capital.

“Louisiana’s small business owners create jobs and strengthen rural economies. This bill takes a key step in overcoming the hurdles small businesses face in getting the capital they need to pay their bills, make payroll and meet needs in their communities,” said Kennedy.

“Access to capital is essential to the economic health and growth of rural communities in Minnesota and across the country. Rural small businesses often face disproportionate obstacles when trying to secure capital to develop and grow their businesses. This legislation would help rural small businesses overcome these hurdles and strengthen our rural economies,” said Smith.

The Expanding Access to Capital for Rural Job Creators Act would require the Securities and Exchange Commission Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation to submit an annual report on the unique challenges small businesses in rural areas face when trying to secure capital. Sufficient capital is key for starting or expanding many businesses, which expands the job market throughout rural America.

Text of the Expanding Access to Capital for Rural Job Creators Act is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) today introduced the Bear Poaching Elimination Act, which would help protect bears from poaching by ending the trade of their internal organs.

“Poaching bears to harvest their organs is cruel, and it’s destroying bear populations. The Bear Poaching Elimination Act would help keep these animals safe by making it harder for animal abusers to profit from their brutality,” said Kennedy.

“The gruesome bear viscera commercial trade leads to unacceptable abuse of these bears, and I’m proud to join Senator Kennedy to introduce this bipartisan bill that would help put an end to this inhumane practice in the United States and help slow bear poaching and the decline of bear populations,” said Duckworth.

In Asia, thousands of bears suffer in small cages so abusers can extract their bile for use in cosmetics and medicine. In the U.S., poachers kill American bears to harvest their viscera. The trade in bear gallbladders has contributed to drastically reducing Asian bear populations, and now American bears are increasingly in danger.

The Bear Poaching Elimination Act would prevent the import, export, possession, transportation and trading of bear viscera.

Text of the Bear Poaching Elimination Act is available here.

Watch Kennedy’s comments here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today spoke on the Senate floor warning that Democrats’ attempt to change the Senate rules would ignore America’s diversity and silence American voices. 

Key excerpts from Kennedy’s speech include:

“My friend Sen. Schumer, and some of my Democratic friends, would like to change one of the enduring institutions of this institution. They want to get rid of the filibuster, and I call it the 60-vote threshold. And a reasonable person might ask, well, why not? Institutions change all the time. Change is the law of life.

“I’ll tell you why not, Mr. President. I want you to hear these words of wisdom: ‘We’re on the precipice of a crisis, a constitutional crisis’—getting rid of the filibuster. ‘The checks and balances which have been at the core of this republic are about to be evaporated by the nuclear option’—getting rid of the filibuster. ‘The checks and balances which say if you get 51 percent of the vote you do not get your way 100 percent of the time.’ If you get 51 percent of the vote, you do not get your way 100 percent of the time in the United States Senate. ‘That is what we call abuse of power. There is, unfortunately, a whiff of extremism in the air.’

“Those are words of wisdom by Sen. Chuck Schumer, May 18, 2005. Mr. President, if we change the 60-vote threshold, if we change this institution, which is part of the institution of the United States Senate, it will gut this body like a fish. Like a fish. And everybody in this body knows that if that is accomplished, our institution will look like a scene out of Mad Max.

“America is a—God, what a wonderful place. It’s a big, wide open, diverse, sometimes dysfunctional, oftentimes imperfect, but good country, with good people in it. And I want to emphasize the diversity part, Mr. President. You know, what constitutes the good life in my state may not constitute the good life in Connecticut, or in California, or in Florida, or in Maine.

“And that’s one of the reasons that we have and have had the institution of the 60-vote threshold. If you’re going to make a law that’s going to impact the entirety of this big, wide open, diverse country, then you ought to have 60 votes. Because if you only have 51 votes, ‘51 percent of the vote does not get your way 100 percent of the time.’ And it’s worked for a long time.”

. . .

“I remember when President Trump—now like President Biden—said, ‘Change the filibuster. Get rid of it. I can’t get my bills passed.’ We said ‘no.’ And by we, I mean Republicans and Democrats.

“Here’s the letter, right here. It was led by Sen. Collins, a Republican, and Sen. Chris Coons. I signed it. We said ‘no.’ Now President Biden wants to do the same thing. That’s what presidents do—they try to pass their bills. So, I get it. And to my Democratic colleagues, and any Republican colleagues that are thinking about voting for Sen. Schumer’s change of heart, I want to tell them I get it, too. I get it. I know the frustration. I have felt it.” 

. . .

“But you don’t satisfy those aims by not following these words of wisdom by Sen. Schumer.”

Video of Kennedy’s comments is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to introduce the Coronavirus Origin Validation, Investigation, and Determination (COVID) Act of 2022 to hold China accountable for obstructing honest investigations into the origins of the COVID pandemic.

“Two years into this pandemic, China is still gaslighting the world about the origin of the coronavirus and the Communist Party’s role in covering it up. We must pursue the truth with strength. That’s what Beijing understands, that’s the clear-eyed leadership America needs, and that’s what this bill does,” said Kennedy.

“For two years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has stonewalled all efforts to uncover the true origins of COVID-19. We know the virus originated in China, however, the CCP’s attempts to obfuscate the truth has led to countless deaths and needless suffering worldwide. It is clear that Beijing will only respond to concerted pressure from the United States and the international community. My bill will force the CCP to the table,” said Rubio.

The COVID Act would authorize sanctions if, 90 days after enactment, the Chinese Communist Party fails to allow for a comprehensive international investigation into the origins of the pandemic at laboratories in Wuhan that engaged in risky research involving bat coronaviruses.

Specifically, the bill would sanction the leadership of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and its affiliated institutes and laboratories (including the Wuhan Institute of Virology) as well as Chinese officials who were involved in concealing the initial outbreak of COVID in China from the international community, restricting the release of information related to the outbreak, understating the severity of the outbreak and obstructing an international investigation into the origin of the outbreak.

The COVID Act would also suspend federal research funding across all academic fields for studies that involve the CAS and impose a prohibition on gain-of-function virus research cooperation between any individual or institution based in the United States that receives federal funding and any China-based individual or institution. 

Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) also cosponsored the legislation.