Senate blocks Kennedy bill to protect Medicare from spending cuts without helping Democrats increase U.S. debt
Dec 08 2021
Watch Kennedy’s comments here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced and asked the Senate to pass the Protecting the American Taxpayer and Medicare Act, which would protect Medicare and other mandatory spending programs from planned sequestrations without raising the federal debt limit. Sen. Wyden (D-Ore.) blocked the bill’s passage.
“Americans depend on Medicare, especially while we’re still recovering from the pandemic. This bill would protect Medicare and other crucial programs from harmful cuts without enabling Pres. Biden’s Build Back Broker agenda. If Democrats want to raise the debt ceiling to fund trillions of dollars in extra spending while inflation is ravaging American families, they can do it themselves,” said Kennedy.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have cosponsored the legislation.
The Protecting the American Taxpayer and Medicare Act would:
- Delay the planned two percent Medicare sequester payment reductions that are scheduled to begin on Jan. 1, 2022.
- Waive Congress’s Pay-As-You-Go rule until 2023, which would prevent sequestration for all mandatory spending programs in 2022. This includes cuts to agricultural programs like Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage.
- Continue the three percent increase to Medicare physicians through Dec. 31, 2022 to help providers care for patients in the wake of the pandemic.
- Delay reductions in Medicare payments to clinical laboratory fees through Dec. 31, 2022 to preserve access to testing and laboratory services.
- Delay the implementation of the Medicare radiation oncology model through Dec. 31, 2022 to ensure access to care for cancer patients.
- Provide $45 million in savings to the Medicare Improvement Fund, for a total balance of $101 million.
Failure to waive the Pay-As-You-Go rule would result in $9.4 billion in cuts to Medicare hospital providers in 2022. Cuts to Medicare overall would be $36 billion, or a four percent reduction.
Some senators want to tie Medicare protections to a measure increasing the debt ceiling by a fixed dollar amount, even though Senate Democrats can address the debt ceiling themselves through the reconciliation process. Kennedy’s legislation would protect Medicare from sequestrations without also raising the debt ceiling.
Text of the Protecting the American Taxpayer and Medicare Act is available here.
Watch Kennedy’s comments here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and every Republican member of the committee urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to withdraw his memo directing the FBI to investigate parents, making it clear that federal law enforcement does not equate concerned parents with domestic terrorists.
“In light of a disturbing new revelation about the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division following your directive, we call on you to withdraw your October 4 memorandum and make abundantly clear through words and actions that no arm of the government, including the offices under your command, may be used to chill criticism of local government officials,” the senators wrote.
“Parents and other citizens who get impassioned at school-board meetings are not domestic terrorists. You may believe that, but too many people involved in this issue seem to think harsh words can be criminalized. Getting the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division involved in the matter only makes this worse—dramatically worse. Therefore, we call on you to work with us in coming to a resolution on this matter,” the senators concluded.
The full letter is available here.
Kennedy, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and the nine other Republican Judiciary Committee members also wrote a letter to Garland on Oct. 7 condemning his Oct. 4 memo and demanding that the DOJ not threaten parents’ free speech.
Watch Kennedy’s Oct. 27 questioning of Garland about his memo here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) penned this op-ed for Roll Call outlining how nuclear power can serve as a clean, powerful energy source that can help America defend against China’s authoritarian advance.
“Louisianians are facing rising energy prices at the same time as falling temperatures this winter. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is pursuing policies that would further cripple the U.S. energy industry and the economy that depends on it, like flirting with shuttering the Line 5 pipeline.
“Our chief executive wants to shackle America with climate commitments that could make life unnecessarily hard for Americans struggling to pay energy bills under record inflation. At the same time, China, led by Xi Jinping—who, along with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, didn’t even bother to attend the recent Glasgow climate summit—continues to churn out carbon emissions that surpass those of the entire developed world, and Beijing’s authoritarian regime is gunning to outpace our economy.
“How can America pursue wise climate policies without hamstringing our economy in the face of a predatory China? If someone asked the president or some of my colleagues in Congress what they think the solution to climate change is, many of them would respond, ‘Renewable energy.’ It seems curious and inconsistent, then, that so many of them shun nuclear energy when it’s a safe, carbon-free option that yields enormous amounts of electricity. Wisdom and data suggest that America needs an all-of-the-above approach to energy, one that includes renewables, fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
“Nuclear energy is so clean that all the waste America’s commercial nuclear industry ever produced can fit into a single football field to a depth of fewer than 10 yards. It’s also incredibly efficient. It takes more than 3 million solar panels or more than 430 wind turbines—and the acres of land needed to host them—to produce the same amount of power as the average nuclear plant.
“Some may think nuclear energy’s advantages aren’t worth the risk. But Homer Simpson doesn’t run America’s power plants, and the industry has continuously evolved to make plants safer and more efficient.
“Small modular reactors, for example, are part of a promising new generation of advanced reactors that can automatically avoid overheating. These nuclear fission devices, which can be manufactured in a plant and brought to a site for installation, have a smaller physical footprint, and they produce less nuclear waste because they get more output from nuclear fuel. Some of these reactors are only about twice the length of the average school bus, while a traditional nuclear plant is roughly the size of Central Park.
“The innovation doesn’t stop with small modular reactors. MIT researchers are planning to build a reactor that would generate energy the same way the sun does—through nuclear fusion. Compared with traditional fission plants, the waste produced during nuclear fusion is less radioactive, and the raw ingredients that fuel fusion are more abundant than uranium.
“Fossil fuels, of course, are still a key part of America’s success. America’s economy is the largest in the world, and it can’t run without oil and gas. Eighty percent of America’s energy is from fossil fuels. Those resources support millions of U.S. jobs, and those jobs help make energy affordable for all Americans.
“Nuclear power adds to our country’s legacy of affordable, sustainable energy. Anyone who wants to grow America’s economy and safeguard the environment shouldn’t overlook the power of the atom. If nuclear energy doesn’t play a leading role in the U.S. energy portfolio, we will find it hard to maintain our place as a global leader because China’s polluting authoritarian regime is positioning itself to take over the global economy.
“Without safe, efficient fuel options like nuclear energy to power America through the 21st century, the world could quickly become a darker, dirtier place. People on both ends of the political spectrum should be able to see this threat and agree that nuclear energy must be part of any serious solution.”
The op-ed is available here.
Dec 02 2021
WASHINGTON— Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) today introduced the Chemical Tax Repeal Act to eliminate the Superfund Tax that President Biden’s infrastructure package has imposed on job creators in Louisiana and elsewhere.
“The fake infrastructure bill was drafted to raise taxes on and kill jobs in Louisiana specifically. Its Superfund Tax will increase taxes on our petrochemical industry by $1.3 billion, and that’s going to endanger good jobs at a time when inflation is already ravaging Louisiana families. This tax is unfair and unwise, and we need to pass the Chemical Tax Repeal Act to stop this tax before it starts hammering Louisiana’s economy,” said Kennedy.
“With this administration, the cruelty is the point. At a time when President Biden’s inflation and supply chain crises are burdening Americans, the Superfund Tax contained in the infrastructure package will only lead to increased overhead costs for manufacturers and skyrocketing prices for everyday household items. It’s crucial we pass the Chemical Tax Repeal Act to defend hardworking American families and job creators from paying the price for the historic, out-of-control spending in Washington,” said Cruz.
This tax targets Louisiana’s petrochemical industry directly. These manufacturers will pay an estimated $1.3 billion in new taxes over 10 years, or $130 million a year—second only to Texas.
The newly-signed law increases the Superfund Tax to twice its prior levels. It imposes roughly $14.5 billion in taxes on 42 different chemicals, critical minerals and metallic elements that are the building blocks of common household items such as plastics, rubber, concrete, soap, lightbulbs and electronics.
Groups against the Superfund tax include the National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Freedom Works and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.
Text of the Chemical Tax Repeal Act is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) today introduced the Patient Advocate Tracker Act to increase transparency and accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for veterans who report concerns they experience with VA health care services.
“Veterans have risked their lives on behalf of our country, and they deserve efficient, effective health care from the VA. The Patient Advocate Tracker Act would ensure the VA is more transparent and responsive to American service members by allowing them to file and track the status of their complaints. Bureaucracy shouldn’t keep veterans in the dark,” said Kennedy.
“Our veterans have given so much to defend our freedoms, and I’m proud to join Senator Kennedy in introducing this bill that takes important steps toward making sure we have a transparent VA system that works for our veterans. Not only do we need to work to ensure every veteran has timely and effective access to care, we also must ensure that when there is an issue with their care, their concerns are addressed promptly and transparently,” Warnock said.
Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives.
“The Patient Advocate Tracker Act is commonsense legislation that will make the VA more transparent and cause less frustrations for our veterans. Veterans deserve the best healthcare possible, and when they receive subpar care, they need to be able to easily report complaints to their patient advocate, track it and get the best outcome possible. This bill will simplify the process and help them track their complaint,” said McClain.
The VA uses the patient advocate tracking system (PATS) to track and report complaints from veterans. The Patient Advocate Tracker Act would allow veterans to access PATS in order to file complaints and view the status of those health care concerns, including interim and final actions that the VA has taken to resolve issues facing individual veterans.
By granting veterans access to PATS, VA employees could more effectively route veterans’ concerns to the appropriate department within the VA, avoiding unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.
Text of the Patient Advocate Tracker Act is available here.
Watch Kennedy’s exchange with Yellen here.
WASHINGTON—Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today asked U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen about the danger of increasing America’s debt through Democrats’ tax and spending bill and about how much debt is too much for the American economy to bear. Yellen’s assertion that the spending bill is paid for contradicts estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton budget model.
Key excerpts from the Senate Banking Committee hearing are below:
Kennedy: “I would be remiss if I didn't point out that, in my opinion, there is no fair-minded person in the Milky Way who believes the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill are not going to require the American people to incur substantial debt. And here's my question, and I'm looking for a number: How much, in the Biden administration's opinion, is too much debt? At what point, as you incur debt, will the Biden administration say, ‘Okay, that's it. We can't borrow any more, or it’s going to hurt the American people’?”
Yellen: “First of all, I want to say that I disagree with your assessment of Build Back Better. It is fully paid for or even more than fully paid for, and CBO just completed a comprehensive review of it, in which they found essentially the same thing. . . . we're accustomed to looking at debt-to-GDP ratios. And using those kinds of metrics and looking around the world, many economists have found that debt-to-GDP ratios of 100 or more tend to be associated with significant problems.”
Kennedy: “Are we at 100 or more?”
Yellen: “We are, but we are in very different times. . . .”
Kennedy: “I'm going to run out of time. Let me ask you this, Madam Chair, quickly. You gave a great speech back in September of 2019. . . . This is what you said—I'm going to quote. I thought this was such a wise statement. You said the former Fed Chair said she is not worried about the debt-to-gross-domestic-product ratio in the United States right now. But added, and I quote, ‘I’m worried about the trajectory of where it's going. It’s not stable. We’re not living within our means right now. Debt is going to escalate, and that’s going to create problems down the road. . . .’ Now, that was when the debt was $17 trillion. It’s $29 trillion. You're going to add trillions more through the Build Back Better. Why is that not true today?”
Yellen: “I want to repeat again, Build Back Better is fully paid for and will not add to the debt or to deficits. In fact, we plan to reduce it.”
Kennedy: “You and I just don't agree on that.”
The Penn Wharton budget model estimates that the Build Back Better Act would increase government spending by $2.1 trillion and drive the U.S. deficit up by $274 billion. The model also predicts that the bill’s spending spree would decrease the U.S. GDP in the long term and that the bill’s real cost would be closer to $4.6 trillion if its temporary programs become permanent.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates an even greater deficit of $367 billion.
Video of the exchange is available here.
Nov 30 2021
Watch Kennedy’s remarks here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today spoke on the Senate floor about the Dobbs v. Jackson case, in which the Supreme Court will rule on whether pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are constitutional. The case gives the Supreme Court the opportunity to reaffirm states’ right to establish laws protecting the lives of unborn children and the wellbeing of their mothers.
Key excerpts from Kennedy’s speech include:
“Mr. President, we talk a lot in this chamber, as well we should, about the least among us—about how we can protect and lift up the powerless. And that’s a good thing. I can’t think of any person who has less power than . . . an unborn baby. Roe v. Wade is, of course, about abortion. We know that. But it’s also about something else. Roe v. Wade is also about federalism. Roe v. Wade is also about the American people. Roe v. Wade is about whether a finite group of the managerial elite, and by the manager elite, I mean the entrenched politicians, the bureaucracy, the media, the academics, the corporate phonies—all of whom think they’re smarter and more virtuous than the American people—should have the right to make moral decisions for the American people instead of the American people making those decisions for themselves. That’s really what Roe v. Wade is about.”
“I am pro-life. I am anti-Roe v. Wade. . . . But, Mr. President, even pro-choice legal scholars who believe in legalized abortion on demand understand—as does every fair-minded person who knows a law book from a J. Crew catalog—that Roe v. Wade is one of the most arbitrary, it’s one of the most ad hoc, it’s one of the most poorly-reasoned decisions in the history of the United States.”
“Anyone, Mr. President, who knows a law book from a J. Crew catalog also knows that there’s absolutely no foundation—not in the text, not in the structure, not in the history, not in the tradition of the Constitution—for a constitutional right to abortion, and certainly not on the basis of some unmoored general right to privacy that’s not enunciated in the Constitution.”
“In the Dobbs case, which the United States Supreme Court is about to hear, the United States Supreme Court has a really rare opportunity to say, as Justice Scalia wrote in one of his opinions, value judgments made on behalf of people should be voted on by those people and not dictated from Washington D.C. . . . That’s why we get to vote, and that’s why we have elected representatives—who oftentimes vote on our behalf—elected representatives who also can be unelected if we don’t like how they vote.”
“In Dobbs, the Supreme Court has the rare opportunity to de-federalize and de-constitutionalize abortion and return the issue to the states, where it was before Roe v. Wade.”
“The United States Supreme Court in Dobbs does not have the opportunity—and this is important—to say, ‘No right to an abortion in America.’ Let me say that again because some of the proponents of Roe v. Wade, I think, have shaded the truth on this. The issue before the Supreme Court and Dobbs is not the right to have an abortion. The issue for the Supreme Court in Dobbs is what’s the appropriate political forum to make these value judgments: Is it the government, or is it the people? And I hope, Mr. President, that the United States Supreme Court takes advantage of this rare opportunity before it.”
At the heart of the Dobbs case is the Mississippi Gestational Age Act, a state law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, except in cases of medical emergency.
Currently, the U.S. is one of seven nations, including human rights violators like North Korea and China, that allow elective abortions of children older than 20 weeks of gestation.
This summer, Kennedy joined more than 200 lawmakers in filing an amicus brief supporting Mississippi in the Dobbs case.
Video of Kennedy’s comments is available here.
Nov 24 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) penned this op-ed for The Jena Times. It outlines a new way for Louisianians to get dangerous opioids off the streets and make their communities safer.
Louisiana has had a tough couple of years. Hurricanes, floods, freezes, and the coronavirus slammed our state, but another crisis also continued to harm our communities. In the middle of lockdowns and lost jobs, the opioid epidemic got worse.
Though the pandemic may have intensified Louisiana’s drug problem, it didn’t create it. Drug abuse has tormented Louisiana for years—and opioids have played a large role.
The numbers are astounding. Drug overdoses claimed the lives of 1,140 Louisianians in 2018, and opioid overdoses accounted for 40 percent of those deaths—that’s 444 lives lost in a single year. The opioid blight has struck central Louisiana especially hard: From March to July of this year, Rapides Parish saw nearly 160 opioid overdoses. That’s more than an overdose a day.
How are these deadly drugs seeping into our communities? Very often, opioid victims aren’t getting their supplies from gang members but from the medicine cabinets of families and friends. In fact, half of all opioid abusers get their pills from prescriptions that belong to their loved ones.
Opioid abuse has ravaged our state in part because the drugs are easy to access. For every 100 Louisianians, medical providers wrote an incredible 79.4 opioid prescriptions in 2018. The national average was only 51.4, landing Louisiana among the top five states for prescriptions per capita.
The crisis isn’t limited to any one state, though. Between 1999 and 2017, more than 200,000 Americans died from prescription opioid-related overdoses. That’s roughly twice the number of Americans who died in World War I.
The good news is that Louisianians finally have another tool to get prescription opioids safely off their streets. The Dispose Unused Medications and Prescription (DUMP) Opioids Act will make it easier for Americans to get rid of prescription medicines they no longer need without putting other people in harm’s way.
It seemed clear to me that we can reduce access to addictive substances by allowing people to take pain medicines they don’t need to special drop boxes that are coming to Veterans’ Administration (VA) medical centers across the country. I introduced the bill to open those drop boxes to the general public earlier this year, where it made its way through Congress and onto the president’s desk this July.
With the DUMP Opioids Act now law, entire communities will be able to clear out their medicine cabinets and dispose of unused pills at secure VA drop boxes near them, so others can’t get to and abuse the drugs. The law also requires the VA Secretary to educate the general public about the opportunity to use these disposal sites so everyone can make the most of the new resource.
Louisianians work hard and put family first, so it’s been heartbreaking to watch opioid addiction tighten its grip here. One of the most effective ways we can combat the epidemic is by shrinking the supply of prescription opioids through secure drop sites. The DUMP Opioids Act makes it easier for Louisiana to do that by increasing our access to secure disposal sites, making our loved ones safer by putting more dangerous drugs out of reach forever.
The op-ed is available here.
ICYMI: Small-cap stock exchanges would be a boon to small business, workers, and main street investors
Nov 22 2021
MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) authored this op-ed for Fox Business. Below are key excerpts from the piece, which outlines the advantages that creating dedicated stock exchanges for smaller companies would bring for workers, main street investors and small businesses themselves.
“Small companies today face a problem almost as unknown as some of the firms themselves—the exchanges designed to take them public often keep them in the shadows. Currently, these more modest firms—known as small-caps—have to list on the same stock exchanges as the Fortune 500 when they go public, so bigger competitors often eclipse them when they vie for investor attention.
“The Main Street Growth Act would make stock exchanges better at doing what they do best by creating venture exchanges specifically for smaller companies and the people looking to invest in them. The option of hosting smaller firms on their own exchanges would not just help small businesses succeed alongside their giant counterparts, it would be a boon to main street investors, America’s economy, and workers as well.”
. . .
“Small-cap stocks on the NYSE simply don’t get as much exposure to investors in existing exchanges because companies with the highest market capitalization—the total value of all of a company’s stocks—have greater name ID. A young business like the shoe and clothing company Allbirds isn’t a household name like Disney, Netflix, or Nike are. Investors aren’t just less likely to buy and sell small-cap stocks—they’re less likely to even know the smaller folks, and the big growth opportunities they might offer, exist at all.
“Because the current arrangement makes going public unattractive for many small-caps, those companies either wait longer to offer their stocks or never open themselves to public investment at all. Too often, firms forgo the significant growth opportunities that come from raising capital on stock exchanges. Not long ago, Blockbuster was still the king of video rentals. In 2002, Netflix’s initial public offering on Nasdaq raised $82.5 million. Now, no one starts their weekend with a DVD rental from their local Blockbuster, but people around the globe are more likely to stream Netflix than take a daily vitamin.
“But how many opportunities like Netflix never make it onto investors’ radar? Venture exchanges offer greater visibility that would encourage more budding businesses to sell their stocks to the public and therein raise more capital. That capital enables at least two things that drive the American economy: It fuels innovation and allows businesses to expand their operations. Broader operations create more jobs.”
. . .
“As a result, allowing small-caps to court investors looking for exactly what they have to offer would be a win-win-win situation for the American economy, for small businesses, for investors, and for workers.”
The op-ed is available here.
Watch Kennedy’s questioning here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today questioned President Biden’s nominee for Comptroller of the Currency Saule Omarova on her membership in a communist organization and her radical views about regulating the economy and banking system.
Key excerpts include:
Kennedy: “There was a group called the Young Communists, and you are a member, is that right?”
Omarova: “I’m not exactly sure which group you’re referring to.”
Kennedy: “Well, the formal name of it is the Leninist Communist Young Union of the Russian Federation, and it’s also known as the Leninist Komsomol of the Russian Federation. And it’s commonly referred to as the Young Communists. Were you a member?”
. . .
Kennedy: “Have you resigned?”
Omarova: “From the—”
Kennedy: “From the Young Communists.”
Omarova: “You grow out of it with age automatically.”
Kennedy: “Did you send them a letter though, resigning?”
Omarova: “Senator, this was many, many years ago. As far as I remember how the Soviet Union worked was at certain age, you automatically stop being—”
Kennedy: “Could you look at your records and see if you can find a copy?”
- In a 2021 video, Omarova said: “We want [the fossil fuel industry] to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change.”
- In October 2020, Omarova wrote a paper titled “The People’s Ledger,” in which she proposes nationalizing the very industry she has been nominated to oversee. In this paper, Omarova proposes a plan to “effectively end banking as we know it.”
- In May 2019, Omarova praised the former Soviet Union, tweeting: “Say what you will about old USSR, there was no gender pay gap there. Market doesn't always ‘know best.’”
- In 2019, Omarova joined a “Marxist Analysis and Policy” Facebook group, which describes itself as a forum for a “diverse range of Socialist and anti-capitalist views.”
Watch the video of Kennedy’s questioning here.