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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, today questioned Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Department of the Treasury, on releasing tax returns to Congress.

Click here or the photo below to watch the hearing.

Here is a transcript of their conversation:

Sen. Kennedy: “Do you think we should have a precedent, to put it in real-world terms, and I’ll put it in personal terms?  Let’s say I’m interested in the IRS, and I’m interested in what kind of job it’s doing. So I think I’d like to see, as a United States Senator, some tax returns.  Let me think.  How about you send me all the tax returns from every candidate among my Democratic friends running for president of the United States.  Now, I’m not interested in it for political reasons.  I just want to study the IRS, and I think I’ll start with these returns.  How much confidence do you think the American people will have in the Internal Revenue Service and the privacy concerns if we start doing that in this country?”

Secretary Mnuchin: “Well, Mr. Chairman, I think it would be very dangerous to provide you with those returns.  I think it would also be very dangerous to provide you with returns of large Democrats or Republicans who make political gifts or leaders of industry or leaders of the labor union.  Our concern is, and the Nixon Administration did try to weaponize the IRS, so as I’ve said, this is an unprecedented issue.  It’s a very complicated issue.  I take very seriously my obligation to follow the law, and that is why I consulted with the Department of Justice, and we will proceed on what is a very important issue to the American taxpayers.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) advanced the bipartisan Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act.  The bill, introduced by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) would help save millions of taxpayer dollars by curbing erroneous payments to deceased individuals.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains the most complete federal database of individuals who are reported to have died.  However, only a small number of federal agencies have access to this official list, and most federal agencies rely on a slimmed down, incomplete and less timely version of the death information.  In addition, most Inspectors General lack access to the complete death information.  As a result, many federal agencies make erroneous payments to people who are actually deceased.

In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Gary Peters (D-MI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Bipartisan companion legislation was also introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.).

“Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be wasted on paying government benefits to dead people.  We know the dead people aren’t cashing those checks.  Their relatives are,” said Sen. Kennedy. “It’s just throwing hard-earned taxpayer money into the pockets of con artists.  We can easily do something about that.”

“As government officials, one of our most important responsibilities is to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Senator Carper. “That’s why, for years, I have worked across the aisle to assess federal government spending and eliminate billions of taxpayer dollars in waste, fraud and abuse. But there is still work to be done. With a little hard work and bipartisanship, we can take the common sense steps necessary to reduce improper payments and put these funds to better use for the American people.”

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.

Organizations that supported the bill in 2018 included American Commitment, Americans for Tax Reform, Coalition to Reduce Spending, FreedomWorks, National Taxpayers Union, Project on Government Oversight, 60 Plus Association, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today toured Sempra Energy’s LNG project in Cameron Parish with President Donald Trump and Louisiana’s congressional delegation.  The project is an example of how Louisiana is a leader in LNG exports.   

Sempra just completed construction on the first phase of a $10 billion facility that will eventually be able to meet the daily power needs of 8.5 million U.S. homes.  Sempra is supported by the Port of Lake Charles, where 85% of the tonnage is energy cargo.  President Trump recently signed executive orders that promise to further unleash American energy by removing burdensome regulations.

“The president’s visit to Cameron Parish allowed us to showcase Louisiana’s leading role in the energy industry.  Sempra’s LNG facility created thousands of jobs and promises to power millions of homes,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “President Trump recognizes the importance of the energy industry to the American economy.  He’s sweeping away roadblocks that stand in the way of job growth.  He is a true friend to the Louisiana energy industry.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Bill Cassidy, M.D., (R-La.) announced today that Baton Rouge was selected as one of just four cities across the U.S. to receive a grant that helps revitalize distressed neighborhoods and enhance economic development in the surrounding communities.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a competitive $30 million Choice Neighborhoods implementation grant to the city of Baton Rouge and the East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority.  This grant will fund a neighborhood revitalization project for Ardenwood Village.

Choice Neighborhoods grants fund neighborhood transformation projects for distressed or struggling neighborhoods.  Choice Neighborhoods implementation grants support communities that have completed the planning process and are prepared to implement the transformation phase for neighborhood redevelopment. 

“This grant will fund a neighborhood revitalization project, which will help improve the quality of life for hundreds of Louisiana families,” said Sen. Kennedy. “Neighborhoods should provide families with community and give kids a safe place to ride their bikes and play with their friends.  The Choice Neighborhoods grant is a significant investment into the Baton Rouge economy, and it will help make the Ardenwood Village a more welcoming place for families to call home.”

“This is very good for East Baton Rouge Parish,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This grant brings critical housing, health and education resources to those in need of help.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) reintroduced the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act this week.  This bipartisan legislation will help save millions of federal taxpayer dollars by curbing erroneous payments to deceased individuals. 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains the most complete federal database of individuals who are reported to have died.  However, only a small number of federal agencies have access to this official list, and most federal agencies rely on a slimmed down, incomplete and less timely version of the death information.  In addition, most Inspectors General lack access to the complete death information.  As a result, many federal agencies make erroneous payments to people who are actually deceased.

Senators Kennedy and Carper were joined by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Gary Peters (D-MI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in introducing the legislation. Bipartisan companion legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.).

“It’s pretty simple: We need to stop paying dead people. Taxpayer dollars are precious. They’re too precious to be lost to fraud,” said Senator Kennedy. “A Louisiana man was just indicted for neglecting to tell Social Security that his sister died.  He pocketed more than $30,000 in her disability benefits before he was caught.  Unfortunately, this type of fraud happens more than you’d think.  Our bill will give the federal government added tools to ensure that dead people aren’t receiving taxpayer-funded benefits.”

“As government officials, one of our most important responsibilities is to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Senator Carper. “That’s why, for years, I have worked across the aisle to assess federal government spending and eliminate billions of taxpayer dollars in waste, fraud and abuse. But there is still work to be done because we know that year after year, the federal government continues to mismanage billions of dollars through improper payments. Today, I’m proud to join Senator Kennedy to re-introduce the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act which would provide federal agencies with the most up-to-date data they need to prevent improper payments to deceased people. The money saved by these efforts can be put to good use, like funding health care programs or investing in our decades-old infrastructure. With a little hard work and bipartisanship, we can take the common sense steps necessary to reduce improper payments and put these funds to better use for the American people.”

“As Representatives, we owe it to the American people to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “Cutting checks to deceased people is one of the most glaring examples of government waste and that’s why it’s crucial our federal agencies have access to the most up-to-date information available to prevent this from occurring in the future. I’m proud to work across the aisle to introduce this common-sense solution to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse of tax dollars.”

“The federal government makes billions of dollars in improper payments each year, including Social Security payments to deceased beneficiaries. We must give the Social Security Administration and other agencies more tools to ensure taxpayers aren’t sending checks to dead people,” Congressman Gianforte said. “This bipartisan bill will cut unnecessary red tape in the federal bureaucracy to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse as well as protect taxpayer money.”

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.

Organizations that supported the bill in 2018 included American Commitment, Americans for Tax Reform, Coalition to Reduce Spending, FreedomWorks, National Taxpayers Union, Project on Government Oversight, 60 Plus Association, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government (FSGG), committed this week to go after phone carriers that facilitate billions of unwanted robocalls.

In the FSGG subcommittee hearing Tuesday, Sen. Kennedy questioned U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons on their agencies’ strategies to confront the carriers that enable the robocalls.

“Americans are inundated with robocalls multiple times a day, and it needs to stop.  Robocallers have no shame and no boundaries,” said Sen. Kennedy. “They incessantly interrupt family dinners, work meetings, ballet recitals, weddings, graduations, and Americans are sick of it.  Phone carriers should not allow foreign robocallers to invade our daily lives. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.” 

Sen. Kennedy also joined The TRACED Act to hold telemarketers accountable for violating the law. 

Click here or the photo below to hear Sen. Kennedy’s questioning:

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced the Contracting and Tax Accountability Act of 2019 today to require prospective federal government contractors to certify that they don’t owe back taxes. 

“If you want to benefit from taxpayer dollars through government contracts, then you need to pay your taxes,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Federal contractors owe billions of dollars in back taxes.  They shouldn’t be rewarded for shirking their responsibilities.  We don’t need to employ deadbeats.”

A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-742T) found that thousands of federal contractors owe more than $7 billion in unpaid taxes.

The bill will:

  • Require contractors to certify they do not have seriously delinquent tax debt during an agency’s grant/contract solicitation process.
  • Authorize the secretary of Treasury to disclose information on seriously delinquent tax debt.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced today that the Federal Aviation Administration awarded the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport a $15 million grant and the Lafayette Regional Airport a $10.5 million grant for improvement projects.

“The Baton Rouge and Lafayette airports bring thousands of people to Louisiana every year and serve as hub for commerce, tourism and the last stop on the way back home,” said Sen. Kennedy “These grants will help fund projects that will improve the functionality and efficiency of both airports.  Baton Rouge and Lafayette are growing.  Their airports need to grow with them.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced today a $3 million FEMA grant for a drainage project along Highway 56 in Chauvin.

The grant will fund the next phase of a drainage project, including constructing a new four-bay concrete pump station substructure and an access bridge, excavation and embankment stabilization.

“Heavy rainfall and flooding in South Louisiana can wreck towns and cause massive damage,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “This grant will help protect towns like Chauvin from dangerous and destructive flooding.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, thanked FBI Director Christopher Wray today for the FBI’s help in arresting the man charged with burning three churches in St. Landry Parish.  Wray appeared before the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing.

 “I want to thank you personally and your entire team for your help in catching the punk that burned three of our churches in Louisiana,” said Sen. Kennedy. “The perpetrator was caught quickly, and I don’t think we could’ve done that without the assistance of the FBI. We, in Louisiana, are very grateful for that.”

Click here or the photo below to hear Sen. Kennedy’s remarks:

 

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