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WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) penned this op-ed in USA Today advocating for the installation of a Special Inspector General to help ensure Ukraine uses America’s aid efficiently and effectively.

Sen. Kennedy introduced the Independent and Objective Oversight of Ukrainian Assistance Act earlier this year, a bill that would establish a Special Inspector General in Ukraine to help advise Congress on future aid packages and confirm that Ukraine spends each taxpayer dollar as Congress intended. Sen. Sinema is a cosponsor of the legislation.

Key excerpts of the op-ed are below:

“Our aid to Ukraine isn’t charity. It’s in our national security interest.

“As we determine how to best support Ukrainian sovereignty against Russia’s unprovoked and illegal war, it is important that Americans can understand and track how the resources are used.

“Taxpayers in Arizona and Louisiana help fund this investment. And our constituents deserve to know that each dollar sent to Ukraine is spent with the singular aim of deterring Russian President Vladimir Putin and maintaining peace for the United States and our allies.”

. . .  

“Today, we have a patchwork of watchdogs each following a different trail of money and no one entity to keep an eye on the whole picture. If the American people want to keep track of all the different streams of military, financial and humanitarian aid flowing into Ukraine, we need a dedicated team of regional experts following every penny.

“It is just common sense, and it is what our bill, the Independent and Objective Oversight of Ukrainian Assistance Act, will do.”

. . .                                               

“Polling shows that Americans are split on whether we should continue to directly fund Ukraine. These good-faith debates are important to our democracy—something Putin wouldn’t understand but does fear.

“But today, it is difficult to engage in a meaningful debate over the effect of our aid when Congress doesn’t have a complete picture of how the money is spent. A Special Inspector General in Ukraine will help us make better investments to deter Putin and protect America’s national security interests.”

Read the full op-ed here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today voted to pass a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), led by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), to stop the Biden administration’s Department of Education from implementing a rule that burdens taxpayers with an estimated $400 billion in student loan debt that they never agreed to incur.

The Senate passed the resolution by a bipartisan vote of 52-46, and it now goes to President Biden’s desk for consideration.

“Today the Senate voted to reverse President Biden’s misguided rule to saddle American taxpayers with hundreds of billions of dollars in student debt that doesn’t belong to them. The White House’s reckless policy is patently unfair to Louisianians who work hard and pay their debts, and it fuels already sky-high inflation,” said Kennedy.

The Department of Education’s plan would transfer up to $20,000 of debt per student loan borrower to taxpayers.

The Biden administration announced this policy, which the Government Accountability Office classified as a rule, before the Supreme Court issued a decision on the cases Biden v. Nebraska and Department of Education v. Brown

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) introduced the companion CRA resolution in the House of Representatives.

Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) also joined the resolution.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Preserving Lawful Utilization of Services (PLUS) for Veterans Act of 2023 to help veterans access the greatest benefits from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) health care system by preserving their right to work with private groups when filing claims.

The legislation would also protect individuals from fraudsters by ensuring that criminals face penalties for taking advantage of veterans.

“The government should not stand in the way of veterans’ ability to get the most out of their VA benefits. The PLUS for Veterans Act would protect veterans’ access to private organizations that help them file claims and impose criminal penalties on fraudsters,” said Kennedy.

Data shows that private VA claim consulting services are generally more effective in resolving VA claims than public Veteran Service Organizations are. The bill also establishes safeguards to make veterans aware of other options to get help filing claims and to prevent conflicts of interest.

The PLUS for Veterans Act would:

  • Impose criminal penalties or fines on unaccredited individuals or businesses for directly or indirectly soliciting, contracting for, charging or receiving any fee or compensation with respect to the preparation, presentation or prosecution of any claim for VA benefits.
  • Cap legislative fees that private providers can collect.
  • Allow private groups to charge fees only when a claim is successful.
  • Create medical protections to ensure private actors do not benefit inappropriately from relationships with medical providers.

Reps. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) are leading the legislation in the House of Representatives.

Full text of the PLUS for Veterans Act is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $3,096,913 in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant for Louisiana disaster aid.

“I am looking forward to seeing Lake Charles use this grant to restore its Civic Center facility after Hurricane Laura battered the community,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $3,096,913 to the city of Lake Charles for damages to the Civic Center Marquis Sign as a result of Hurricane Laura.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $1,441,613 in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant for Louisiana.

“I am grateful that this $1.4 million will help protect folks’ homes, schools and businesses from flood damage in Caldwell Parish,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $1,441,613 to Caldwell Parish to improve drainage capacity and mitigate flood damages to properties in Hurricane Creek.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $27,764,717 in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant for Louisiana.

“New Orleans is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina’s damage, and Calcasieu Parish is rebuilding from Hurricane Laura. I am grateful this $27.8 million will benefit Louisianians in both communities,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $20,990,022 to the Calcasieu Parish School Board for damages from Hurricane Laura.
  • $4,683,479 to the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board for Hurricane Katrina.
  • $2,091,216 to the city of New Orleans as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $45,549,527 in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant for Louisiana.

“I’m happy to see this $45.5 million investment going to help reduce flooding in the Broadmoor and Central City communities to protect Louisianians’ homes and businesses,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $45,549,527 to the Broadmoor and Central City, La. neighborhoods to upgrade stormwater drainage infrastructure.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $16,537,874 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Louisiana disaster aid. 

“I am grateful to see that this $16.5 million will go towards Vermilion, Calcasieu and Iberville Parishes, and to our state, for disaster recovery and flood prevention efforts,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $11,211,864 to the Louisiana Department of Military for emergency protective measures as a result of Hurricane Laura.
  • $2,355,493 for the elevation of eight properties and the acquisition of three properties in Vermilion Parish to mitigate flood risk.
  • $1,501,399 to the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury for emergency protective measures as a result of Hurricane Laura. 
  • $1,469,118 to Iberville Parish for emergency protective measures required as a result of severe storms, tornadoes and flooding.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and all other Judiciary Republicans in urging Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the committee’s chairman, to refocus the committee on addressing the most pressing issues facing Americans.

Instead, Judiciary Committee Democrats are forcing members to participate in a partisan effort to destroy the credibility of the Supreme Court and “weaponize the powers of the Committee in a political campaign of partisan destruction.” 

The letter comes after Durbin led Judiciary Democrats in demanding information from Harlan Crow, a private citizen, related to travel and hospitality provided to a Supreme Court Justice.

“We write with grave concerns about your demands. Consistent with its Article I power and the Rules of the Senate, the Committee must have a legitimate legislative purpose for its inquiry into Mr. Crow’s affairs, and the scope of the inquiry must be reasonably related to its purpose. There appears to be neither here,” wrote the senators.

“Your requests appear misaligned and political.  Further, they only target conservative members of the Supreme Court. To start, your letters claim that you believe ‘private access’ to justices—seemingly when justices socialize with anyone not on the Court—‘creates an appearance of undue influence that undermines the public’s trust in the Court’s impartiality.’ But judges, justices, politicians, and other public figures engage with friends in private settings every day—just as anyone else,” they continued. 

“We urge you to withdraw your May 8th letters to Mr. Crow and his entities and to refocus the Judiciary Committee’s efforts on legitimate inquiries. With the country confronting a fentanyl epidemic and a crisis on our border due to illegal immigration, there are many issues worthy of this Committee’s time and efforts,” the senators concluded.

The full letter, which also cites relevant case law and numerous instances of hospitality received by justices that Democrats favor, is available here

Kennedy’s recent defense of the Supreme Court in Judiciary Committee hearings can be viewed here and here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) has received a response from the U.S. State Department saying that the department has “directly engaged Finnish officials on” the cases of Dr. Päivi Räsänen and Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola. The Finnish Christians continue to be the targets of prosecution from Finland’s government for expressing their sincere religious views in a non-violent manner.

“Religious freedom remains under threat in Finland even though the court acquitted Dr. Räsänen and Rev. Dr. Pohjola more than a year ago. I appreciate the State Department’s attention to this pressing issue and urge it to continue to advocate for religious liberty and for Finland to abandon its efforts to prosecute faith. People shouldn’t be subjected to criminal prosecution for expressing their sincere religious views in a non-violent manner, yet the Finnish government is attempting for a second time to convict these people of faith,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy voiced concerns over this prosecution with the U.S. State Department’s Ambassador-at-Large in the Office of International Religious Freedom, Rashad Hussain, and U.S. Ambassador to Finland, Douglas Hickey, and has urged the U.S. State Department to engage the Finnish government over its refusal to accept the acquittal of Räsänen and Pohjola.

According to the State Department, the Finnish government’s appeals process will likely not result in a hearing until August 2023, but the U.S. embassy will continue to engage on the issue with officials and religious communities in Finland.

As we have communicated to our counterparts, promoting respect for and protecting freedom of religion or belief remains an important U.S. foreign policy priority. The U.S. Embassy in Helsinki has closely monitored these cases and has raised them in discussions with Finnish government counterparts, as well as with religious and civil society leaders,”the State Department told Kennedy.

Background:

Räsänen and Pohjola were unanimously absolved of criminal liability for expressing their religious beliefs on March 30, 2022, and the court ordered Finnish prosecutors to pay nearly $67,000 in legal fees. The Finnish government, however, appealed the acquittal.

Kennedy originally wrote to the State Department in March 2022 to raise concerns about Finland’s prosecution of non-violent expressions of faith. The prosecution of Räsänen and Pohjola occurs while Europe continues to witness anti-Christian hate crimes and hostility toward Christian-led organizations throughout the continent.

Kennedy’s March 2022 letter is available here, and his December 2022 letter is available here.

The State Department’s May 2023 response is available here.