Kennedy introduces bipartisan bill to establish Special IG to oversee use of American taxpayer aid to Ukraine
Feb 28 2023
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today reintroduced the Independent and Objective Oversight of Ukrainian Assistance Act to establish a Special Inspector General (IG) for Ukraine. The Special IG would oversee the humanitarian, economic and security assistance funding that the U.S. Congress has provided to the country, and make sure that the funds are appropriately spent.
“Americans are supporting Ukraine’s brave work to beat back Russia by providing at least $113 billion in aid and military equipment. This is not an act of charity. It’s bolstering our own national security. American taxpayers deserve to know that their money is helping Ukraine defeat Putin effectively, and Congress needs to guarantee that oversight. This investment is too big to relegate to the normal bureaucratic channels. It demands an inspector general with singular focus on America’s return on investment in Ukraine,” said Kennedy.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) cosponsored the legislation.
“The United States continues to stand with the people of Ukraine, and by establishing a Special Inspector General for Ukrainian Assistance, we ensure accountability for Americans and Ukrainians as they defend their homes and freedoms from Russia’s illegal and unprovoked war,” said Sinema.
“The United States taxpayer should be confident in knowing Ukraine is using our aid for one thing: defeating Russia. Establishing a Special IG will hold Ukraine accountable to use the aid we give them in the most efficient and effective manner,” said Cramer.
“The American people need and deserve assurances that their taxpayer dollars are being used responsibly in the defense of Ukraine and our allies. A special inspector general would work to account for the billions we are expending in the fight against Russia’s blatantly evil aggression against Ukraine and global security,” said Hyde-Smith.
Kennedy’s bill would equip the Special IG for Ukraine with $20 million from the money that Congress has already provided in Ukraine aid. That $20 million represents less than 0.02% of the $113 billion in supplemental aid that has been set aside for Ukraine.
In order to prevent an indefinite expanse of the federal bureaucracy, the bill also includes a termination clause that would end the Special IG role once U.S. taxpayer spending for Ukraine drops below $250 million per year.
The text of the bill is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $5,053,346 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster aid grants for Louisiana.
“Calcasieu Parish has been inundated with floods from hurricanes and other storms. This $5 million will support the parish’s recovery efforts and help prevent future flooding from devastating these homes,” said Kennedy.
The FEMA aid will fund the following:
- $4,787,380 to Calcasieu Parish to elevate 18 flood-prone residential structures and acquire and demolish two structures.
- $265,966 to Calcasieu Parish for management costs related to the elevation of residential structures.
MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in introducing the Debbie Smith Act to reauthorize funding for resources that law enforcement programs use to investigate crime scenes and untested rape kits.
“Law enforcement works hard to get violent criminals out of our communities using DNA samples from rape kits. The Debbie Smith Act would provide vital resources to bring justice to innocent victims who have waited too long because of these backlogs,” said Kennedy.
“This landmark legislation has played a critical role in the fight to end backlogs of untested kits in cities across America. By reauthorizing key programs created under the Debbie Smith Act, we can empower law enforcement to continue testing DNA evidence to solve crimes and support survivors,” said Cornyn.
- The Debbie Smith Act first became law in 2004 and has since helped end a backlog of untested DNA by providing funding to state and local crime laboratories.
- Since the bill originally passed, the funding has supported the processing of over 860,000 DNA cases.
- The funding from this bill also helps process offender DNA samples from unsolved crimes and match them against a database of known offenders, similar to the criminal fingerprint databases.
Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) also cosponsored this bill.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) spoke on the Senate floor refuting Pres. Biden and Democrats’ claims that Republicans wish to cut Medicare and entitlements. Kennedy’s speech comes after Biden’s repeated comments falsely accused congressional Republicans of aiming to cut Medicare.
“The fact that the president is saying this and saying, ‘Well, you Republicans want to hurt Medicare,’ . . . I find to be quite ironic . . . maybe even a tad hypocritical,” Kennedy began.
In December 2022, Kennedy attempted to pass his Protecting Medicare Patients and Physicians Act through the Senate by unanimous consent. The bill would have protected patients and health care providers from a total of 8.5 percent in planned Medicare cuts to physician reimbursements, but Democrats immediately blocked the bill.
“A lot of physicians won't take Medicare anymore. Because they say . . . ‘We can't turn a profit. We're not looking to make,’ say the physicians, ‘obscene profits, but . . . we're in the middle of inflation. . . . We're paying more in rent. We're paying more for our nurses. We’re paying more for supplies, and the Medicare fees that were paid to treat folks on Medicare . . . they're not keeping up,’” continued Kennedy.
“And, so, President Biden, 'the champion of Medicare,' . . . proposed a four-and-a-half percent across the board cut for every physician treating Medicare in America—that's 900,000 people in my state . . . in the middle of raging inflation.”
Kennedy offered a plan to protect the people who rely on Medicare and the doctors who take care of them—without taking another dime from taxpayers. His bill would have put unused Covid money from the Provider Relief Fund to use, requiring no new federal spending.
“I didn't come to my colleagues with just a problem. I came with a solution. . . . I'm not suggesting that we reject President Biden's attempt to cut Medicare and fill the hole by borrowing the money,” Kennedy explained.
Ultimately, no Republicans blocked Kennedy’s bill, but a Democratic senator did.
“I went to every one on my Republican colleagues, and they all said, ‘We're with you.’ I came to this floor to ask for unanimous consent, but Senator Wyden came to the floor and said, ‘I’m going to object to your bill.’ And he said, ‘I don't want you to worry about this. We're putting together a budget bill right now—we call it the omnibus—and that's why I'm objecting to your bill. Your bill, Kennedy, is unnecessary.’”
That omnibus spending package, which Kennedy voted against, included a two percent cut in reimbursements for every physician who treats a Medicare patient in America.
“The president can try and blame the Republicans and say, ‘Well, they don’t want to seriously negotiate about controlling spending, controlling debt. All they want to do is cut Medicare.’ He already did it—he did it in December,” Kennedy concluded.
Each year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services establishes a Physician Fee Schedule, which sets out how much a doctor gets paid for a particular service rendered. Kennedy’s legislation would have protected patients and health care providers from a total of 4.5 percent in planned Medicare cuts to physician reimbursements.
The bill would have required no new federal spending, but, instead, would have employed unused Covid money from the Provider Relief Fund that had been returned to the Department of Health and Human Services. Using those leftover funds to help patients and doctors who are suffering under the Biden administration’s historic levels of inflation would have represented a fiscally responsible solution to help vulnerable Americans.
Video of Kennedy’s comments is available here.
Feb 16 2023
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $4,127,623 in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster aid grant for Louisiana.
“Hurricane Ida’s landfall hammered our state, leaving the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District littered with debris. I’m thankful this $4.1 million will support the parish’s recovery,” said Kennedy.
The FEMA aid will fund the following:
- $4,127,623 to the Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District for debris removal operations related to Hurricane Ida.
Feb 16 2023
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today joined Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) in introducing the Thin Blue Line Act to make the targeting, killing or attempted killing of a police officer an aggravating factor in favor of maximizing sentences.
“The Defund and Disrespect the Police movement has given violent offenders cover to target members of law enforcement. If a wicked person attacks one of the brave officers who protect our local and state communities, they’ve earned the heaviest penalties possible. We have to stop ceding ground to the criminals—because everyone is safer when we back good cops who do good work,” said Kennedy.
“There is a war on our cops, and it’s time we raise the price of targeting them. The Thin Blue Line Act will make targeting or killing a police officer in a violent crime an aggravating factor in favor the harshest penalties we have. President Biden said in his State of the Union speech last week that police officers put their lives on the line every day, and that we ask them to do too much. I agree, and as liberal cities continue to encourage crime by going easy on violent criminals, I’m calling on President Biden to announce his support for this legislation to increase the penalties for those who try to kill cops,” said Braun.
When a jury in a federal case considers whether to impose the death penalty, the jury must consider certain "aggravating" factors.
Current law states that if the murder victim is a federal law enforcement officer or federal prosecutor, this fact shall weigh as an aggravating factor in favor of the maximum penalty.
The Thin Blue Line Act provides the same level of justice to local law enforcement officers, prosecutors and first responders.
The bill also enhances the penalty for a criminal who targets a law enforcement officer, prosecutor or first responder solely because that victim has chosen to protect and serve.
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) also cosponsored the bill.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Hospital Transparency Compliance Enforcement Act to increase penalties on hospitals that hide the true costs of their items and services from patients.
“Patients deserve to know the true cost of hospital items and services. I wrote this bill to protect patients by making hospitals clarify how much a visit might really cost so that patients can make informed choices about their care,” said Kennedy.
The Hospital Price Transparency Rule requires hospitals to establish and make public a list of the prices that hospitals charge for items and services. Hospitals must also display charges in a consumer-friendly manner. A February 2023 study of 2,000 hospitalsfound that only 489—or 24%—were fully compliant.
In January 2022, the government implemented higher penalties on hospitals that fail to comply with the transparency rule. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires non-compliant hospitals with 30 or fewer beds to pay a penalty of $300 per day, those with 31 to 550 beds to pay between $310 and $5,500 per day and those with more than 550 beds to pay $5,500 per day.
The Hospital Transparency Compliance Enforcement Act would:
- Double the current government penalties on non-compliant hospitals. Penalties would increase to $600 per day for hospitals with 30 or fewer beds, $620 to $11,000 per day for hospitals with 31 to 550 beds and $11,000 per day for hospitals with more than 550 beds.
- Require all hospitals to comply with the higher penalties within six months of the law’s passage.
- Prohibit hospitals from shielding information on their websites using webpage coding.
- Give non-compliant hospitals 60 days after notice of non-compliance to pay their monetary penalty.
- Require CMS to publish the names of hospitals that have not complied.
Text of the Hospital Transparency Compliance Enforcement Act is available here.
Feb 16 2023
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) in introducing the Natural Gas Export Expansion Act, which would remove federal regulatory bottlenecks to increase liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and support domestic energy jobs.
“Louisiana is the nation’s number one exporter of liquefied natural gas, but we’re taking a beating at the hands of President Biden. LNG exports sustain Louisiana jobs, promote America’s energy independence and reduce global emissions. We should make it easier—not harder—to export American LNG, and that’s what this bill would do,” said Kennedy.
“Thanks to the United States’ innovation and use of clean natural gas, America leads the world in reducing carbon emissions. By exporting U.S. LNG, the United States creates thousands of jobs at home, reduces global emissions, and promotes energy independence from those who use it as a weapon to exert control over importing countries,” said Cruz.
This legislation would bolster America’s energy independence at home and supply our allies abroad, especially our European allies, who are acutely affected by strains on reliable fuel supply because Russia invaded Ukraine. Increasing LNG exports would broaden access to clean, affordable energy with American trading partners and counter the Biden administration’s full-frontal assault on the U.S. fossil fuel industry in the process.
As hostile, authoritarian regimes look to challenge America’s position on the world stage, leveraging LNG exports is integral to investing in America’s energy security, thereby strengthening its national security.
Kennedy and Cruz also introduced the Natural Gas Export Expansion Act last Congress.
The Natural Gas Export Expansion Act would:
- Amend the Natural Gas Act to expedite non-free trade agreement (FTA) export permits. This would ensure applications for exporting LNG to certain non-FTA countries would be treated the same as applications for exporting LNG to FTA countries and receive the same accelerated approval process.
- Retain current law for restricted nations. Any nation subject to sanctions or trade restrictions is specifically excluded, and the president or Congress can specifically exclude any nation from expedited approval.
The bill text is available here.
Feb 15 2023
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Inflation-Adjusted Education Investment Act to help parents afford the cost of K-12 tuition. The bill would permanently increase the amount of money that parents can withdraw from their 529 savings plans without incurring tax penalties.
“Parents know their kids best and have the right to choose the educational path that’s best for their kids. Now that raging inflation is making alternatives to government school less accessible, I’m introducing a bill to help families afford more private education options,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy’s bill raises the cap on withdrawing from a 529 plan from $10,000 to $12,000 for 2023. The increase adjusts for inflation that has already occurred under the Biden administration and is likely to occur by the end of the year. Additionally, the bill would make the new cap adjustable for inflation, beginning in 2024. Because of high inflation, it cost parents more than $11,400 in January 2023 to pay for what $10,000 purchased in January 2021.
The specific tax advantage of a 529 plan is that distributions from this savings plan are tax-free if parents use them to pay for qualified higher education expenses. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act gave parents the freedom to withdraw up to $10,000 tax-free each year for each beneficiary and to apply the funds to qualifying K-12 expenses. Those expenses include private and religious schooling.
Text of the bill is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today joined Sen. Tedd Budd (R-N.C.) and a bicameral group of Republican colleagues in urging Attorney General Merrick Garland and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director Steven Dettelbach to explain why the Biden administration is unfairly applying a zero-tolerance policy to gun dealers.
Some of these dealers are mom-and-pop businesses that have to close down once their licenses are revoked.
“As the Biden-Harris Administration is undoubtedly aware, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution unequivocally states, ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.’ Yet, at every turn, this Administration appears to be weaponizing its executive powers to infringe upon this constitutionally protected right,” the lawmakers wrote.
“The Biden-Harris Administration, however, believes its role is to re-write the laws written by Congress to further its radical anti-Constitutional agenda without consequence,” they continued.
“We respectfully request that the Administration immediately cease the misinterpretation of the word ‘willful’ and resume with an interpretation that corresponds with the meaning of the word and the intent of Congress,” they concluded.
- In June 2021, the Biden administration established a zero-tolerance policy for gun dealers who commit so-called "willful" violations. In defiance of the law, the administration interprets the word “willful” to include minor paperwork errors.
- The rule allows the ATF to revoke Federal Firearm License's (FFLs) for unjustifiable reasons.
- Under this policy, Biden’s ATF has created a 500% spike in FFL revocations.
The letter is available here.