Senate passes bill with Kennedy measure empowering Louisiana to channel COVID relief funds to disaster recovery, infrastructure
Oct 21 2021
Watch Kennedy’s comments here.
WASHINGTON – The Senate has passed the State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act, cosponsored by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). The bill, S. 3011, would allow state governments to use unspent pandemic relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund to provide relief for natural disaster victims and to invest in infrastructure needs.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) sponsored the legislation along with Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).
“Louisianians have gone through historic hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters over the last 18 months, and they still need help rebuilding their homes and businesses. I’m thankful to have worked with Sens. Cornyn and Padilla to give Louisiana’s state officials the power to redirect unspent coronavirus money for disaster victims and/or infrastructure. I hope the House follows suit quickly by sending this bill to the president’s desk,” said Kennedy.
“In 2020, states and cities across the country delayed or canceled transportation improvement projects totaling about $12 billion. This legislation puts decision-making power at the local level and gives these leaders more flexibility to invest in the most critical projects for their communities, whatever those might be. This will give communities in Texas and all other states the ability to use pandemic relief funding when and where it’s needed most. I want to thank Senators on both sides of the aisle who have worked with Senator Padilla and myself on this,” said Cornyn.
“Each region of the country has unique local challenges in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill will provide state, local, tribal, and territorial governments the flexibility they need to better use federal resources to care for and serve their residents. This flexibility will help strengthen our response to the continued fight against COVID,” said Padilla.
Louisiana’s state government received approximately $4.8 billion from the ARPA’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. The fund was established to replace lost revenue for state and local governments in the wake of the pandemic and its economic shutdowns and to support pandemic response efforts. Kennedy successfully worked to include a measure in the State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act that would allow the state government to redirect remaining funds.
Up to 100 percent of the remaining $4.8 billion can go to traditional disaster relief efforts, or up to 30 percent of the $4.8 billion can be invested in infrastructure, assuming the funding has not already been used.
Specifically, Kennedy’s measure would allow the state to use ARPA funding “to provide emergency relief from natural disasters or the negative economic impacts of natural disasters, including temporary emergency housing, food assistance, financial assistance for lost wages or other immediate needs.”
With this flexibility, the decision of how to invest the remaining COVID relief money rests with the Louisiana state government.
Text of the bill is available here.
Watch the video of Kennedy’s comments here.
Background on Kennedy’s response to historic natural disasters:
- On Sept. 30, Kennedy voted in support of a short-term funding bill to send disaster aid to Louisiana and to extend the National Flood Insurance Program without raising the debt limit.
- On August 2, Kennedy offered an amendment to the Senate’s infrastructure bill providing $1.1 billion in disaster relief to Louisianians recovering from Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta. The Senate blocked the amendment.
- On July 21, Kennedy joined Louisiana’s congressional delegation in urging the Office of Management and Budget to prioritize Louisiana’s request for supplemental disaster relief.
- On July 15, Kennedy introduced and asked the Senate to pass the Gulf Coast Hurricane Aid Act of 2021. The bill would provide $1.1 billion in disaster relief to Louisianians recovering from historic storms. The Senate blocked the bill’s passage.
- On May 18, Kennedy again urged President Biden to provide supplemental disaster relief for southwest Louisiana.
- On May 13, Kennedy helped introduce the Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act, which would allow rural homeowners, renters and small businesses to access disaster relief more easily in the wake of a natural disaster.
- In September 2020, Kennedy wrote to Senate leadership, Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), to request that the Senate consider emergency supplemental aid to help Louisiana residents recover from Hurricane Laura.
Oct 20 2021
Watch Kennedy’s comments here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today honored Robert Travis Scott, who served as the president of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana for 10 years, on the Senate floor.
“We have an organization in Louisiana called the Public Affairs Research Council. It is one of our premier think tanks. It’s an independent group, not political. They do serious research, and they offer very serious suggestions about how we in Louisiana can solve some of our social and economic problems,” said Kennedy.
“To be the director or the president of PAR is quite an honor. It’s a lot of work, and it’s a big deal, and our president of PAR is retiring. He’s a friend of mine—his name is Robert Travis Scott,” explained Kennedy.
“It was no surprise to me when PAR asked Robert to take over running the Public Affairs Research Council . . . and he’s done it since 2011—10 years. Robert and PAR have contributed so much to my state. . . . We’re going to miss Robert. I hope he doesn’t go far,” concluded Kennedy.
Video of the speech is available here.
Watch Kennedy’s comments here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, today explained the danger of the Biden administration’s plan to require banks and other financial institutions to expand their reporting of individual, confidential taxpayer information to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
“[Sec. Yellen] says we need to do it to catch rich tax cheats. She knows better than that. Why throw the net so wide? This proposal, like a lot of proposals, in my Democratic friends' bill is not about public policy, and it's not about taxes. It's about control. There are too many people in charge right now in Washington, D.C., who just don't trust Americans to know what's best for themselves. They just don't trust Americans to make decisions for themselves. Their attitude seems to be: Do what you're told. Just do what you're told, and if you do that, we might let you eat meat occasionally,” said Kennedy.
“I don't think you can understate the risk that this data could leak. We just had an instance—some of my colleagues talked about it—where financial data of taxpayers was leaked—I think by the IRS. . . . Do you folks really want to live in a state where the government knows every one of the intimate details of your life, including finances? If you do, I hear China is beautiful this time of year,” he concluded.
Video of Kennedy’s comments is available here.
Oct 19 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $3.76 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awards for south Louisiana to address damage caused by Hurricanes Delta and Laura.
“South Louisiana is still reeling from the terrible damage caused by last year’s destructive hurricanes, and these funds will help cover the cost of preventing flooding in Lafourche and repairing damaged school campuses in southwest Louisiana,” said Kennedy.
The FEMA aid will fund the following:
- $2,047,631 to South Lafourche Levee District to fight flooding from Hurricane Delta.
- $1,716,949 for emergency measures, including remediation for multiple buildings on community college campuses in Jennings, Calcasieu and Oakdale as a result of Hurricane Laura.
Kennedy, Klobuchar, Grassley introduce American Innovation and Choice Online Act to rein in Big Tech
Oct 18 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in introducing the American Innovation and Choice Online Act to stop Big Tech from limiting consumer choice. The bill would help restore competition online by establishing commonsense rules of the road for dominant digital platforms to prevent them from abusing their market power to harm competition, online businesses and consumers and from reducing incentives to innovate.
“Big Tech has a track record of unfairly limiting consumer choices and thwarting free-market competition. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would help offer consumers more options at competitive prices from businesses online, which is what the American economy is supposed to do best,” said Kennedy.
“American prosperity was built on a foundation of open markets and fair competition, but right now our country faces a monopoly problem, and American consumers, workers, and businesses are paying the price. As dominant digital platforms—some of the biggest companies our world has ever seen—increasingly give preference to their own products and services, we must put policies in place to ensure small businesses and entrepreneurs still have the opportunity to succeed in the digital marketplace. This bill will do just that, while also providing consumers with the benefit of greater choice online. I’m proud to introduce this much-needed legislation alongside Senator Grassley, Chair Durbin, and a bipartisan group of our colleagues, and I look forward to it passing the Senate and being signed into law,” said Klobuchar.
“As Big Tech has grown and evolved over the years, our laws have not changed to keep up and ensure these companies are competing fairly. These companies have continued to become a larger part of our everyday lives and the global economy, controlling what we see and how we engage on the internet. Big Tech needs to be held accountable if they behave in a discriminatory manner. Our bill will help create a more even playing field and ensure that small businesses are able to compete with these platforms,” said Grassley.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would set clear, effective rules to protect competition and users doing business on dominant online platforms.
The bill would prohibit dominant platforms from abusing their gatekeeper power by favoring their own products or services, disadvantaging rivals or discriminating among businesses that use their platforms in a way that harms competition on the platform.
It would also prohibit specific forms of conduct that are harmful to small businesses, entrepreneurs and consumers, but that do not have any pro-competitive benefit, including:
- Preventing another business’s product or service from interoperating with the dominant platform or another business;
- Requiring a business to buy a dominant platform’s goods or services for preferred placement on its platform;
- Misusing a business’s data to compete against it; and
- Biasing search results in favor of the dominant firm.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would give antitrust enforcers strong, flexible tools to deter violations and hold dominant platforms accountable when they engage in illegal behavior.
The bill would keep the most economically significant online platforms—ones with large U.S. user bases that function as “critical trading partners” for online businesses—from self-preferencing and discriminatory conduct.
This American Innovation and Choice Online Act is cosponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.).
Text of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act is available here.
MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $4.5 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awards for southwest Louisiana to address damage caused by Hurricanes Delta and Laura.
“Southwest Louisiana is still recovering from Laura and Delta, and this $4.5 million will help cover significant costs in the wake of these historic storms,” said Kennedy.
The FEMA aid will fund the following:
- $2,282,144.81 for emergency protective measures to secure public safety, rescue storm victims and protect property in Lake Charles.
- $2,225,691.95 for repairs to the electric generation and distribution facilities in southwest Louisiana.
WASHINGTON – The Senate has passed a resolution from Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) designating Oct. 10-16 as National Wildlife Refuge Week. The resolution praises the benefits of national wildlife refuges and recognizes their role in promoting hunting, fishing and conservation.
“As a sportsman, I’m thankful for the role national refuges play in conserving Louisiana’s vibrant wildlife. Louisianians are natural stewards of the environment because we know how important our wetlands are for protecting our fish, waterfowl and other species. National Wildlife Refuge Week gives everyone a chance to highlight America’s natural beauty and how we can preserve it together,” said Kennedy.
“The National Wildlife Refuge System is vital to the protection of American wildlife and recreation, and I am proud to highlight its importance by advancing this resolution with my friend and colleague, Senator Kennedy. In Delaware, Bombay Hook and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuges are essential habitats for our wildlife and provide recreational opportunities for Delawareans across the state. I look forward to continuing to support and protect our rich and diverse public lands,” said Coons.
The National Wildlife Refuge System generates more than $3.2 billion for local economies and supports 41,000 jobs.
Louisiana hunters have played an important part in conserving wetlands, establishing new wildlife habitats and increasing the duck population in the U.S.
Text of the resolution is available here.
Kennedy, Judiciary Republicans push back on Biden Justice Department crackdown on parents’ freedom of speech
Oct 07 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and nine other senators in demanding that the Justice Department (DOJ) not interfere with local school board meetings or threaten the use of federal law enforcement to deter parents’ free speech. This comes after DOJ issued a memorandum suggesting federal law enforcement may need to assist policing local school board meetings.
“We are concerned about the appearance of the Department of Justice policing the speech of citizens and concerned parents. We urge you to make very clear to the American public that the Department of Justice will not interfere with the rights of parents to come before school boards and speak with educators about their concerns, whether regarding coronavirus-related measures, the teaching of critical race theory in schools, sexually explicit books in schools, or any other topic. Furthermore, we urge you to instruct the FBI and the various United States Attorneys to make clear in the meetings discussed above that speech and democratic processes, like those that occur at a local school board meeting, must be respected,” wrote the senators.
“It is not appropriate to use the awesome powers of the Federal government—including the PATRIOT Act, a statute designed to thwart international terrorism—to quash those who question local school boards. By even suggesting that possibility, important speech by American citizens will be chilled in school board meetings across this country. Your job now is to make clear to all stakeholders and the American people that such action is decidedly not the role of the Federal government nor the role of any other government in the United States—in fact, it can never be,” the senators concluded.
Last month, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to President Biden asking for help from federal law enforcement, referencing the PATRIOT Act, a statute that helps the federal government fight international terrorism. NSBA referenced situations involving parents who have been frustrated by COVID-19 mask mandates for children and the possibility of incorporating critical race theory into the academic curriculum. Such discussions are clearly protected under the First Amendment.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) also signed the letter.
The full letter is available here.
Watch Kennedy’s comments here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in introducing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Modernization Act to end animal testing mandates on drug makers, allowing them to use testing methods that would improve the safety and effectiveness of drugs. Testing experimental medicines on animals has been shown ineffective for preventing certain side effects in humans.
“Testing new drugs on animals is often risky for both animals and people. The FDA Modernization Act would allow drug producers to improve safety by using more modern, humane and effective testing. I want Louisianians to get the best medicines as quickly and safely as possible, and I’m thankful to work with Sen. Paul to protect our furry friends at the same time,” said Kennedy.
“The FDA Modernization Act would accelerate innovation and get safer, more effective drugs to market more quickly by cutting red tape that is not supported by current science. It would also prevent the needless suffering and death of animal test subjects—which is something I think both Republican and Democrats can agree needs to end,” said Paul.
Current law requires drug makers to conduct animal testing to determine the safety and efficacy of drugs developed for humans. Animal testing, however, can be inefficient and problematic because some drugs that appear safe for animals are not safe for humans. This legislation would not altogether ban animal testing, but it would allow drug sponsors to use alternatives to animal testing when appropriate.
The FDA Modernization Act would allow drug producers to use alternative testing methods to verify a drug’s safety and efficiency, including sophisticated computer models and testing methods based on human biology rather than animal biology. This legislation would help make drugs more affordable, reduce the number of animal deaths during testing and get medicines to market sooner.
Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) are also co-sponsors of the bill.
Text of the FDA Modernization Act is available here.
Video of Kennedy’s remarks on the legislation is available here.
Kennedy, Scott, colleagues oppose Democrat plan that would make SBA direct lender, hurt job creators
Oct 06 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy today joined Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and more than 10 other senators in writing to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Small Business Committee Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and House Small Business Committee Chair Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) to oppose a Democrat plan that would make the Small Business Administration a direct lender through their $3.5 trillion reconciliation plan.
“We write today regarding a deeply concerning provision contained within the House Small Business section . . . of the Budget Reconciliation Bill, that would authorize nearly $4.5 billion over 10 years for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to issue direct 7(a) loans. We believe this would be an inefficient, costly, and unequitable position to put both lenders and borrowers,” the senators wrote.
“Giving the SBA the reins to run its own lending program will make it more difficult for existing lenders to continue to participate and potential lenders to even want to join the program. A 10-year authorization of $4.5 billion for this program with little to no oversight will also increase the level of concern over how the money is being used. Without proper parameters, the direct lending program can fall into a great deal of fraud and abuse,” explained the senators.
“As the United States emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth of small businesses and entrepreneurship must be a top priority. Unfortunately, under the reconciliation legislation currently under consideration, among other provisions, allowing the SBA to establish and run a lending program that they themselves regulate will harm job creators and hurt the United States economy as a whole,” concluded the senators.
Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) also signed the letter.
The letter is available here.