WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today urged Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to give Congress a comprehensive list of NIH grants awarded to Dr. Peter Daszak. Daszak is the president of EcoHealth Alliance, which funneled U.S. tax dollars to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
“Dr. Peter Daszak was the only American citizen involved in the WHO investigation. Reports show that, at the instruction of Dr. Daszak himself, the WHO investigation did not look into information about at least 16,000 previously studied virus samples from a deleted WIV database,” wrote Kennedy.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), an NIH subsidiary, gave a $3.4 million grant to EcoHealth Alliance, a non-governmental organization. EcoHealth Alliance then sent $600,000 from this grant to the WIV. Previously, Daszak had strongly condemned the idea that the pandemic originated in a lab as a “conspiracy theory.”
“In light of this troubling constellation of facts, I am requesting the NIH issue a report to Congress with a detailed listing of all of the grants that the NIH or any subsidiary agency, including the NIAID, has given to Dr. Daszak at any point, including details regarding how each grant intended to use that funding. . . . Americans deserve substantive, transparent answers to where the virus originated, what sparked the pandemic, and who may be responsible,” Kennedy concluded.
The letter is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $46,498,869 in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for debris removal in Lake Charles, La. Hurricane Laura devastated the area last fall.
“I am grateful that FEMA is reimbursing Lake Charles for the extensive debris removal efforts it undertook after Hurricane Laura hit southwest Louisiana as a Category 4 storm. Louisianians are still picking up the pieces of last hurricane season, and they’re still waiting for the help they deserve from this administration,” said Kennedy.
More than 2 million cubic yards of debris were removed in the wake of the historic storm. FEMA reimbursed 90 percent of the removal cost, and the funding is authorized under the Robert T. Stafford Act.
Jun 07 2021
“Louisianians work hard every year to prepare to retire responsibly and enjoy the fruits of their labor. They deserve to have more control over their own retirement plans, and that means limiting how much the government meddles here. I introduced these bills to give hardworking Louisianians the freedom to save more of their money on their own terms,” said Kennedy.
Keeping Your Retirement Act
The Keeping Your Retirement Act would raise the required minimum distributions age from 72 to 75 for certain retirement accounts.
Federal regulations may require individuals with traditional individual retirement accounts (IRA) and defined contribution accounts (such as 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) accounts) to make annual withdrawals called required minimum distributions from their accounts. Currently, individuals who are at least 72 years old must make such withdrawals from their retirement accounts. These premature withdrawals can unnecessarily shrink people’s hard-earned savings.
Required minimum distributions also increase the taxable income of seniors who are still working, which may push some seniors into higher income brackets and potentially increase their tax liability.
By raising the age of mandatory withdrawals, the Keeping Your Retirement Act would give seniors more time for their retirement savings to grow before they are required to make annual withdrawals that can deplete their savings and increase their tax liability.
Text of the Keeping Your Retirement Act is available here.
Increasing Retirement Amount Act
The Increasing Retirement Amount Act would allow individuals who do not have access to a workplace retirement plan to save more of their money for retirement by increasing their IRA contribution limit to $12,000 per year. The legislation would increase the IRA contribution limit to $15,000 per year for individuals who are at least 50 years old and who do not have a workplace retirement plan.
Currently, Americans cannot contribute more than $6,000 per year to their IRAs, whether or not their employers offer a retirement plan. Contributions to traditional IRAs are tax-deductible. In 2017, 50 percent of IRA owners who contributed to their traditional IRAs made the maximum contribution. As of March 2020, 29 percent of American workers did not have access to a retirement plan through their employers.
Text of the Increasing Retirement Amount Act is available here.
Kennedy introduces bill to stop Biden administration from unilaterally raising flood insurance premiums
Jun 07 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Flood Insurance Fairness Act to stop the Biden administration from unilaterally making changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that would raise premiums for Louisianians affected by flooding.
“Louisianians are still reeling from last fall’s historic storms, and it’s already hurricane season again. The last thing these families need is an unnecessary hike in their flood insurance premiums. Yet the Biden administration is bypassing Congress in order to raise premiums for vulnerable Louisianians. Louisianians deserve to have a say in a plan that could make their housing unaffordable overnight. The Flood Insurance Fairness Act would require congressional approval before the Biden administration could make any changes to the National Flood Insurance Program,” said Kennedy.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is initiating Risk Rating 2.0, a new rating system for NFIP. Risk Rating 2.0 is scheduled to go into effect for new NFIP policies on Oct. 1, 2021. New rates for existing NFIP policyholders will go into effect on April 1, 2022. The new rating system would change the way premium rates are calculated, potentially making flood insurance unaffordable for Louisiana families in flood-prone areas.
The Flood Insurance Fairness Act would require congressional approval before FEMA could make any changes to NFIP, including implementing Risk Rating 2.0. The bill would also freeze premiums at the date of the bill’s enactment until Congress agrees to change them.
Kennedy wrote to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) this April requesting a hearing to examine Risk Rating 2.0 and recently spoke out against the new rating system on the Senate floor.Text of the Flood Insurance Fairness Act is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today issued the following statement in response to President Biden’s announced budget.
“America’s debt is already economic quicksand, and President Biden’s budget would mire us deeper in that pit by spending more than ever before. With inflation on the rise and the economy re-opened, the Biden administration thinks now is the time to spend trillions of dollars on liberal pet projects while undercutting our national defense. America’s rivals are watching for any sign of weakness, and President Biden’s budget spells out ‘sucker’ in semaphore. If the president wants to strangle a strong economy and saddle the next generation of Americans with crippling debt, his budget follows the right recipe,” said Kennedy.
Biden today released a planned budget for fiscal year 2022. The budget plan includes a 16 percent increase in domestic spending but only increases defense spending by 1.7 percent, a rate that is effectively a funding cut since it does not keep up with inflation.
The U.S. national debt already totals more than $28 trillion.
May 27 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today issued the following statement in response to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimated cost of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) Endless Frontier Act, which would increase the U.S. deficit by $53.5 billion over the 2021-2031 period.
The $53.5 billion is emergency spending, which waives the requirement that Congress find a way to pay for the funds as it spends them. There is no offset for this spending. In addition, the bill would authorize another $191 billion in future spending.
“America doesn’t have the money to pay for the Endless Spending Act, so here’s what this deficit spending means: Senate Democrats are asking their colleagues to borrow money from China to fund projects that add precious little to our military defense or economic competitiveness against China.
“Democrats are asking us to open the door to sinking another $190 billion deeper in debt to China. Democrats voted down the Republican amendment that would block the Treasury from sending U.S. dollars straight to genocidal regimes like China. This bill isn’t anti-China, but it is pro-spending. This bill would do the Chinese Communist Party a favor by further crippling American taxpayers with debt owned by China. China is a bad actor, and this is a bad bill,” said Kennedy.
May 26 2021
Watch Kennedy’s comments here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today remembered Louisiana’s Gov. Buddy Roemer on the Senate floor.
Key excerpts include:
“I want to just spend a few minutes today saying goodbye to a friend. Louisiana weeps right now. Governor Charles E. Roemer III passed away last week. He went by ‘Buddy.’ He served our state from 1988 to 1992. Before that, he served a number of terms in Congress.
. . .
“Buddy was one of the first real intellectual governors that we ever had in Louisiana. I’m not putting down our other governors, I’m not, because all of our governors have been intelligent, just like in your state. You don’t rise to that position without being intelligent. But Buddy truly believed in the power of ideas. And he truly believed in the worth of education.”
. . .
“When he became governor, we had a $7 billion budget; we had a $1 billion deficit. That’s what he was left with. Roemer balanced the budget. Wasn’t easy, but he did it.”
“And then he implemented fiscal reforms that dramatically, totally, changed our way of budgeting in Louisiana for generations to come, because of Buddy’s efforts.”
. . .
“I’m going to really miss Buddy. All he ever wanted to do was change Louisiana. And he did. He wasn’t reelected, but he did. But Buddy always understood—this was his barometer of success. He used to tell me, ‘Kennedy, here’s how you know when you’re doing a good job: If you’re making the right people mad.’ He used to say, ‘If nobody’s mad at you, and if the wrong people like what you’re doing, you’re not doing your job.’”
Watch Kennedy question NIAID Director Fauci here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today questioned National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci about whether U.S. grant money could have funded gain-of-function research in Wuhan.
Key exchanges from the Appropriations subcommittee include:
Kennedy: “Dr. Fauci, I believe you have testified that you didn’t give any money to the Wuhan lab to conduct gain-of-function research. Is that right?”
Fauci: “That is correct.”
. . .
Kennedy: “How do you know they didn’t lie to you and use the money for gain-of-function research anyway?”
Fauci: “Well, we’ve seen the results of the experiments that were done and that were published—and that the viruses that they studied are on public data bases now. So, none of that was gain-of-function, so—"
Kennedy: “How do you know that they didn’t do the research and not put it on their website?
Fauci: “There’s no way of guaranteeing that, but in our experience with grantees, including Chinese grantees, which we have had interactions with for a very long period of time, they are very competent, trustworthy scientists.”
. . .
Kennedy: “You think all the scientists have told the truth in terms of the origin of the Wuhan virus and not been influenced by the Communist Party of China, do you?”
Fauci: “I don’t have enough insight into the Communist Party in China to know the interactions between them and the scientists, sir.”
. . .
Kennedy: “Here’s where I’m getting at: You gave them money, and you said, ‘Don’t do gain-of-function research.’”
Kennedy: “And they said, ‘We won’t.’”
Kennedy: “And you have no way of knowing whether they did or not, except you trust them. Is that right?”
Fauci: “Well, we generally always trust the grantee to do what they say, and you look at the results—”
Kennedy: “Have you ever had a grantee lie to you?”
Fauci: “I cannot guarantee that a grantee has not lied to us because you never know.”
Kennedy: “Can we agree that if you took President Xi Jinping and turned him upside down and shook him, the World Health Organization would fall out of his pocket?”
Fauci: “I don’t think I can answer that question, sir. I’m sorry.”
May 26 2021
Watch Kennedy’s comments here.
WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats today voted down Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) amendment to the Endless Frontier Act. The amendment, S.Amdt. 1710, would prohibit allocations of special drawing rights at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from going to state sponsors of terrorism and those guilty of genocide without congressional approval.
“Stopping taxpayer money from flowing to dictators and genocidal leaders like Xi Jinping is a no-brainer. This is one of the simplest, most honorable votes we’ll take this year. I can’t see any reason that anyone with America’s best interests at heart would have a problem voting to require Congress to sign off before the Treasury sends U.S. dollars to dictators,” said Kennedy ahead of the vote.
“The International Monetary Fund issues special drawing rights, and a special drawing right is like a crypto coin: It’s not worth anything. It’s only worth something if you exchange it for real money. And the Biden administration decided to encourage the IMF to issue all these crypto coins, and guess what they’re all doing? They’re bringing the crypto coins to the United States of America and saying, ‘We want dollars! Give me dollars for the crypto coin!’” Kennedy explained on the floor.
“But we don’t have any dollars in our checking account, so we have to go borrow the money. There’s no free lunch, and you don’t get one now. All my bill would do [is] say we’re not going to issue special drawing rights to perpetrators of genocide or state sponsors of terrorism. In other words, no China, no free money to China, no free money to Syria and no free money to Iran. It is ludicrous for us to be borrowing money to give dollars to exchange for crypto coins to China or Syria or Iran,” concluded Kennedy.
Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) co-sponsored this amendment.
Kennedy’s amendment is available here.
Kennedy introduces bill to stop banks from discriminating against American businesses based on politics
May 26 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the No Red and Blue Banks Act, which would prohibit the federal government from entering contracts with banks that discriminate against lawful businesses based solely on social policy considerations.
“If banks want to become political actors and impose their policy positions on Americans, they shouldn’t get to rake in taxpayer dollars from government contracts. The No Red and Blue Banks Act would block banks that discriminate based on their own political values from profiting off federal contracts,” said Kennedy.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) is an original co-sponsor of this legislation.
- On March 22, 2018, Citigroup announced new guidelines imposing three extralegal requirements on gun sales made by its partner businesses. The guidelines force businesses to adopt background check requirements, restrict the sale of firearms for individuals under 21 years of age and refrain from selling bump stocks or high-capacity magazines.
- A few weeks later, Bank of America followed suit and announced that it would be winding down its business dealings with companies that manufacture semi-automatic rifles.
- In both announcements, these banks cited social concerns about gun violence as motivation to take action.
- These banks took action to restrict legal commercial activity, above and beyond the limitations on gun and accessory sales that Congress has already imposed.
- Citigroup and Bank of America were among the “systemically important banks” granted bailouts during the Great Recession, totaling more than $812.3 billion taxpayer dollars.
- Citigroup is the world’s largest issuer of credit cards, with nearly $500 billion in annual purchases. The bank serves 100 million customers in 19 markets.
- Bank of America has more than 47 million customers and a retail footprint that reaches 80% of the United States.
Text of the No Red and Blue Banks Act is available here.