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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.

View Kennedy’s speech here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today spoke on the Senate floor in support of efforts to improve education for Louisiana’s children. Louisiana House Bill (H.B.) 12 would protect students from being promoted to the fourth grade if their reading deficiencies have not been remedied by the end of the third grade. 

“Over half of my children, my young people, in Louisiana are not reading at their grade level, and, at some point, as a child is socially promoted in school and progresses, it almost becomes impossible for a child to learn if the child can’t read,” said Kennedy.

“We’ve got to be courageous enough to try new things that we think will work,” he added.

“Here’s what H.B. 12 would do: It would say, ‘Look, we’re not blaming anyone, but if you are a child in the third grade in Louisiana and you can’t read—according to objective standard—at an acceptable level, then you’re going to stay in the third grade . . . We think you can learn, and you can’t learn if you can’t read.’ Now, that doesn’t mean that the child just repeats the third grade with no help. We will assign that child special tutors. We will assign that child special attention. . . . Our kids deserve the chance. Every child can learn,” concluded Kennedy.

Louisiana spends $2,000 per student more than Florida and $2,600 more than Mississippi, but both states outperform Louisiana in grade four in terms of reading and math, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). 

According to reporting, Mississippi and Florida represent “the two biggest NAEP improvement stories of the last twenty years” and demonstrated notable gains on reading scores after enacting a measure similar to H.B. 12.

The Louisiana State House passed H.B. 12 by a vote of 88-15 on May 16, 2023. The Louisiana State Senate is now considering the bill.

View Kennedy’s full speech here.

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $25,442,269 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Louisiana disaster aid.

“Hurricanes Ida and Laura struck our state badly. This $25.4 million will greatly help the folks in Calcasieu, Jefferson and Terrebonne Parishes in their recovery,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $12,819,966 to Calcasieu Parish School Board for repairs on the Barbe High School campus as a result of Hurricane Laura.
  • $11,545,372 to Terrebonne Parish for electrical line repair as a result of Hurricane Ida.
  • $1,076,931 to Jefferson Parish for emergency protective measures as a result of Hurricane Ida.

 

Watch Kennedy’s full remarks here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee helped introduce a resolution to designate May 14 through May 20, 2023 as National Police Week. The Senate unanimously adopted the resolution.

“I wanted to take a few minutes to thank our law enforcement officers in Louisiana. They’ve got a difficult job, and they do not get the appreciation that they deserve. Some people think police officers are a bigger problem than criminals, but the people who think that are wrong. All of us know—most fair-minded people know—our officers save lives and our police officers serve their communities honorably, and we’re thankful for them,” said Kennedy.

The resolution:

  • Designates the week of May 14 through May 20, 2023, as “National Police Week.”
  • Expresses unwavering support for law enforcement officers across the U.S. in the pursuit of preserving safe and secure communities.
  • Recognizes the need to ensure that law enforcement officers have the equipment, training and resources that are necessary in order to protect the health and safety of the officers while they protect the public.
  • Recognizes the law enforcement community for unseen acts of sacrifice and heroism.
  • Acknowledges that police officers and other law enforcement personnel, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, should be remembered and honored.
  • Expresses condolences and solemn appreciation to the loved ones of each law enforcement officer who has made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
  • Encourages the people of the U.S. to observe National Police Week by honoring law enforcement personnel and promoting awareness of the essential mission that law enforcement personnel undertake in service to their communities and the U.S.

Background: 

  • Kennedy introduced the Back the Blue Act to increase penalties for criminals who target law enforcement officers and provide new tools for officers to protect themselves.

The full resolution is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Veteran’s True Choice Act of 2023 to expand access to health care options for veterans by allowing them to use community care providers if the Veterans Affairs (VA) facility in their community does not offer services they need. Veterans with service-related conditions would be able to use TRICARE Select and TRICARE for Life if they are Medicare eligible instead of participating in the VA health care system.

“Our brave veterans should never go without necessary health care, but far too often that is the case. I’ve introduced the Veteran’s True Choice Act to expand access to health care options for Americans who heroically served in our military, so that vets can get the care they deserve,” said Kennedy.

Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) is leading the legislation in the House of Representatives.

“As someone who utilizes the VA system myself, I know the frustration veterans in Southwest Florida experience when dealing with the VA. Florida's 17th district is home to 75,000 veterans, including many who feel underserved or wrongly served. My legislation gives those who served our country what they deserve—true choice when it comes to their healthcare. I’m appreciative of the partnership of Senator Kennedy and I look forward to delivering this legislative solution to America’s veterans,” said Steube.

The legislation would:

  1. Direct the VA to reimburse the Department of Defense accordingly for the cost of care.
  2. Give patients more individual choice among providers in their communities by enabling them to use TRICARE.

Full text of the legislation is available here.  

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) penned this op-ed in The Hill on Sunday defending the blue slip nomination process for district court judges.

Kennedy also highlighted the success of district court nominee Darrel Papillion, a Louisiana nominee who received blue slips from both Republican senators and sailed through the Judiciary Committee vote last week, earning bipartisan support.

Below are key excerpts:

“[T]he blue slip isn’t about dunking on the opposition. The blue slip is one of the only ways that citizens have a say—through their elected senators—in who gets to call the legal balls and strikes in their communities.”

. . .

Trust in our judicial system depends on these judges’ being highly qualified. That means knowing legal procedure and constitutional rights inside and out. These judges must also have the appropriate judicial temperament to ensure every citizen receives a fair trial. Republican and Democratic senators alike should be loath to leave this responsibility to unelected bureaucrats in the White House Counsel’s Office who don’t know or understand the people we represent.

While I believe my colleagues on both sides of the aisle take the responsibility of confirmation seriously, the majority party can get tunnel vision when trying to rush through the president’s nominees. I’ve served during Republican and Democrat White Houses, and I know that presidents from both parties have nominated some duds. The stakes for green-lighting a questionable candidate may seem low, but bad judges have real consequences. No one wants to find themself fighting for their freedom before a judge who thinks the U.S. Constitution is the name of a ship.

“Senators can’t afford to overlook unqualified nominees because we are accountable first and foremost to the people of our state—the same people who suffer at the hands of biased or untalented appointees. If a bad judge lands on a district court in Louisiana, that judge can oversee a lifetime appointment’s worth of injustices. And that can do irreparable damage to the people who sent me to be their voice.”

. . .

“The blue slip process encourages bipartisan cooperation. Our deference to the people of our respective states forces any White House to prioritize the qualifications and judicial temperament of nominees rather than bending the knee to activists or privileging people with political connections. The blue slip process makes our court system fairer and stronger. And that’s good for our democracy.”

Read Kennedy’s full op-ed here.  

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $12,677,732 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Louisiana disaster aid.

“I am grateful to see that this $12.7 million will go towards disaster recovery efforts in Slidell and Jefferson Parish as well as to repairing the grid,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA aid will fund the following: 

  • $7,119,114 to Jefferson Parish for debris removal operations from Hurricane Ida.
  • $4,332,704 for the elevation of 22 properties affected by flooding in Slidell, La. 
  • $1,225,914 to the Dixie Electric Membership Corporation for repairs from Hurricane Delta.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introduced the Chase COVID Unemployment Fraud Act of 2023 to recover stolen COVID unemployment money and return it to taxpayers. The legislation encourages states to implement guardrails that would protect against future fraud.

“The pandemic may be over, but the financial damage is still hurting honest Americans. The greatest theft of taxpayer dollars in American history is the billions of COVID unemployment money that fraudsters stole. This bill will help recover that money and return it to taxpayers,” said Kennedy.

According to testimony provided by the Department of Labor (DOL) Inspector General, improper payments in pandemic unemployment programs have left taxpayers on the hook for at least $191 billion that people took illegally. 

The bill would fight fraud by: 

  • Incentivizing states to recover fraudulent unemployment payments by allowing them to retain 25 percent of the funds they recover from federal COVID unemployment programs. Workforce agencies currently have little incentive to go after fraud and must pay the up-front costs of hiring investigators and paying to prosecute fraud.
  • Allowing states to retain five percent of state unemployment overpayments that they recover and dedicating those funds to preventing future fraud by:
  • Hiring investigators and prosecutors to go after criminals to recover fraud payments.
  • Modernizing state systems’ ability to verify identity and income for unemployment.
  • Supporting additional program integrity activities to deter, detect and prevent improper payments.
  • Preventing further fraud by requiring states to match unemployment claims and verify employment, in addition to preventing incarcerated people from receiving unemployment benefits and stopping payments to deceased people.
  • Prohibiting the Biden administration from allowing states to waive suspicious overpayments by requiring the DOL to amend guidance that lets states off the hook for over-looking large volumes of suspicious unemployment claims. 
  • Requiring the DOL to report on fraudulent overpayments and the amount of money states recover from fraudsters.
  • Extending the statute of limitations for criminal charges or civil actions for prosecuting fraud from five to 10 years.