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WASHINGTON – The Senate voted today on Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) amendment to ensure that Small Business Administration (SBA) assistance cannot go to individuals found guilty of felony rioting within the last 15 years. Senate Democrats voted against the measure, blocking it by a vote of 48-50.

“Without order, there can be no justice. We shouldn’t be taking resources away from hardworking small business owners and giving those taxpayer dollars to criminals who have been duly convicted of felony rioting. Free speech is as American as baseball, but violence as a part of protest is illegal in our country,” said Kennedy.

By mid-April of 2020, lockdowns and capacity restrictions had either temporarily or permanently reduced the number of small businesses in operation by 44 percent.

Violent protests and riots then further damaged small businesses already struggling under the pandemic. One in 20 U.S. protests between May 26 and Sept. 5 involved rioting, looting and similar violence, resulting in 47 fatalities. During the summer of 2020, riots caused over $1 billion in damage to cities across the country, making that time the most expensive period of riots in America’s history.

Under the Trump Administration, individuals who have been arrested or convicted of a felony in the last year, or were convicted of financial assistance fraud in the last five years, were deemed ineligible for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

The Biden Administration discontinued this safeguard so that individuals with prior non-fraud felony convictions are now able to access PPP funds.

Kennedy’s amendment would prohibit the SBA from providing assistance such as PPP, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and other small business assistance to anyone who has been convicted of a felony during or in connection with a riot or civil disorder that occurred during the past 15 years.

WASHINGTON – Today the Senate unanimously passed the Concerns Over Nations Funding University Campus Institutes in the United States (CONFUCIUS) Act. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced the legislation to address concerns about Confucius Institutes’ suppressing free speech on American college campuses. 

“Confucius Institutes are under the control of the Chinese Communist Party in all but name. They are propaganda centers thatthreaten academic liberty and free speech without shame, and too many American schools are falling victim to the political con every day. This bill would give colleges and universities full control over their resident Confucius Institutes and restore freedom of thought on their campuses. The Senate passed the CONFUCIUS Act unanimously just months ago, and it is good news for students and educators that my colleagues did the same again today. I hope the House joins us in sending the CONFUCIUS Act to the president’s desk,” said Kennedy.

At universities across the U.S., the Chinese government is waging an influence war through its Confucius Institutes. Though ostensibly designed to promote cultural studies on college campuses, Confucius Institutes receive direct funding from the Chinese government.

The CONFUCIUS Act reduces the Chinese Communist Party’s influence on U.S. colleges and universities by granting full managerial authority over Confucius Institutes to the universities that host them. 

Specifically, the CONFUCIUS Act provides that Confucius Institutes must:

  • Protect academic freedom on the campus where the Confucius Institute is located,
  • Prohibit the application of any foreign law on any campus of the institution, and
  • Grant full control over what a Confucius Institute teaches, the activities it carries out, the research grants it gives and the individuals it employs to the college or university on which it is located.

This bill would prohibit federal government funding to colleges and universities that host Confucius Institutes and are not in compliance with the above provisions. The funding prohibition would only apply to funding directed to the college or university and would not include funding disbursed to students, such as Pell Grants.

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) have cosponsored the legislation.

The Senate twice passed the legislation unanimously in the 116th Congress.

Background:

  • According to the nonpartisan National Association of Scholars, there are at least 55 Confucius Institutes on U.S. soil, 48 of which are on university or college campuses.
  • In May 2020, the College Republican National Committee and the College Democrats of America wrote a joint letter calling for the “immediate and permanent closure of all Confucius Institutes in the United States” due to their “concerns over the present state of academic freedom” and “the continued exploitation of liberal, democratic academic institutions by authoritarians.”
  • These institutes can threaten universities by withholding funding in order to achieve their objectives, such as regulating speech the Chinese government opposes. Universities forced to choose between losing funding or upholding free speech are often tempted to yield to an institution funded by a foreign government over the interests of free speech. This allows foreign governments like China’s Communist Party to exert influence over American schools (such as prohibiting the Dalai Lama from speaking on a campus) and even apply Chinese Communist laws on U.S. soil.

The bill text is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) today introduced the American Financial Markets Integrity and Security Act to ban malign Chinese companies—including the parent, subsidiary, affiliate or a controlling entity—that are listed on the U.S. Department of Commerce Entity List or the U.S. Department of Defense list of Communist Chinese military companies from accessing U.S. capital markets. 

“The Chinese Communist Party shouldn’t find ready investors on U.S. soil. I’m thankful to partner with Sen. Rubio to ensure that American capital isn’t developing, expanding, or strengthening China’s military. This is a national security priority, and I hope our colleagues pass this bill without delay,” said Kennedy. 

“The Chinese Communist Party’s exploitation of U.S. capital markets is a clear and ongoing risk to U.S. economic and national security that must be addressed. The American Financial Markets Integrity and Security Act will ban these companies from operating in U.S. capital markets and make clear to the Chinese Communist Party that they will no longer be able to exploit our financial system. I urge the Biden Administration to support this bill and build upon—not undo—the critical work the previous administration took to address China’s exploitation of U.S. capital markets,” said Rubio.

Currently, there are a number of Chinese companies accessing U.S. capital markets, and more than 30 of these are identified on lists released in June and August 2020 by the Pentagon. This includes those companies that the U.S. government has sanctioned yet are operating in the U.S. capital market system while being involved in the Communist Party’s military, espionage, human rights abuses, “Military-Civil Fusion Strategy” and the “Made in China 2025” industrial policy.

As part of efforts to guard American investors and their capital, this December, the president signed into law the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, Kennedy’s bill to protect American investors and their savings from Chinese and other foreign companies that operate on U.S. stock exchanges while refusing to submit to Securities and Exchange Commission oversight.

Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) have also cosponsored the American Financial Markets Integrity and Security Act.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) introduced companion legislation in the House. 

The full text of the bill is available here.  

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) today introduced the Fair Access to Banking Act, which would prevent discrimination by banks and financial service providers against Constitutionally-protected industries and law-abiding businesses. The bill builds off the Trump Administration’s Fair Access Rule.

“Banking isn’t a red versus blue battleground. Law-abiding Americans should have access to financial services regardless of political position. The Fair Access to Banking Act would ensure that banks rely on impartial risk assessments—rather than politicized discrimination—when providing their services. If banks want to become advocacy groups that ignore the Constitutional protections of their clients, they would be breaking the law,” said Kennedy. 

Fairness matters. There is no place in our society for discrimination, and big banks are no exception. Financial service providers do not have the right to circumvent the Constitution or the law to create de-facto bans on legally-compliant businesses like energy producers or firearms manufacturers when they believe it is politically convenient. Our legislation makes it illegal to do so and imposes serious consequences on those who choose to violate the law,” said Cramer. 

The need for this legislation is driven by the recent actions of some of the largest U.S. banks that are using their economic standing to discriminate against energy producers. Last year, five of the country’s largest banks announced they will not provide loans or credit to support oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge even though Congress explicitly authorized it. Last fall, JPMorgan Chase declared it would refuse financial services to coal producers, and Bank of America began a politically-motivated effort to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from its financing activities by 2050, an effort directly targeting producers of reliable American energy.  

Discrimination by financial service providers also extends to industries protected by the Second Amendment, with banks like Capital One including “ammunitions, firearms, or firearm parts” in its prohibited payments section, and payment services like Apple Pay and PayPal denying their services for transactions involving firearms or ammunition.

In response to these developments, the Trump Administration created the Fair Access Rule—which this legislation would codify—to prevent these and other acts of discrimination, but President Joe Biden has paused the rule’s implementation. 

Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) have also cosponsored this legislation.

The bill has a wide array of industry support, including endorsements from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Independent Petroleum Association of America, National Rifle Association, Kentucky Coal Association, Lignite Energy Council, National Mining Association, National Association of Wholesale Distributors and the Day 1 Alliance.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), along with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Reps. Mike Johnson (R-La.), Steve Scalise (R-La.), Clay Higgins (R-La.) and Garret Graves (R-La.) today urged President Joe Biden to grant a request for a major disaster declaration for Louisiana, which has been battered by winter storms. 

The letter is available below and here.

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Biden:

Thank you for your prompt action to issue an emergency declaration for the State of Louisiana due to the recent winter weather event that began on February 11, 2021. We are confident the federal resources unlocked by that declaration saved life and property as our communities responded to the crisis. The recovery process is now underway, and it is apparent additional federal assistance is warranted. As such, we respectfully ask that you grant the State of Louisiana’s request for a major disaster declaration.

As you are aware, many of the characteristics of this recent weather event were unprecedented, and its impacts stretched across huge swathes of the state. At the event’s peak, more than 200,000 Louisianians were without electricity, and seven hospitals and six nursing homes relied upon generators as their sole source of electricity.

The most significant impact, however, came in the form of disruptions to the delivery of water to impacted areas. Due to damaged water mains and related distribution infrastructure, roughly one-quarter of the state’s population experienced either a loss of access to safe drinking water or a loss of access to water altogether. These disruptions extended to hospitals and nursing homes, where bulk water was brought in via truck to continue services to our most vulnerable populations. All told, 63 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes issued emergency declarations in response to this event, and tragically, the state reports six fatalities stemming from the treacherous weather.

In addition to these considerations, we remain concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic and a record-setting 2020 hurricane season have placed a tremendous strain on the state’s ability to effectively recover from February’s winter weather event. In fact, the emergency declaration you issued for this event marks the tenth federal emergency or disaster the state has experienced in the past 24 months. For these reasons, we ask that you grant the State of Louisiana’s request for a federal disaster declaration as soon as possible. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) today introduced legislation that would prohibit the Export-Import Bank (EXIM) from providing loans to individuals and companies that are delinquent on repaying their tax debt.  

“American taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize businesses that haven’t even paid their own taxes, and I’m proud to work with Sen. Braun to bring accountability to the Export-Import Bank,” said Kennedy.

“The Export-Import Bank should not serve as an ATM for tax delinquents and this legislation will address this loophole, while also rooting out potential fraud from dozens of companies,” said Braun. 

The EXIM Bank currently requires companies applying for certain financing to self-certify that they do not have delinquent federal debt. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) analyzed federal data and identified billions of dollars in authorized EXIM transactions associated with dozens of companies that may have fraudulently applied for financing.

The GAO found that:

  • Federal law states that applicants who are delinquent on federal debts may not receive federal direct loans, loan guarantees or loan insurance until the delinquent debt is satisfactorily resolved. 
  • Financial pressures potentially incentivize participants or employees to commit fraud on applications to use EXIM.
  • Using data from the System for Award Management (SAM), GAO found that, from calendar years 2014 through 2016, EXIM authorized transactions with an aggregate authorization value of about $1.7 billion that were associated with 32 U.S.-based companies that had a delinquent federal debt indicator in SAM in the same month that EXIM authorized these transactions.

EXIM concurred with GAO’s recommendation that the bank should use available data instead of self-certification to prevent companies with delinquent federal debt from obtaining EXIM financing.

As a result of these findings, this legislation would ensure that:

  • EXIM could use SAM data and data-analytical approaches to detect applicants and participants with potentially delinquent federal debt and work with the Internal Revenue Service to confirm delinquencies. 
  • Companies that have fraudulently certified that they do not have federal debt would lose access to EXIM financing, and EXIM would deny applicants holding such federal debt. 
  • The president could waive the prohibition if the president determines that the work being carried out by an entity with delinquent federal debt significantly affects U.S. interests. 
  • Debt that is being repaid in a timely manner is not considered to be seriously delinquent federal debt.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $2,232,261 from U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for flood elevation projects in Erath, La. 

“Erath and much of Acadiana suffer from floods that have plagued our state. This FEMA funding will give Vermilion Parish residents protection for their homes and families, and I look forward to seeing these projects move forward quickly,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA grant will fund the elevation of 13 residential structures that have been damaged by repeated flooding. FEMA is funding 98% of the total cost of the project.

Kennedy is a member of the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over the National Flood Insurance Program.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Linemen Legacy Act to revise the Department of Homeland Security’s definition of “emergency response providers” to include utility line technicians.

The definition in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 grants first-responder status to an array of occupations such as law enforcement, emergency public safety personnel and fire and medical rescuers, but does not currently include utility linemen. 

“We saw the work utility linemen did to repair Louisiana’s electrical grid after Hurricanes Laura and Delta hit our state, and we’re seeing these servants back in action sooner than we thought. As ice storms fell on our state and took lines down with them, linemen were often first on the scene to make neighborhoods safe again. They save homes, businesses and lives. Simply put, linemen are first responders, so my bill would legally add utility line technicians to Homeland Security’s list of first-responder occupations. I hope my colleagues join me in giving these heroes the recognition they deserve by moving this bill forward,” said Kennedy.

This February, winter storms wreaked havoc across the state, leaving thousands of Louisianians without power and scattering live wires around residential areas. Hurricanes Laura and Delta also destroyed thousands of Louisiana’s utility poles, lines and substations last fall, particularly in the southwest portion of the state.

Kennedy also introduced the bill in the 116th Congress, and video of the senator’s statement is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) authored this op-ed, originally published in CNBC. 

Below are key excerpts from the article, which calls on President Biden to stop the federal government from sending taxpayer dollars to the deceased. 

“At a time when the national debt is $27 trillion—the largest it’s ever been—the least we can do is make sure that government relief payments are going to people who need them most.

“Unfortunately, too much of that money is ending up in the hands of fraudsters who capitalize on the deaths of their fellow Americans.”

… 

The struggle is perennial. In 2018, the Social Security Administration (SSA) sent checks worth $40 million to dead people in Maryland, Michigan, and Texas. Who knows how much more was lost in the other 47 states?

“Sadly, the IRS is very limited in what it can do to claw back improper payments. It can ask politely for the money back, but it’s unlikely that people who mistakenly believe the money is due them or those who are comfortable committing fraud will return the payments.

“Recovering the money legally can be a pricey pursuit in itself, and that process could add to the grief of families who have lost loved ones and now find themselves in a bureaucratic mess of the government’s making.

… 

“President Joe Biden has said he wants to be a unifying president. Well, now’s his chance to make the most of a winning issue. No taxpayer, regardless of party, is likely to support sending taxpayer money to dead people.

“The president has a rare opportunity to act now to fix this problem ahead of schedule, saving billions of dollars over the next few years. Millions of Americans have lost their livelihoods during the coronavirus pandemic.”

“Even in a polarized political climate, we can all agree that government shouldn’t be redistributing wealth to the dead.”

The full op-ed is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and fellow lawmakers today sent a letter urging President Joe Biden to withdraw his nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

“We write to express our grave concerns regarding the nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to serve as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Mr. Becerra’s lack of healthcare experience, enthusiasm for replacing private health insurance with government-run Medicare-for-all, and embrace of radical policies on immigration, abortion, and religious liberty, render him unfit for any position of public trust, and especially for HHS Secretary,” wrote the lawmakers.

“Our nation cannot afford to lose valuable time in this battle by installing an HHS Secretary who is not up to the challenges we face. But that is exactly what you propose to do by nominating Mr. Becerra, a man with no meaningful experience in healthcare, public health, large-scale logistics, or any other areas critical to meeting our present challenges,” they continued. 

“Mr. Becerra’s extremism and contempt for those who take a different view contradict your calls for unity. His appointment would sow further division at a time our country needs to heal and would endanger lives at a time our citizens need life-saving treatments, vaccinations, and the freedom to work and worship together,” the lawmakers concluded.

Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) also signed the letter. A complete list of supporters can be found in the letter, which is available here.