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WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators John Kennedy (R-LA), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and U.S. Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), and Steve Scalise (R-LA) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation in the Senate (S. 2652) and House to award Washington state native, ALS champion, and former New Orleans Saints star Steve Gleason with the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his work through the Gleason Initiative Foundation to provide individuals with neuromuscular diseases or injuries with the assistance they need to thrive, his advocacy for federal legislation ensuring people living with diseases such as ALS have access to speech generating devices, and his leadership in bringing together the single largest coordinated and collaborative ALS research project in the world.

“Steve Gleason is a national hero, and I’m proud to help introduce this legislation to award him the Congressional Gold Medal.  He was an outstanding athlete.  Saints fans will always remember his seven spectacular seasons with the team,” said Sen. Kennedy. “But it has been Steve’s work off the field that has truly distinguished him.  Since his diagnosis, Steve has done an incalculable amount of work to spread awareness for ALS.  He has been a beacon of hope and has been the definition of courage for all touched by this disease.  I can think of no better way to honor him.”

“Steve Gleason was a hero for Saints fans and now he is a hero for all Americans as he finds hope and meaning in overcoming disability and creating greater opportunity for others who are disabled,” said Dr. Cassidy.

“Few people make Washington state as proud as Steve Gleason, a Spokane native and WSU standout who not only excelled on the field, but who has gone on to make his biggest impact as a tireless advocate in the health world,” said Sen. Murray. “Together with his wife, mother, and everyone at their foundation, Steve has changed countless lives for the better and this legislation symbolizes the strong support Steve and Team Gleason have in the United States Congress.”

“Steve, a Spokane native, is a hero to me and to so many of us in Eastern Washington,” said Rep. Rodgers. “As a tireless advocate for those with ALS and other degenerative diseases, Steve has helped usher legislation through Congress to permanently provide access to important speech-generating devices for those who’ve lost their ability to communicate. He has chosen to fight back against ALS, and to undergo this very personal battle in the public eye to bring awareness to this disease and the people who it impacts on a daily basis. That’s why I’m proud to join in this effort to recognize Steve with the Congressional Gold Medal.”

“Steve Gleason is not just a beacon of hope in New Orleans, but across the country,” said Rep. Richmond. “His work on the field lifted the hearts of Saints fans, but his work off the field is actually improving lives. Steve is doing remarkable work and is truly an inspiration. Awarding him a Congressional Gold Medal would be the best way to honor him.”

“Just like the New Orleans Saints were an inspiration to the city when they returned to the Dome after Hurricane Katrina, Steve Gleason has been a hero in his own right for the city of New Orleans,” said Whip Scalise. “His spirit and determination serve as an inspiration to us all.”

“We strongly support the nomination of Steve Gleason for a Congressional Gold Medal,” said ALS Association President and CEO Calaneet Balas. “Steve’s efforts to successfully secure access to speech-generating devices was critical to all those who have ALS. Speech-generating devices aren’t a luxury for people with diseases like ALS - they’re a lifeline. These devices allow people living with ALS to communicate with healthcare professionals, loved ones, and their communities. We encourage Congress to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Steve Gleason – he is a national hero.”

“Steve Gleason is so deserving of this honor. He has inspired and challenged all of us to push the boundaries of technology to empower people with disabilities, even as he has waged his own battle against ALS,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith. “Steve is a huge reason we’ve pursued eye control solutions for Windows and wheelchairs, giving people with limited speech and movement independence through technology.”

“On behalf of the New Orleans Saints we extend our most sincere support for awarding Steve Gleason with the Congressional Gold Medal,” said Saints Owner Gayle Benson. “Along with his wife, Michel, and everyone at Team Gleason, they are courageously confronting ALS with an unwavering determination, unselfishly providing countless afflicted people with the latest in technology and services. Steve is leaving a truly indelible mark in American history.”

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow. Before a medal is awarded, the legislation must be passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by the president.

Previous recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal include Orville and Wilbur Wright, Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk, Irving Berlin, Robert Frost, Bob Hope, Walt Disney, Roberto Clemente, Sir Winston Churchill, John Wayne, the 1980 U.S. Summer Olympic Team, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Ruth and Billy Graham, Frank Sinatra, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus.

The legislation states in part:

The Congress finds the following:

(1) Stephen “Steve” Gleason was born March 19, 1977, in Spokane, Washington to Mike and Gail Gleason.

(2) Steve attended Gonzaga Preparatory School for high school where he excelled as both a football and baseball player.

(3) In 1995, Steve enrolled at Washington State University where he was a 2-sport athlete for the baseball and football teams and helped the Cougars football team advance to the 1997 Rose Bowl.

(4) In 2000, Steve signed a professional football contract with the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League as an undrafted free agent but later joined the New Orleans Saints in November of that same season.

(5) Steve would go on to play 7 more seasons as a member of the New Orleans Saints.

(6) Steve will always be remembered for his blocked punt on September 25, 2006, against the Atlanta Falcons, the night the Louisiana Superdome reopened for the first time after Hurricane Katrina in a game the Saints would win 23 to 3.

(7) In January, 2011 Steve was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, considered a terminal neuro-muscular disease.

(8) Following his diagnosis, Steve, with the loving support of his wife, Michel, began a mission to show that patients can not only live but thrive after a diagnosis of ALS and established The Gleason Initiative Foundation also known simply as “Team Gleason”.

(9) At the time of his diagnosis, however, Steve said there will be “No White Flags”, which has become the mantra of Team Gleason.

(10) The Gleason Initiative Foundation helps provide individuals with neuromuscular diseases or injuries with leading edge technology, equipment and services, raises global awareness about ALS to find solutions and an end to the disease, and has helped hundreds of people with ALS experience life adventures they never thought possible after their diagnosis.

(11) Steve’s story and mission have been told by the NFL Network, ESPN, HBO, ABC, CBS, CNN, and many local media outlets, as well as in a 2016 documentary titled “Gleason”, which was heralded at the Sundance Film Festival and premiered across the country with Variety calling the production “an emotional powerhouse”. The documentary won several awards, including the 2016 Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Documentary.

(12) Steve was named 1 of 2 Sports Illustrated’s Inspirations of the Year in 2014, has been a keynote speaker for Microsoft and at 2 United Nations sponsored Social Innovation Summits, and received the 2015 George S. Halas Courage Award, given to a NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed.

(13) Steve helped advocate for the Steve Gleason Act of 2015 (Public Law 114–40; 129 Stat. 441), and the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act of 2017, H.R. 2465, 115th Congress (2017), which permanently ensures people living with diseases such ALS have access to speech generating devices regardless of their setting, whether at home or a healthcare institution.

(14) In 2014, Steve and Team Gleason hosted a global summit to bring together researchers, patients, caregivers, and all ALS stakeholders to create a plan to ultimately end ALS. That summit resulted in the single largest coordinated and collaborative ALS research project in the world, Answer ALS, which brings together nearly two dozen research institutions, 1,000 patients and 20,000,000,000,000 data points that are important to the project and that will define the unknown pathways that will lead to treatments or finally a cure.

(15) In 2015, Steve and Microsoft worked together to create a method for people who are completely paralyzed to navigate their power wheelchairs with their eyes. Today, Steve, Microsoft and all wheelchair manufacturers are working collaboratively to make it widely available to all who need this technology. In addition, Microsoft has also made eye tracking technology part of all Windows 10 products across the globe.

(16) In 2011, 10 months after his diagnosis, Steve and Michel made their most significant accomplishment, becoming parents to their son Rivers.

(17) Steve and Michel Gleason continue to fight to find a solution for ALS so they can share many years together and as parents to Rivers.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) announced today that they will introduce legislation to protect the privacy of consumers’ online data by improving transparency, strengthening consumers’ recourse options when a breach of data occurs, and ensuring companies are compliant with privacy policies that protect consumers. Specifically, the proposed legislation will:

  • Give consumers the right to opt out and keep their information private by disabling data tracking and collection,
  • Provide users greater access to and control over their data,
  • Require terms of service agreements to be in plain language,
  • Ensure users have the ability to see what information about them has already been collected and shared,
  • Mandate that users be notified of a breach of their information within 72 hours,
  • Offer remedies for users when a breach occurs,
  • Require that online platforms have a privacy program in place.

Social media and other online platforms routinely capture users’ behavior and personal information, which is then used to help advertisers or other third parties target those users. Senators Kennedy and Klobuchar’s legislation would protect the privacy of consumers’ online data.

“The data breach at Facebook showed the world that the digital promised land is not all milk and honey.  We’ve discovered some impurities in the punch bowl,” Senator Kennedy said.  “I don’t want to regulate Facebook half to death, but there are things that need to be changed.  Our bill will help protect Americans’ online data fingerprint.”

“Social media and other online companies are profiting off the data of Americans—their online behavior, personal messages, contact and personal information, and more—all while leaving consumers in the dark,” Senator Klobuchar said. “Consumers have the right to know if their personal information is being sold and they have the right to easily see what data has already been sold or distributed. And most importantly, consumers should have the right to keep their information private, be alerted when a data breach has occurred, and be informed of the remedies available to them when their personal information is compromised. The digital space can’t keep operating like the Wild Wild West at the expense of our privacy.”

 

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) is requesting a classified hearing for members of Congress on this past weekend’s chemical attack near Damascus, Syria.  Specifically, Sen. Kennedy wants information on who is responsible and the likely impact for the region if U.S. forces leave Syria.  Sen. Kennedy’s letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is below.

“The images of children struggling to breathe after the chemical attack are unconscionable.  Whoever did this is a human butcher,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “We need answers to fully understand who is responsible for the attack.  We can’t let this go unanswered.  If we do, our friends won’t trust us and our enemies won’t respect us.”

April 10, 2018

 

 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Majority Leader

U.S. Senate

S-230 Capitol Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

 

Dear Leader McConnell,

I write today to respectfully request a classified briefing on the recent violence in Syria.  Media reports published over the weekend indicate at least 42 people are dead after a chemical attack near Damascus.  This attack and other similar chemical attacks in the region are of grave concern.  

In order to fully understand the ongoing situation, a classified briefing would help members understand who is responsible for the attack, disclose background on previous chemical weapon attacks in the region, and reveal the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) latest position in Syria.  Officials with knowledge of the situation should share their views on the impact for the region if American forces stay or leave Syria.

This situation is dire, and I request this briefing take place as soon as possible.  Thank you for your consideration of my request, and I look forward to working with you on this critical issue.    

       Sincerely,

 

      

       John Kennedy

       U.S. Senator

 

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) sent the following letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army R.D. James and Lieutenant General Todd Semonite requesting full funding of Freshwater Bayou Lock:

 

April 9, 2018

 

The Honorable R.D. James
Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works)
108 Army Pentagon
Room 3E446
Washington, DC 20310

Lieutenant General Todd Semonite
Chief of Engineers
Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
441 G Street,
Washington, DC 20314

 

Dear Secretary James and LTG Semonite,

In the recently passed Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Omnibus), the Army Corps of Engineers received $3.63 billion under the Operations and Maintenance account, an increase of $481 million from FY 2017. These funds will be eligible to fund critical projects in Louisiana that represent the three main mission areas of the Corps.  We write to you today to reiterate our full support for the restoration of full funding for the Freshwater Bayou Lock and ask for your consideration that the additional funding provided in the Omnibus under this account be used at the Freshwater Bayou Lock.

As you know, Freshwater Bayou Lock plays a critical role in our nation’s commerce, typically ranking in the top 10 nationwide in terms of commercial lockage.  It provides access from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and Intracoastal City for the offshore oil supply and commercial fishing industries and serves as a mechanism for salinity control of the Mermentau Basin.  However, the proposed FY 2019 funding for lock operations has been cut from $1.4 million to $759 thousand.  Without full funding, Freshwater Bayou Lock will be unable to meet the level of service mandated by the Inland Marine Transportation Systems (IMTS) standards adopted Corps-wide and will be forced to drastically reduce its hours of operations.

With the additional monies made available to the Corps through the FY18 Omnibus, we respectfully ask that you restore full funding for this critical project.  We look forward to continuing working with you to ensure that the Freshwater Bayou Lock is able to continue operating within its normal parameters. 

Respectfully,

 

 

_______________                         _______________                       _______________

Bill Cassidy, M.D.                         John Kennedy                              Clay Higgins

United States Senator                United States Senator                  United States Congressman

 

Cc: Colonel Michael N. Clancy

 

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“Our promised digital utopia, we have discovered, has minefields.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today questioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a joint hearing with the Senate Judiciary and Senate Commerce committees.  This hearing comes after Sens. Kennedy and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called for the hearing early last month.  Below is the video of Sen. Kennedy’s questions during the hearing.

I don’t want to have to vote to regulate Facebook, but, by God, I will.  A lot of that depends on Mr. Zuckerberg,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Mr. Zuckerberg has built an extraordinary company, and he’s done a lot of good.  But there are some impurities in the Facebook punchbowl, and they’ve got to be fixed.  Mr. Zuckerberg can spend $10 million on lobbyists and fight us or he can help us solve the problems.”

Click here or the image below to watch the video.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement today on the death of former legislator Thomas Alcade Casey.  Sen. Kennedy and Casey served in the Roemer administration together.

“Tom was one of the kindest and most decent people I have ever known, in or out of politics.  I worked with Tom in my first job in government with Gov. Buddy Roemer.  Tom was Executive Counsel, and I was Special Counsel.  He was very patient with me and taught me a lot.  Thinking of Tom with his meticulous notes on his assortment of legal pads and his consistent good humor makes me smile.  Tom loved the law, loved his state, loved his city, and, especially, loved his family.  He also loved his church.  He was the consummate gentleman.  If Tom’s not in Heaven — and I believe he is — the rest of us don’t have a chance.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) sent Citigroup CEO Michael L. Corbat a letter seeking information on the repercussions for Louisiana from Citigroup’s threat to retaliate against small businesses who support Second Amendment rights.  Citigroup is threatening to sever business ties with customers who do not follow certain rules for selling firearms.  A copy of Sen. Kennedy’s letter to Citigroup is below.
 “Citigroup has no business threatening law abiding business owners for exercising their Second Amendment rights.  The only reason that Citigroup is even in business today is because American taxpayers bailed them out during the Great Recession,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Instead of imposing its political agenda on the American people, Citigroup ought to be finding ways to help these mostly small businesses grow.  Citigroup certainly shouldn’t be threatening their Constitutional rights.” 
 

 

March 29, 2018

 

 
Mr. Michael L. Corbat
Chief Executive Officer
Citigroup
388 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013

Dear Mr. Corbat:

I write today regarding the new U.S. Commercial Firearms Policy that you unveiled last week at Citi.  I have significant concerns about this policy and respectfully request that you provide me the specific number of entities in Louisiana which stand to lose banking services as a result of your increased scrutiny on law-abiding businesses.  I wish you would provide the same level of scrutiny to other areas of Citi’s business instead of penalizing Americans who choose to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. 

As I have read from your executive’s blog post addressing the new direction Citi is taking, it seems you want to do your part to change American society positively.  I applaud that goal and share your belief that it’s vital to our societal and cultural growth.  However, I strongly object to cracking down on gun manufacturers, sellers, and owners when you have such significant opportunity to “do your part” in other areas of your business.

 It feels like yesterday when Citi received nearly half a trillion dollars in taxpayer-backed guarantees and cash after putting the entire financial system at risk.  In fact, the 10th anniversary of the largest government bailout in American history is just around the corner.  I hope you will focus on properly running your business and addressing apparent shortcomings like overcharging credit card interest rates to account holders and compliance with U.S. anti-money laundering laws.  Those are real ways to “do your part” that would make a difference. 

 The very fact that Citi remains operational is due entirely to the generosity of the American taxpayers.  Please don’t forget that.  While I am disappointed in your announcement, I look forward to addressing it in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.  

 Thank you for your attention, and I look forward to your response.

                                                                       

 Sincerely,

 

 

John Kennedy

United States Senator

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced the passage of the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act, which will help children who are fighting cancer to live longer and healthier lives.  Every day, 43 children are newly diagnosed with pediatric cancers.  Tragically, 12% will die prematurely.  Sen. Kennedy is a co-sponsor of this bi-partisan legislation which will provide resources to improve the quality of life for those impacted by childhood cancer, expand public access to child-focused treatment and advance pediatric cancer research.

“As a father, my heart goes out to families grappling with pediatric cancers.  They need every bit of support that we can give them.  I am proud to say that The Childhood Cancer STAR Act has passed the Senate by unanimous consent.  A cancer diagnosis is the worst medical news a parent can hear.  We’ve made a lot of progress in helping children with cancer survive, but our work won’t be done until every single child beats cancer,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “This bill will go a long way toward providing comfort and assistance to those children and families battling childhood cancer.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement after voting against the Omnibus bill:

“I could not vote in favor of a $1.3 trillion dollar spending bill when this country already is $21 trillion in debt.  We are spending billions of dollars every year just in interest on federal debt.  It’s like using a credit card to keep the lights on at the Capitol.  Any family knows how fiscally dangerous it is to use a credit card to pay the mortgage instead of cutting the household budget.  Soon, you’re making the monthly minimum payment and drowning in debt,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “There was an easy solution to this mess.  The Senate could have been allowed to amend the budget bill in order to reduce wasteful spending.  Instead, we were kept in the dark and fed manure like victims of mushroom management.  There was no communication and no collaboration.”

 

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Last Thursday—before reports of a breach of 50 million Facebook users’ dataKlobuchar and Kennedy began calls for CEOs to come before the Judiciary Committee

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today called on the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley (R-IA), to hold a hearing at which Senators can publicly question the CEOs of technology companies. The bipartisan letter follows reports that Cambridge Analytica misused the data of 50 million Facebook users. Last week—before the breach—Klobuchar and Kennedy began calls for the technology companies to come before the Judiciary Committee.

“Major social media platforms store an enormous amount of data and have a user base larger than all of the major broadcasting companies combined. The remarkable innovation that these companies have championed has changed how we share and collect information. In the process, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have amassed unprecedented amounts of personal data and use this data when selling advertising, including political advertisements. The lack of oversight on how data is stored and how political advertisements are sold raises concerns about the integrity of American elections as well as privacy rights,” the senators wrote.

“A hearing featuring testimony with CEOs would provide the Committee the opportunity to hear an update on the progress of these companies' voluntary measures to combat attempted foreign interference and what is being done to protect Americans’ data and limit abuse of the platforms, as well as to assess what measures should be taken before the next elections. It is for these reasons that we request that you announce a hearing of the Judiciary Committee at which Senators can publicly question the CEOs of technology companies.”

The letter can be read in its entirety below.

Dear Chairman Grassley:

We write to express serious concern regarding recent reports that data from millions of Americans was misused in order to influence voters, and to urge you to convene a hearing with the CEOs of major technology companies -- including Facebook, Google, and Twitter -- regarding the security of Americans’ data in light of this significant breach.

Reports indicate that private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users -- representing nearly a quarter of potential U.S. voters in 2016 -- was taken to conduct sophisticated psychological targeting for political ads in order to influence voters. The reports further indicate that Facebook knew about this breach more than two years ago and failed to acknowledge it and take swift and meaningful action. 

While Facebook has pledged to enforce its policies to protect people's information, questions remain as to whether those policies are sufficient and whether Congress should take action to protect people's private information. The Committee considered similar cybersecurity issues in an October hearing featuring testimony from the former chairman and CEO of Equifax. We believe that the Committee should revisit these issues in light of recent events and upcoming elections.

Important questions also remain unanswered about the role of these technology companies in our democracy. Major social media platforms store an enormous amount of data and have a user base larger than all of the major broadcasting companies combined. The remarkable innovation that these companies have championed has changed how we share and collect information. In the process, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have amassed unprecedented amounts of personal data and use this data when selling advertising, including political advertisements. The lack of oversight on how data is stored and how political advertisements are sold raises concerns about the integrity of American elections as well as privacy rights.

Senators from both parties have called for more transparency and accountability from social media platforms in their efforts to guard against interference by foreign actors. Testimony before this Committee and others from current Administration officials, as well as former officials from the Administrations of President George W. Bush and President Obama, has made clear that the threat of foreign interference continues to exist, and that these foreign powers will make similar attempts to interfere in future elections. 

It is our view that Senators on the Judiciary Committee should have the opportunity to question the CEOs of technology companies about these critical matters. While this Committee's Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism convened a hearing with witnesses representing Facebook, Twitter, and Google in October of 2017, we have yet to hear from the leaders of these companies directly. A hearing featuring testimony with CEOs would provide the Committee the opportunity to hear an update on the progress of these companies' voluntary measures to combat attempted foreign interference and what is being done to protect Americans’ data and limit abuse of the platforms, as well as to assess what measures should be taken before the next elections.

It is for these reasons that we request that you announce a hearing of the Judiciary Committee at which Senators can publicly question the CEOs of technology companies. We would be happy to discuss this matter with you further and we appreciate your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

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