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MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today wrote to AT&T Chief Executive Officer John Stankey condemning AT&T’s failure to maintain its network in Louisiana when Hurricane Ida hit.  

“I write to you today regarding AT&T’s failure to maintain network operations during Hurricane Ida, including the emergency first responder call systems that so many parishes and cities rely on that AT&T exclusively serves. As you know, on Sunday, August 29th, Hurricane Ida made landfall in southeast Louisiana as a Category 4 storm. When Hurricane Ida hit, AT&T’s network—including the First Responder Network (FirstNet)—failed. Countless Louisianans were left without the ability to complete calls or send texts,” wrote Kennedy.

“The failure of AT&T’s network impacted people from all across the state, with at least four parishes reporting 911 systems being down. When Louisianans tried to make calls to 911 the calls couldn’t be completed. When loved ones tried to contact family and friends they couldn’t. Residents even lacked the ability to send and receive life-saving updates. This is unacceptable, especially when contrasted with widespread reports of competitor networks faring better,” Kennedy continued.

“It is my understanding that AT&T is the service provider for all 911 call centers in Louisiana. Further, it is my understanding that AT&T was awarded a 25-year, $6.5 billion contract to build and maintain a nationwide network for public safety—FirstNet. . . . FirstNet promised to absolutely ensure communications services for first responders during the most serious and unprecedented disasters. Unfortunately, emergency calls didn’t make it to first responders and there is widespread acknowledgment from government officials and emergency responders that much of the call routing technology they rely on is antiquated and in need of replacement or upgrade,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy asked AT&T why its network suffered greater outages than its competitors, how much money AT&T invested in deploying and expanding FirstNet coverage in Louisiana over the past five years and what AT&T is doing to improve its network resiliency, among other questions.

“It will be weeks before a full assessment of Hurricane Ida’s damage will be available. However, what we do know is that when Louisiana needed AT&T most, AT&T failed,” Kennedy concluded.

Text of the letter is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) in introducing the Filing Relief for Natural Disasters Act to provide relief for taxpayers in states that have issued state-level disaster declarations. Currently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has the authority to postpone tax filing deadlines following a presidentially-declared federal disaster, but not following the declaration of a state-level emergency.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) also cosponsored the legislation.

“It seems like Louisianians have been hit with all the storms nature has to offer, and we need all the help we can get to recover, and that includes extensions for filing taxes. Since Louisiana can’t always rely on Washington to get us the relief we need when we need it, this bill would make sure that Louisianians get the tax extensions necessary for rebuilding after our state declares a natural disaster. I’m thankful to partner with Sen. Cortez Masto on this effort,” said Kennedy.

“Nevadans shouldn’t be denied tax relief after experiencing wildfires just because the state doesn’t receive a federally recognized disaster declaration. Nevadans across the state have been affected by major wildfires in the west, and my legislation would ensure that any taxpayer feeling the impact of a natural disaster can access vital tax relief so our communities are able to recover,” said Cortez Masto.

 “When disaster strikes, Marylanders need immediate financial flexibility to rebuild and recover. This legislation will help ensure that—even when a federal disaster has not been declared. I’ll be working with my colleagues to pass this common-sense, bipartisan bill,” said Senator Van Hollen.

The Filing Relief for Natural Disasters Act would allow the governor of a state or territory to extend a federal tax filing deadline following a state-declared emergency or disaster instead of waiting for a federally-declared disaster. This means that states would have the ability to provide tax relief independent of the federal government’s involvement in an emergency or natural disaster.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Extension Act of 2021 to extend the program for one year, to Sept. 30, 2022. Without that extension, the NFIP will expire at the end of this month.

Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) are original cosponsors of the legislation.

“Louisiana families need the NFIP to rebuild their homes and businesses after destructive floods. The wreckage from Hurricane Ida is a powerful reminder of just how much Louisianians, and families throughout the country, desperately depend on flood insurance to protect their greatest investments. It’s vital that we extend this program by another year as Tropical Storm Nicholas is expected to bring significant flooding on the heels of Hurricane Ida,” said Kennedy.

More than 5 million families and businesses depend on the NFIP, including roughly 500,000 in Louisiana.

Text of the NFIP Extension Act of 2021 is available here.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today asked Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Deanne Bennett Criswell to extend the September 12th deadline of the Critical Needs Assistance (CNA) program in the wake of Hurricane Ida.

Hurricane Ida left many Louisianians without the means to apply for aid. The hurricane caused more than 1 million people to lose power, and electricity still has not been restored in many homes. 

“Without a deadline extension, residents will not be able to apply for and receive vital aid related to urgent needs as a result of Hurricane Ida—this includes financial assistance for food, water, medicines and temporary housing,” Kennedy wrote.

CNA offers financial assistance to individuals displaced from their homes and have immediate need for critical supplies such as food, water, medicine, fuel and other essentials. The program issues a one-time $500 payment per eligible household. 

“I thank FEMA for their continued relief efforts, and I remain ready to work together to ensure Louisiana residents are getting the aid they need,” Kennedy concluded.

 Text of the letter is available here.

 

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) traveled to Houma, Thibodaux and LaPlace to visit with and deliver supplies to victims of Hurricane Ida. Kennedy also met with local officials and church leaders to discuss what help Louisianians need after the hurricane. 

“The destruction in south Louisiana is devastating. Churches and neighbors are helping meet immediate needs on the ground, but people are going to need housing in the long term. The role of government isn’t to run our lives—it’s to protect people and property, and that’s what we need help doing right now in Louisiana. The men and women I talked with here are tough, but I’ve never seen the kind of damage Hurricane Ida caused. I’ll keep hounding Washington to make sure communities like Houma, Thibodaux and LaPlace get the aid they need to get Louisianians back on their feet,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy delivered supplies and spent time hearing from Hurricane Ida victims in Houma, Thibodaux and LaPlace on Tuesday.

Kennedy recently conducted a helicopter tour of south Louisiana to see Hurricane Ida’s damage firsthand. 

Kennedy also wrote to President Biden to alert him to the need for urgent disaster relief for Louisiana and met with the president in person to discuss ways to help Louisiana recover.

Background on Kennedy’s response to historic hurricanes:

  • 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 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 19, Kennedy pressed HUD for answers about why the White House has been silent on providing disaster relief to southwest Louisiana.
  • 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.

BATON ROUGE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), together with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Reps. Clay Higgins (R-La.), Steve Scalise (R-La.), Mike Johnson (R-La.), Garret Graves (R-La.), Julia Letlow (R-La.) and Troy Carter (D-La.), today wrote to President Joe Biden alerting him to the need for disaster relief funds to help Louisiana recover from historic storm damage.

“Hurricane Ida moved slowly through Louisiana causing catastrophic wind damage and flooding in numerous parishes and leaving nearly 1,000,000 people statewide without electricity, which experts say it will take weeks to restore. At this time, many communities remain without access to drinking water, food, gasoline, and basic needs, while temperatures remain in excess of 100 degrees,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The full extent of Louisiana’s damages have not yet been determined and will likely not be fully known until after immediate matters of public safety are addressed. Further, Hurricane Ida is not the only disaster to strike Louisiana in the past year. In fact, a record breaking five named storms—Cristóbal, Marco, Laura, Delta, and Zeta—hammered Louisiana within the past year resulting in dozens of lives lost and billions of dollars in damages,” the lawmakers continued.

The legislators pointed out that many communities across Southwest and Central Louisiana, such as Lake Charles, Lafayette, Leesville and Alexandria, among others, are still waiting for disaster funding from the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program.

“As such, we are writing you now to alert you to the need for Congress to provide emergency supplemental appropriations to address Hurricane Ida and the storms from last year, as was done following Hurricane Katrina. Without substantial and robust emergency appropriations from Congress to critical unmet needs accounts like the CDBG-DR program, Louisiana families will continue to languish as a result of these devastating storms,” the lawmakers continued.

The letter is available here.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, today urged U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to stop the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) from flowing to the Taliban terrorist group.

The Biden administration has been a proponent of the $650 billion allocation of special drawing rights (SDRs), which would send more than $400 million to Afghanistan. The IMF allocation is set for Aug. 23.

“During our meeting last May, I urged you to halt your pursuit of approving Special Drawing Rights under the guise that an allocation would provide foreign aid during the COVID-19 pandemic. As I noted, the bulk of the funds from an SDR allocation would wrongly benefit G20 countries—the wealthiest economies in the world—while millions would go to our adversaries, state sponsors of terrorists, and countries that have perpetrated genocide. It is my understanding that Afghanistan, under the approved allocation, is expected to receive $450 million in SDRs, a portion of which is scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan by next week,” wrote Kennedy. 

“As the Taliban has seized power in Afghanistan, just two weeks before the U.S.’s troop withdrawal, it is clear these SDRs will fall into their hands. Not only that, but since the U.S.’s withdrawal in Afghanistan, many adversarial governments are poised to extend economic and diplomatic influence over Afghanistan. This is evident as both China and Russia have indicated they would formally recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government,” Kennedy continued.

“The Biden Administration must not allow the Taliban to gain legitimacy in economic or diplomatic dealings with the U.S. or abroad.  The Taliban never intended to abide by the terms of the peace deal, and this administration should not bend to the false promises of the Taliban,” he explained.

“With this in mind, I urge you to block the nearly half a billion dollars that is headed to Afghanistan under the Taliban’s rule. Furthermore, I ask the Treasury Department and the IMF to end the use of SDRs as a means of foreign aid to countries like China, Iran, and Russia, who continue to support this terrorist regime,” Kennedy concluded.

Text of the letter is available here.

In March, Kennedy questioned Yellen on why the Biden administration is circumventing Congress to burden American taxpayers with SDRs that would go to regimes that oppress their citizens and actively oppose American interests, such as China and Russia.

In June, Kennedy  introduced the No Dollars for Dictators Act. The legislation would prohibit allocations of special drawing rights at the IMF from going to perpetrators of genocide and state sponsors of terrorism unless Congress authorizes the allocation.

Background

The IMF distributes special drawing rights according to each country’s economic standing in the global economy. That means the world’s wealthiest countries receive the most special drawing rights of all IMF members. 

The president’s justification for supporting the proposed allocation is to allow low-income countries to exchange their special drawing rights for currency to fund efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Under the proposed allocation, however, the countries with the 19 largest economies in the world would receive $426 billion—the bulk of the special drawing rights. The 24 poorest countries would receive only three percent of the allocation, or $21 billion. 

China alone would receive $22 billion in special drawing rights, which is more than the total that all of the poor countries combined would receive. Russia would receive $18 billion. In addition to sending billions of dollars to Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, the allocation would send billions in aid to Hassan Rouhani, Bashar al-Assad and Nicolas Maduro.

State sponsors of terrorism would also receive aid from the allocation President Biden has approved. Iran would receive $3.5 billion, and Syria would receive $900 million.

While some have claimed that special drawing rights offer the U.S. a no-cost way to assist poor countries, this is demonstrably false. This IMF allocation would require the U.S. to issue debt in order to cover the loans issued through special drawing rights. The U.S. would have to pay interest on that debt, and that interest would exceed any interest that the U.S. may receive on the loans it issues.

There is no requirement that countries that receive loans from the U.S. through special drawing rights ever repay the principal. As a result, the financial burden of these loans will fall on the U.S. taxpayer.

 


Watch Kennedy’s full statement here. 

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today released this statement about President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Key excerpts are below:

“I am so sorry that all of our American soldiers who fought so valiantly [in Afghanistan] had to witness what we all saw, and what we saw was stunning incompetence.”

“President Biden chose to withdraw from Afghanistan, but there's no reason it had to be so chaotic. We all saw it: The panic, the fear, the chaos, the abandonment of equipment, the scrambling to destroy unclassified documents and classified documents, thousands of Americans and our allies trapped behind Taliban lines, no plan for the refugees.”

“It was horrible, and this didn’t have to happen. The military and the intelligence community told President Biden that if he withdrew without a plan and too quickly, this was going to happen, but he did it anyway.”

“It was the biggest terrorist victory since 9/11, and Jihadists who want to hurt this country and its people all over the world are reinvigorated today. Our enemies—China and Russia—are laughing. And our veterans are crying, and I cry with them.”

Watch Kennedy’s full statement here.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and 22 other Republican senators today urged President Biden to reverse his decision to call upon the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies to increase oil production in response to rising gas prices.

“We are surprised by your recent actions in calling on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies to increase oil production in response to rising gasoline prices. Since your first day in office, your Administration has pursued policies that have restricted and threatened American oil and gas development, which has had devastating consequences for American workers and consumers. It is astonishing that your Administration is now seeking assistance from an international oil cartel when America has sufficient domestic supply and reserves to increase output which would reduce gasoline prices,” the senators wrote.

“Last month, gasoline prices reached a seven year high and are forty-percent higher than they were on January 1, 2021. It is no surprise how we got here. Your Administration’s domestic oil and gas development policies are hurting American consumers and workers, are contrary to an ‘America First’ energy agenda, and reinforce a reliance on foreign oil,” they continued.

“We agree with your intent to reduce the cost of gas for hardworking Americans, but your domestic policy agenda has proven to have the opposite effect and continues to threaten American jobs and family budgets. We urge your Administration to revise its regulatory agenda and legislative priorities as it relates to domestic oil and gas development. The best and most effective way to reduce the cost of gasoline at the pump is to unleash clean, affordable and reliable American energy,” concluded the senators.

Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) also signed the letter.

The letter is available here.

Watch Kennedy’s comments here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) offered an amendment to the Senate budget resolution that would penalize abortion providers that perform elective abortions on unborn babies with a gestational age of 20 weeks or more. Senate Democrats blocked Kennedy’s amendment.

“Babies can start feeling pain at 20 weeks in the womb. These unborn children can suffer horrifically as they struggle for their lives during an abortion. I’m incredibly sad that Senate Democrats rejected the chance to protect innocent babies from such cruelty,” said Kennedy. 

Children in the womb can feel pain 20 weeks after fertilization. In some cases, fetal surgeons performing medical procedures in the womb have had to sedate unborn children with anesthesia to relieve their stress and prevent them from moving in reaction to pain. 

Text of the amendment is available here.