Watch Kennedy question FEMA on flood insurance here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today questioned David Maurstad, Senior Executive of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), about changes to the NFIP that could raise flood insurance rates for many Louisianians.
Key excerpts include:
“With respect to Risk Rating 2.0, I think you’re presiding over a tire fire. I think the rollout of Risk Rating 2.0 looks like a ferret fire drill.
“Here’s what I hear FEMA saying, ‘We created this program in 1968. FEMA has the authority to assign premiums. We, FEMA,’ I hear you saying, ‘all these years, have been doing it wrong. We’ve been assessing risk wrong. And now, we, FEMA, have had an epiphany. And we have figured out how to look at every individual property, out of all the properties of the United States of America, and assign the risk for that particular property. But we’re not going to tell you how we’re going to do it. In fact, we’re going to require the insurance companies who are implementing Risk Rating 2.0 to sign a gag order. We’re not going to promulgate a rule. We’re not going to allow for public comment. We’re just going to do it because we’re smarter than the people who pay the premiums and we’re smarter than the United States Congress.’
“Now, I need you to explain to the policyholders of America . . . because you’re not waiting—you’re going to pull the trigger in August. I need you to explain to them this epiphany that FEMA has had, and how, if you look at a particular property, you’re able now to assign with specificity and accuracy flood risk, when all these years you did it wrong. Tell me what you did wrong, and tell me now why it’s going to be accurate.”
. . .
“You’ve got some consultants, and they’ve developed models. I get that part. They haven’t been tested. You’ve done no rule. You’ve done no public comment. Nobody’s been allowed to weigh in. Policyholders have no idea what you’re talking about.
“You know what I’ve discovered about consultants in predicting the future? For every consultant, there’s an equal and opposite consultant, and oftentimes they’re both wrong. And a lot of them are—their accuracy is about as good as those late-night psychic hotlines on TV. And you’ve done this in secret, and it’s not right, and we don’t know if you’ve considered other alternatives.”
. . .
“In my state, we’re not talking about a bunch of wealthy homeowners who have a second and third beach house. These are working people. They get up every day. They go to work. They obey the law. They try to do the right thing by their kids. They try to save a little money for retirement. Their biggest investment is in their home, and now you’re doing this to them without explaining it to them?”
. . .
“You’ve got to explain why, Mr. Maurstad. There’s a lot of distrust of Washington. You’ve got to explain why. You can’t hide your consultants. You’ve got to be in front of God, and country, and policyholders—you’ve got to say, ‘This is the methodology. Now let’s test it through debate.’”
Watch Kennedy’s questioning of the FEMA executive here.
Kennedy introduces No Dollars for Dictators Act to prevent taxpayer money from flowing to China, Russia, Iran
Jun 17 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the No Dollars for Dictators Act. The legislation would prohibit allocations of special drawing rights at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from going to perpetrators of genocide and state sponsors of terrorism unless Congress authorizes the allocation.
“The Biden administration shouldn’t be forcing U.S. taxpayers to line the pockets of Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani. It’s astonishing that President Biden and Secretary Yellen have green-lit a deal that sends $40 billion to China and Russia while all the world’s poor countries combined would receive half that.
“Congress is responsible for stewarding taxpayer money, and this bill would stop the Biden administration from making an end run around the Constitution on behalf of the world’s worst dictators. Oppressive, hostile regimes work to undermine America’s safety and success every day, but the White House shouldn’t be helping them,” said Kennedy.
President Biden has agreed to a general allocation of special drawing rights at the IMF totaling $650 billion without consent from Congress. Large portions of that allocation will flow to dictators and countries that actively oppose American interests and violate human rights.
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.
Text of the No Dollars for Dictators Act is here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced legislation that would improve Louisianians’ access to telehealth services. The package of bills would raise reimbursement levels for health care professionals conducting virtual visits, end a regulation that limits access to telehealth services and improve telehealth access in rural areas.
“Telehealth services help Louisiana patients who aren’t always able to make a trip to the doctor. My legislation would support telehealth providers and the people they care for, especially when those Louisianians live in rural areas,” said Kennedy.
Audio-Only Telehealth for Emergencies Act
The Audio-Only Telehealth for Emergencies Act would allow physicians delivering care during a public health emergency or a major disaster declaration to receive the same compensation for audio-only telehealth visits as they would receive for in-person appointments.
Text of the Audio-Only Telehealth for Emergencies Act is available here.
Telehealth HSA Act
The Telehealth Health Savings Account (HSA) Act would allow employers to offer high-deductible health plans that include telehealth services without limiting employees’ ability to use health savings accounts. A current IRS regulation stops employees from making or receiving contributions to HSAs if they hold a high-deductible health plan that waives the deductible for telehealth services. This means that employees holding such high-deductible health plans will often need to pay out of pocket for telehealth services.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act temporarily waived this regulation, and the Telehealth HSA Act would make this waiver permanent.
Text of the Telehealth HSA Act is available here.
EASE Behavioral Health Services Act
The Enhance Access to Support Essential (EASE) Behavioral Health Services Act would allow mental health professionals providing telehealth services through Medicare and Medicaid to be reimbursed at the same levels as mental health professionals conducting in-person visits. This would allow patients to receive care in the comfort of their own homes and reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment.
Text of the EASE Behavioral Health Services Act is available here.
Increasing Rural Telehealth Access Act
The Increasing Rural Telehealth Access Act would expand access to health care by improving remote patient monitoring technology for individuals in rural areas. Remote patient monitoring is a form of telehealth that uses digital technologies and mobile medical devices to gather health data from patients at home and send it to their health care providers. This technology allows health care providers to continuously monitor patients with chronic health problems.
Rural patient monitoring relies on wired or wireless measurement devices such as blood pressure cuffs, biosensors and those measuring blood glucose levels. Some devices provide real-time video interactions between the patient and health care provider. Rural patient monitoring relies on technology that operates at low frequencies, such as 2G cellular connectivity, giving rural Louisianians more reliable access to medical attention.
Text of the Increasing Rural Telehealth Access Act is available here.
Watch Kennedy’s comments here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, today gave a speech on the Senate floor urging Democrats to support nuclear energy over renewable energy and emphasizing the necessity of oil, gas and nuclear energy to America’s economy.
Key excerpts include:
“If you ask many Members of Congress what they think the solution to our environmental issues is, they will probably respond, ‘renewable energy.’ But if we’re really worried about the climate, and I know we all are—we all want clean air, we all want bright water—I suggest that we also embrace nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is not only safe, but it is clean, and, frankly, it can produce more power than renewables.”
. . .
“Nuclear energy creates little or no carbon emissions. It also creates very little waste, an extraordinarily small amount of waste.”
. . .
“Solar and wind can’t hold a candle to nuclear power when it comes to efficiency. That’s just a fact. It takes more than 3 million solar panels, or more than 430 wind turbines, to produce the same amount of energy as the average nuclear plant. . . . And these numbers do not take into account that solar panels, as we know, are useless when the sun doesn’t shine, and wind turbines are nothing more than expensive paperweights when the wind doesn’t blow.”
. . .
“I want to be clear: I still believe in fossil fuels. I’m an all-of-the-above energy advocate. But leading that pack is fossil fuels. America’s economy is the largest in all of human history, and it can’t run without oil and gas. Louisianians know this, and most Americans know this.
“The people of Louisiana serve our country pretty well by contributing to our energy independence, and I’m very proud of that. Last year, Louisiana supplied nine percent—nine percent—of America’s marketed gas. And Louisianians understand, as do, I think, most Americans, that giving up on fossil fuels would not only destroy jobs, it would ruin the economy. . . . I see nuclear energy as supporting oil and gas, not replacing it—I want to be clear about that.”
. . .
“Since nuclear energy holds such promise—and it does, Mr. President—I’m hoping that my Democratic friends in Congress and my Republican friends in Congress—because I see this as a bipartisan issue—will lend their full-throated support to nuclear energy. I’m not saying that renewables don’t have their proper place in America’s energy policy. They certainly do. I’m not saying we should get rid of them; I’m certainly not. But we need to acknowledge that renewables have limitations. They have limitations that nuclear energy does not. There are disadvantages to renewables. As I said, there’s no free lunch, and you don’t get one now.”
. . .
“The Democratic party platform, for example, calls for installing 500 million solar panels—500 million solar panels—and 60,000 wind turbines over the next five years. This will occupy a lot more land and actually create less energy than building new nuclear reactors. . . . If we succeed in blanketing our land with solar panels and wind farms, it’s going to create more waste, occupy more green space and ultimately weaken our economy.”
Video of the speech is available here.
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.