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WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $6,227,200 in National Telecommunications and Information Administration funds to expand broadband internet access and to hire and train information technology personnel at Southern University and A&M College.

“Broadband expansion is key to providing Louisiana students with the tools they need to succeed after college. I’m grateful to see that this $6.2 million will help improve internet access and support information technology personnel at Southern University and A&M College,” said Kennedy.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) in introducing a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, S.J. Res. 68, to nullify the Biden administration’s Department of Labor (DOL) rule that would encourage fiduciaries to support liberal policy priorities over maximizing Americans’ retirement security.

“President Biden’s attempt to use Americans’ retirement plans to bankroll the woke agenda is fiscally irresponsible and morally wrong. Congress must reject this rule before American families suffer even more just so that Biden can support the Left’s pet projects,” said Kennedy.

“When American workers invest in their retirement, they should be able to trust their financial advisors to be investing with their best interests in mind, not the interests of liberal activists. American retirement funds have already taken such a hit from Joe Biden’s failed economic policies, they should not be politicized. I am proud to lead my colleagues in this effort to overturn the Biden administration’s woke 401k rule and protect Americans’ retirement funds,” said Braun.

Background:

  • In November, the Biden administration’s Department of Labor finalized the Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights rule, which allows fiduciaries to consider “climate change and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors” when they make investments or proxy vote for shareholders. The rule undoes a Trump administration rule that focused on financial factors. 
  • A Harvard Business Review study found that investing in funds that prioritize ESG goals has poor return rates. 

Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) led the effort in the House of Representatives.

Watch Kennedy’s full remarks here. ­

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), on the Senate Floor, urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to explain how it is implementing its new pricing algorithm for calculating flood insurance premiums, known as Risk Rating 2.0. FEMA’s new algorithm has sent the rates of many National Flood Insurance Program policyholders in Louisiana skyrocketing. Despite repeated questions from Kennedy, FEMA has yet to clarify how it determines new rates.

“It doesn’t do any good to offer flood insurance if people can’t afford it, and that’s what FEMA’s doing right now,” said Kennedy.

“We, in Louisiana, have the highest participation rate in the country, bar none. And despite what some people may think, my people who are buying flood insurance, they’re not multimillionaires. They’re working people,” he explained.

“There is no transparency with Risk Rating 2.0. People have absolutely no idea—members of the United States Congress have no idea—how this algorithm works and how they come up with a specific price for every home in America. But I'll tell you what we do know: All the prices have gone up.

“A lot of those levees in Louisiana are paid for by Louisiana citizens. We have asked, ‘How does this algorithm, in raising these prices, take into effect or take into account the levees? Are we getting credit for our levees?’ And they say, ‘Sure.’ And I say, ‘Can you show me?’ And they say, ‘If I showed you, I’d have to kill you. This is a secret algorithm.’ No transparency, none!” Kennedy continued.

“FEMA says it’s going to make everything fairer. I know this much: It’ll make everything more expensive. According to FEMA’s estimates, 80% of the people who have flood insurance and have to have flood insurance in Louisiana . . . are going to see their rates go up. The likely average full-risk premium for a home in Louisiana under this new secret sauce is $1,700. Under the old system, it was $766. That’s a 122 percent increase because of this algorithm, the secret sauce, which FEMA will not let us see. My people can’t afford this, Mr. President, and the reality is people are already dropping flood insurance,” he said.

“In eight of my parishes or counties, the number of policies has dropped from 290,000 in October of ‘21 to 267,000 in November of ‘22. So that’s 22,000 people­—almost 23,000 people—out of only eight parishes or counties who’ve had to give up their flood insurance,” explained Kennedy.

Speaking of the Flood Insurance Pricing Transparency Act, which he has cosponsored, Kennedy said, “ It’s a bipartisan bill. All we’re asking that FEMA do is talk to us and tell us how they’re coming up with these rate increases. The American people pay the salary of the people of FEMA, and my people . . . deserve to know how their policies are being priced.”

View Kennedy’s full remarks here.

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today urged the U.S. State Department’s Ambassador-at-Large in the Office of International Religious Freedom, Rashad Hussain, and Douglas Hickey, the U.S. Ambassador to Finland, to raise concerns over the Finnish government’s refusal to accept the acquittal of Dr. Päivi Räsänen and Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola.

Räsänen and Pohjola were unanimously absolved of criminal liability for expressing their religious beliefs on March 30, 2022, and the court ordered Finnish prosecutors to pay nearly $67,000 in legal fees. The Finnish government, however, appealed the acquittal. 

Because Finnish prosecutors seek an appeal in a criminal case for years-old expressions of Christian faith, religious freedom remains under threat in Finland despite Dr. Räsänen and Rev. Dr. Pohjola’s acquittal over eight months ago. No person should be subjected to criminal prosecution for expressing their sincere religious views in a non-violent manner. If a member of the Finnish Parliament and a Lutheran bishop can be forced to endure criminal prosecution by the Finnish Government for their peaceful, closely held religious beliefs, what protections are afforded to ordinary citizens who lack the influence, resources, and media attention to defend against such a criminal prosecution? asked Kennedy.

Kennedy originally wrote to the State Department in March 2022 to raise concerns about Finland’s prosecution of non-violent expressions of faith. The prosecution of Räsänen and Pohjolaoccurs while Europe continues to witness anti-Christian hate crimes and hostility toward Christian-led organizations throughout the continent.

In my first letter on this issue, I asked our Department of State officials to stand up for religious freedom and stand against any erosion of this fundamental right—no matter where this erosion may occur. I urge you to continue to do so, Kennedy wrote.

The letter is available here.

 Watch Kennedy’s statement here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) support for the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has helped to secure Congressional authorization of $1.9 billion for military projects that are significant for Louisiana.

“This year’s national defense bill contains important wins for Louisiana and America. As regimes in China and Russia grow more aggressive, Republicans have made sure that the U.S. will upgrade our ships and planes while giving our troops a much-deserved pay raise. We are also ending the Covid vaccine mandate for service members and reinforcing parents’ ability to review curriculum at DOD schools,” said Kennedy.

The NDAA authorizes $858 billion for national defense spending, which includes a 4.6% pay increase for service members. The bill also saves $11 billion through reforms made at the Department of Defense.

Watch Kennedy’s statement here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) support for the 2022 Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) has helped to secure Congressional authorization of at least $6.6 billion for water resource projects that help Louisiana.

“We’ve secured Congressional approval for at least $6.6 billion for water resource projects that help Louisiana restore, protect and serve our communities. One of the most significant wins in this bill is that it approves full federal funding to restore the wetlands that the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet destroyed. In addition, we need to shore up our levees and restore our wetlands to protect vulnerable areas of our state, and that’s what this bill does,” said Kennedy. 

The estimated cost of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) restoration was $3 billion in 2012. The 2022 WRDA authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore, at full federal expense, the wetlands and marshes that Louisiana lost because of the MRGO. More damage has occurred since 2012, so the $3 billion estimate likely falls below the current cost to restore the area.

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator, Anne Milgram,  urging the DEA to apply its authorities to prevent and limit the pharmaceutical industry’s excessively high opioid production levels. 

Today’s letter comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that fatal drug overdoses increased in 2021 to the highest ever level. The opioid epidemic stems from the overproduction of prescription opioids as well as extremely high levels of illegal opioids, including fentanyl, flowing across the U.S.-Mexico border.

On the domestic front, the DEA is responsible for establishing annual quotas determining the exact amount of each opioid drug that is permitted to be produced in the U.S. each year. Between 1993 and 2015, the DEA allowed aggregate production quotas for oxycodone to increase 39-fold, hydrocodone to increase 12-fold, hydromorphone to increase 23-fold and fentanyl to increase 25-fold. As a result, tens of billions of painkillers flooded the market in every corner of the nation, which ignited the current opioid epidemic. 

In 2018, Durbin and Kennedy authored legislation that enhanced DEA’s opioid quota-setting authority by improving transparency and enabling DEA to adjust quotas to prevent opioid diversion and abuse while ensuring an adequate supply for legitimate medical needs. 

“Section 3282 of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (P.L. 115-271) strengthened DEA’s statutory quota-setting authority by enhancing transparency and requiring opioid quotas to be adjusted to reflect diversion, overdose deaths, and public health.  As the bipartisan authors of that section, we strongly encourage you to continue using this authority to rein in the pharmaceutical industry’s incessant demand for excessive levels of opioid production,” the senators wrote.

The senators also noted in their letter that they have previously expressed concerns that DEA was not properly following their law’s requirements to consult with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary and to consider reliable information on overdose rates, abuse and overall public health impact in order to estimate the amount of diversion and make appropriate quota reductions. 

“Given that one of the most common sources of prescription drug misuse is through access from friends and family, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, we believe DEA must refine its methodologies for approximating diversion through legitimate channels. While we appreciate the challenges in directly linking patient misuse and overdose to a specific controlled substance, DEA should consult with states, HHS, and other public health experts to estimate or create proxies—based upon survey and research data—on the volume of dispensed opioids contributing to addiction and abuse,” continued the senators.

“As DEA implements the schedule II opioid production quotas for 2023 and beyond, we urge you to apply DEA’s statutory authorities to prevent and limit opioid diversion due to excessively high production levels,” they concluded.

After two decades of dramatic increases to the volume of opioids allowed to come to the market, the DEA has heeded Durbin and Kennedy’s call over the past six years to help prevent opioid addiction by responsibly reducing nearly all opioid quotas. 

Unfortunately, the leading killer of Americans ages 18-45 is the fentanyl crossing the border illegally. Kennedy introduced the Ending the Fentanyl Crisis Act to address the epidemic on this front and has repeatedly called on the president to secure the border.

Last year, President Biden also signed Kennedy’s DUMP Opioids Act into law, which will help local communities get unused prescription opioids off of their streets via secure drop boxes at Veterans Affairs sites.

The full letter is available here.

 

Watch Kennedy’s effort to pass the Protecting Medicare Patients and Physicians Act here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today attempted to pass his Protecting Medicare Patients and Physicians Act through the Senate by unanimous consent. The bill would protect patients and health care providers from a total of 8.5 percent in planned Medicare cuts to physician reimbursements, but Democrats immediately blocked the bill.

“Louisianians are already struggling under Pres. Biden’s failed economic policies. Prices have skyrocketed more than 13 percent since this president took office, and Medicare cuts would put more people at risk. I offered a plan to protect the people who rely on Medicare and the doctors who take care of them—without taking another dime from taxpayers. It’s unbelievable that Democrats killed this commonsense, responsible solution,”Kennedy said.

Kennedy’s bill would help more doctors keep their doors open to Medicare patients, giving patients more options for accessing quality care.

The bill would put unused Covid money from the Provider Relief Fund that has been returned to the Department of Health and Human Services to use, so Kennedy’s bill would require no new federal spending. The American Rescue Plan originally allocated money to the Provider Relief Fund to help hospitals struggling as a result of the pandemic. Using those leftover funds to help patients and doctors who are suffering under the Biden administration’s historic levels of inflation represents a fiscally responsible solution to help vulnerable Americans.

The bill text is available here.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $4,113,641 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Louisiana disaster aid.

“Hurricane Laura hit Lake Charles hard, so I’m glad to see this $4.1 million supporting recovery efforts for the community,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $4,113,641 to the city of Lake Charles for repairs to their Police Department Annex building that was damaged during Hurricane Laura.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $12,907,968 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants in disaster aid for Louisiana.

“I’m thankful this $12.9 million will help our friends in Lake Charles recover from Hurricane Laura’s damage, which they have been suffering through,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $4,827,560 to the Calcasieu Parish School Board for repairs to the Oak Park Middle School campus related to Hurricane Laura.
  • $3,064,864 to the Calcasieu Parish School Board for repairs to the Assessment Building campus related to Hurricane Laura.
  • $1,996,791 to the Lake Charles Charter Academy Foundation, Inc. for permanent repairs related to Hurricane Laura.
  • $1,559,988 to the city of Lake Charles for permanent restoration to the damaged Wastewater Plant B-C related to Hurricane Laura.
  • $1,458,765 to the city of Lake Charles for damages to the Police Department Training Center related to Hurricane Laura.