Mar 23 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Association Health Plans Act, which would codify a Trump administration rule allowing small businesses, the self-employed and freelance workers to have expanded access to association health plans (AHP).
“AHPs lower health care costs and expand access to the larger insurance market for Americans who work for small businesses or are self-employed. Making AHPs more inclusive will give smaller employers the chance to access health benefits that were otherwise out of their reach. Ultimately, this bill would ensure more Louisiana workers and families have easier access to quality, affordable health care,” said Kennedy.
AHPs allow smaller companies, the self-employed or freelance workers to group together to access the large-group insurance market, which covers approximately 180 million Americans.
Associations are groups of employers that collaborate as a formal organization in order to access the large-group health insurance market. To qualify as an association, a group of employers must satisfy several conditions, including demonstrating that members share a commonality of interest and that members control the association.
Easing restrictions on AHPs will allow small employers to offer additional benefits to their employees, who may otherwise need to buy after-tax insurance coverage through the Obamacare marketplaces, rely on government programs or go without coverage entirely.
The bill text is available here.
Kennedy, Toomey, colleagues call on Treasury to abandon effort to use the IMF currency for foreign aid
Mar 23 2021
WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) today sent a letter urging Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to withdraw her support for the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) plan to allocate new Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) without congressional approval. SDRs are backed by IMF member countries’ fiat currencies, the largest component being the American dollar.
“The proposed allocation of SDRs would be inappropriate, ineffective, and a wasteful use of taxpayer dollars that would end up benefiting repressive regimes and state-sponsors of terrorism. We strongly urge you to abandon your support for this proposal,” the senators wrote.
As the members point out, foreign aid is generally appropriated by Congress—not by unilateral executive action. Allocating new SDRs would also be an ineffective method of providing foreign aid to low-income countries, as SDRs disproportionately benefit G20 countries. Moreover, beneficiaries would include America’s adversaries, which could take new SDRs and exchange them for U.S. dollars without conditions.
“In fact, over two-thirds of any allocation would go to G20 countries, which do not need assistance, and less than ten percent would reach poor countries. There is no rational economic justification for such a poorly targeted distribution of aid,” the senators continued.
“An allocation would also directly benefit repressive regimes around the world, including U.S. adversaries and state-sponsors of terrorism, since all IMF members would receive SDRs. That means billions of dollars’ worth of SDRs would go to China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and Syria,” the senators concluded.
The letter is available here.
Mar 23 2021
WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and other Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today sent a letter urging Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to schedule a second hearing with Biden administration nominee Vanita Gupta, citing her misleading statements and incomplete answers to senators’ written questions. Gupta is nominated to become associate attorney general, the number three position at the Justice Department.
“While under oath, Vanita Gupta misled the Committee on at least four issues: (1) Her support for eliminating qualified immunity; (2) her support for decriminalizing all drugs; (3) her support for defunding the police; and (4) her death penalty record. Unfortunately, in her responses a week later to our written questions, Ms. Gupta was no more forthcoming. In some cases, she doubled down on her misleading statements from the hearing, and in others she refused to answer altogether. In ‘response’ to scores of our questions, she merely copied-and-pasted the same inapplicable, general statements for one question after another,” the senators wrote.
“We urge you to immediately schedule a second hearing with Ms. Gupta so that she can answer for her misleading statements, and for her refusal to respond to our written questions,” they continued.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) also signed the letter.
The letter is available here.
Mar 23 2021
Watch Kennedy’s comments here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today called on President Biden to support Asian-American students in their lawsuit against Harvard University. The lawsuit asserts that Harvard employs subjective admissions standards that discriminate against Asian-American applicants.
“If President Biden is serious about fighting discrimination against Asian-Americans, he should help end the practice at Harvard University. For years, Harvard has been rejecting highly qualified Asian-American applicants after giving them low ‘personal rating’ scores—an unfair, subjective standard. A student advocacy group has sued Harvard for this discrimination and asked the Supreme Court to take up the case. I call on the president to support this lawsuit and the rights of Asian-American students to be evaluated without bias,” said Kennedy.
When evaluating candidates, Harvard considers not just the applicants’ academic success but also their “personal ratings.” These personal ratings are subjective and, according to Harvard, focus on qualities that are hard to measure, such as “humor,” “grit,” “leadership,” “helpfulness” and “courage.”
Harvard has consistently granted lower personal rating scores to Asian-American applicants compared to applicants from other racial groups. In 2014, Students for Fair Admissions sued Harvard for discriminating against Asian-Americans applying to the undergraduate programs.
The federal district court judge who ruled on the lawsuit wrote that “the data demonstrates a statistically significant and negative relationship between Asian American identity and the personal rating assigned by Harvard admissions officers.”
Despite that conclusion, the district court judge ruled against the plaintiffs in 2019, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld that decision last November. Students for Fair Admissions has petitioned the Supreme Court to consider the case.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) under the Trump Administration supported the Students for Fair Admissions lawsuit. The DOJ filed a statement of interest in the case in 2018 and an amicus brief in 2020.
The DOJ also sued Yale University last October, claiming the school was discriminating against Asian-American applicants. The department dropped the lawsuit shortly after President Biden took office.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today joined Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Republican committee members in pressing Biden Administration officials for answers about how the government is handling the ongoing border crisis amid the pandemic.
“Regardless of what the Biden Administration wants to call this current set of circumstances it has created, this surge in illegal immigration carries significant risks. It also imposes a heavy burden on public resources. Congress and the American people must have additional clarity about how DHS and HHS are addressing it,” the senators wrote.
In a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, the senators highlighted the serious problems with Biden Administration proposals and actions that have both encouraged more migrants to make the dangerous journey to the southern border and allowed for the quicker release of individuals into the interior of the country as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Each of the last two months has set records for both overall numbers of immigrant apprehensions and numbers of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) crossings. The Biden Administration has lifted the public health restrictions under Title 42 for UAC and has used the surge at the border to justify its reinstatement of “catch-and-release” policies.
“Catch-and-release policies pose additional risks to public health in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden Administration has expressed a purported commitment to ending the pandemic; however, news reports suggest that it now plans to keep some who are apprehended by DHS personnel in custody for just 72 hours before releasing them into American communities,” the senators explained.
The letter seeks a wide range of information from both DHS and HHS, including a breakdown of how many individuals have been detained since inauguration day, the numbers of those tested and vaccinated for COVID-19 and the duration of time individuals are in custody before and after testing. The senators also request DHS’s projections for how many migrants will cross the border this year and the medical reasons for exempting UAC from Title 42 entry restrictions.
The letter is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Visa Lottery Repeal Act, the Preventing Visa Overstays Act and the Ending Sanctuary Cities Act to address key flaws in America’s immigration system and enforcement.
“The crisis unfolding at our southern border highlights the shortsightedness of President Biden’s immigration policy. Our immigration system is in chaos—we grant tens of thousands of visas without even considering the applications’ merit and allow immigrants to overstay their visas without serious penalty. Meanwhile, sanctuary cities flout federal law, and that endangers communities by ignoring dangerous criminals and suspected terrorists living there illegally. Our immigration policy needs to protect Americans and reward people who follow the law,” said Kennedy.
The Visa Lottery Repeal Act would end the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. This program distributes up to 50,000 immigrant visas each year without considering an applicant’s merit, need, employment status or family relations.
From 2009-2019, the number of visa overstays was double the number of illegal border crossings. The Preventing Visa Overstays Act would impose criminal penalties on immigrants who fail to depart the U.S. before their visas expire. Individuals overstaying their visas will pay a fine of up to $500 each day that they remain in the U.S. or face a jail sentence of up to a year, or both.
Sanctuary city policies forbid local law enforcement officials from complying with federal immigration laws. The Ending Sanctuary Cities Act would give legal protections to local law enforcement officers who cooperate with federal officials. It would also withhold federal financial assistance from sanctuary cities that refuse to follow federal law.
Mar 18 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $701,553 in grants from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support health research projects in Monroe, New Orleans and Shreveport.
“Medical research is key to providing good care to Louisianians who face health challenges every day, and this HHS funding will support research initiatives in north and south Louisiana,” said Kennedy.
HHS has awarded the following grants:
- $329,651 to the University of Louisiana in Monroe for cancer treatment research
- $304,000 to Tulane University in New Orleans for pharmacology, physiology and biological chemistry research
- $67,902 to Louisiana State University in Shreveport for heart and vascular diseases research
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $19,627,300 from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency to support elevation projects in East Baton Rouge, St. Tammany, Calcasieu, Vermilion and Jefferson Parishes. The awards were issued under the authority of the National Flood Insurance Act.
“The National Flood Insurance Program is essential to protecting Louisiana. These funds will play a crucial role in providing flood mitigation to five of the hardest-hit parishes in our state. I look forward to seeing these projects completed,” said Kennedy.
The funds were awarded for the following purposes:
- $9,529,111 to elevate 19 properties and acquire 25 more in East Baton Rouge Parish.
- $3,342,950 to elevate 24 properties in St. Tammany Parish.
- $2,941,069 to elevate nine buildings and acquire six more in Calcasieu Parish.
- $2,399,736 to elevate 11 properties and acquire two more in Vermilion Parish.
- $1,414,434 to support the mitigation reconstruction of nine buildings in Jefferson Parish.
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 joined Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and more than 35 colleagues in writing to Government Accountability Office Comptroller Gene L. Dodaro to highlight President Joe Biden’s suspension of border wall funding and construction without lawful justification, as required by the Impoundment Control Act. The interruption of border wall construction continues despite the rapidly escalating crisis along the southern border.
“On January 20th, in one of the first official acts of his presidency, Joseph Biden suspended border wall construction and ordered a freeze of funds provided by Congress for that purpose. In the weeks that followed, operational control of our southern border was compromised and a humanitarian and national security crisis has ensued. The President’s actions directly contributed to this unfortunate, yet entirely avoidable, scenario. They are also a blatant violation of federal law and infringe on Congress’s constitutional power of the purse,” the senators wrote.
“We write regarding these actions. We believe they violated the Impoundment Control Act (ICA), as interpreted by your office, and we request your legal opinion on the matter. Prompt action to end these violations is required to restore order at the border,” the senators continued.
Due to efforts by the Trump Administration to secure the southern border with new infrastructure, illegal crossings in the Yuma Sector decreased by 87 percent from Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) to FY20 in areas with new border wall system. In the Rio Grande Valley Zone 1, an area that did not previously have border infrastructure, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) saw a 79 percent decrease in apprehensions and a 26 percent decrease in narcotics seizures after completion of the border wall. Additionally, in El Paso Zone 14 and 15, CBP saw 60 percent and 81 percent decreases in apprehensions, respectively, when comparing the second half of FY20 to the first half of FY20.
Since Biden’s election in November 2020, CBP numbers have increased significantly. In February 2021, CBP had 100,441 border encounters, amounting to a 39 percent increase from 71,946 encounters in October 2020 and a 173 percent increase from the 36,687 encounters in February 2020—just one year prior. Additionally, there have been 325,012 border encounters since November 2020, while there were only 220,563 in the four months prior—a 68 percent increase.
Currently, CBP is overwhelmed and overcapacity. Reports indicate that nearly all border patrol sectors are above 100 percent capacity, with some sectors double, triple or at even significantly higher levels of overcapacity.
Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Bill Haggerty (R-Tenn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Cynthis Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.) also signed the letter.
The full text of the letter is available here.
Louisiana delegation introduces legislation to reauthorize the Atchafalaya Heritage Area designation for 15 years
Mar 17 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined members of Louisiana’s Congressional Delegation to introduce legislation that would reauthorize the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area (NHA) for 15 years, continuing a commitment to sustain the unique heritage of “America’s Foreign Country.” Established in 2006, the Heritage Area stretches through 14 parishes and provides support for the region’s cultural heritage, increases regional and national attention to the area through tourism and enhances the ecological habitats and wildlife species.
“The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area is a jewel of Cajun culture and Acadiana’s diverse landscapes. I’m happy to join Louisiana’s delegation in working to extend its authorization for another 15 years so Louisianians can keep enjoying its natural beauty and rich history,” said Kennedy.
“The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area celebrates Cajun culture and history. This bill preserves the celebration while protecting the environment and creating jobs,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy.
“To put it simply, there is nothing like the Atchafalaya Basin anywhere else on this continent. It is larger, more productive, the source of amazing crawfish and some great people. We need to treasure it, protect it and educate people about all the basin area has to offer from conservation to economic productivity and tourism. The Heritage Area designation helps to highlight and improve the stewardship of the natural resources, culture, and history of this important region,” said Rep. Garret Graves.
“The Atchafalaya Basin is an integral part of South Louisiana’s culture and heritage. I’m honored to join my colleagues in the Louisiana delegation to support reauthorizing the Basin as a National Heritage Area. This designation provides our state with both economic and environmental benefits,” said Rep. Clay Higgins.
“The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area will help preserve the unique Cajun and Creole cultures found in the Atchafalaya Basin. Today, I am proud to join my Louisiana colleagues in introducing legislation that will reauthorize this designation to help preserve this special Louisiana landmark,” said Rep. Mike Johnson.
“It’s vital for our state’s culture and unique way of life to preserve and protect the Atchafalaya Basin, and I’m proud to support the Heritage Area reauthorization to enhance conservation efforts and to protect the area’s strong cultural heritage for years to come,” said Rep. Steve Scalise.
Stakeholders and elected officials across south Louisiana support the reauthorization, including:
- Acadiana Planning Commission
- Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge
- Ascension Parish (Parish President Clint Cointment)
- Avoyelles Parish Police Jury
- Cajun Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau
- City of Patterson, La.
- Concordia Parish Police Jury (President Joseph Parker, Sr.)
- Louisiana Travel Association
- Louisiana Association of Convention and Visitor Bureau
- The Nature Conservancy
- Pointe Coupee Parish President Major Thibaut
- South Central Planning and Development Commission
- South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center
- St. Mary Parish President David Hanagriff
- St. Mary Chapter of the Louisiana Landmarks Society
- St. Mary Chamber of Commerce (President Donna Meyer)
- St. Mary Parish Tourist Commission
- Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government
- Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser
- State Rep. Rhonda Butler
- State Rep. Phillip Devillier
- State Rep. Kathy Edmonston
- State Rep. Les Farnum
- State Rep. Bryan Fontenot
- State Rep. Mike Huval
- State Rep. Clay Schexnayder
- State Rep. Phillip Tarver
- State Rep. Jerome Zeringue
- State Sen. Bret Allain
- State Sen. Page Cortez
- State Sen. Ronnie Johns
- State Sen. Fred Mills
- State Sen. Gary Smith
More information about the NHA is available here.