Media

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today introduced the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act to allow news publishers, including the struggling newspaper industry, to collectively negotiate with digital platforms such as Google and Facebook.

“Newspapers are locked in a life-or-death struggle with tech giants like Google and Facebook, and it’s not a fair fight. Local papers have continued to deliver news despite declines in circulation, but readers are losing out at as their options for news coverage evaporate. This bill will support the independence of local papers by giving news publishers the power to collectively negotiate with digital platforms like Google and Facebook. Google and Facebook aren’t just companies—they’re countries, and we can’t tolerate tech giants’ strangling their print news competitors,” said Kennedy.

“We must enable news organizations to negotiate on a level playing field with the big tech companies if we want to preserve a strong and independent press. This bipartisan legislation will improve the quality of reporting and ensure that journalists are able to continue their critical work. Our media outlets need a fighting chance when negotiating for fair treatment by the digital platforms where so many Americans consume their news,” said Klobuchar.

At issue is whether the playing field for delivering news content is uneven. The majority of Americans now get their news from Google or Facebook, which control most digital advertising revenue. These companies ultimately decide what their users read—whether the content is clickbait, political commentary or quality news stories. 

This legislation will empower news publishers to compete more fairly by granting them immunity from federal and state antitrust laws for 48 months while they negotiate together with digital platforms. 

The bill text is available here.

Watch Kennedy’s comments here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action and Federal Rights, made opening comments during the subcommittee hearing examining the relationship among amicus briefs, freedom of speech and association and transparency. Key comments include:

  • “We're here today to look at the connection of money in our federal judiciary. The debate over money in politics is not new, but I think the partisan, I'll call it bickering, in Congress over the Supreme Court and other federal benches has almost reached a fever pitch. During the last administration, I personally witnessed an unprecedented—unprecedented—level of vitriol leveled at Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Their confirmation proceedings at times became circuses without a tent.”
  • “Other nominees for federal judgeships have also been targeted, and nominees have been targeted for their personal beliefs, including their belief with respect to human life and when it begins. I hope that in this Congress we can do better, and I mean that sincerely. 
  • “Our First Amendment has to be honored, and that's something that I hope we can talk about today. People have a right in America to express their opinion. You're not free if you can't say what you think. You're just not.” 
  • “ . . . we do live in a cancel culture, and I think we do need to be careful that you can technically say someone has a First Amendment right, but—if they're canceled for exercising it—they really don't.” 

Video of Kennedy’s statement is available here, and video of his questioning witnesses is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) and fellow lawmakers today reintroduced the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2021 to permanently repeal the federal estate tax, commonly known as the “death tax.” The Death Tax Repeal Act would finally end a punitive tax that has the potential to hit family-run farms, ranches and businesses upon the owner’s death.

“The death tax is lethal to many family-run businesses and farms. Louisianians shouldn’t lose a legacy of family work to a punishing, illogical tax burden. By ending the death tax, we can make it easier for families to pass their farms and businesses to the next generation,” said Kennedy.  

“I’ve fought hard to repeal the onerous and unfair death tax since I came to Washington, including by leading the effort in 2017 to protect more farm and ranch families from it. Family-owned farms and ranches, like those in South Dakota, can bear the brunt of this tax, which oftentimes makes it difficult and costly to pass these businesses down to future generations. Agriculture is our state’s top industry, which is why I remain committed to removing roadblocks for these family businesses, and we can start by repealing the death tax once and for all,” said Thune.

Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (F-Fla.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) also co-sponsored the legislation.

This bill is supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, National Federation of Independent Business, National Association of Manufacturers, Family Business Coalition, Family Business Estate Tax Coalition, Policy and Taxation Group, Associated General Contractors of America, National Taxpayers Union and many others.

Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $3,826,928 from the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for acquisition and elevation projects in Denham Springs, La. and Iberia Parish.

“This is great news for the city of Denham Springs and Iberia Parish, which have been struck by floods far too often. I look forward to seeing these elevation projects completed and these communities one step closer to flood recovery and damage prevention,” said Kennedy.  

In Denham Springs, this grant will elevate 10 buildings to a foot above base flood elevation. FEMA is funding 86% of this project, as the agency prioritizes flood mitigation.

A FEMA grant will also fund the elevation of 15 structures in Iberia Parish, covering 83% of the cost of the project.

Kennedy is a member of the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over the National Flood Insurance Program.

WASHINGTON – The Senate voted today on Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) amendment to ensure that Small Business Administration (SBA) assistance cannot go to individuals found guilty of felony rioting within the last 15 years. Senate Democrats voted against the measure, blocking it by a vote of 48-50.

“Without order, there can be no justice. We shouldn’t be taking resources away from hardworking small business owners and giving those taxpayer dollars to criminals who have been duly convicted of felony rioting. Free speech is as American as baseball, but violence as a part of protest is illegal in our country,” said Kennedy.

By mid-April of 2020, lockdowns and capacity restrictions had either temporarily or permanently reduced the number of small businesses in operation by 44 percent.

Violent protests and riots then further damaged small businesses already struggling under the pandemic. One in 20 U.S. protests between May 26 and Sept. 5 involved rioting, looting and similar violence, resulting in 47 fatalities. During the summer of 2020, riots caused over $1 billion in damage to cities across the country, making that time the most expensive period of riots in America’s history.

Under the Trump Administration, individuals who have been arrested or convicted of a felony in the last year, or were convicted of financial assistance fraud in the last five years, were deemed ineligible for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

The Biden Administration discontinued this safeguard so that individuals with prior non-fraud felony convictions are now able to access PPP funds.

Kennedy’s amendment would prohibit the SBA from providing assistance such as PPP, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and other small business assistance to anyone who has been convicted of a felony during or in connection with a riot or civil disorder that occurred during the past 15 years.

WASHINGTON – Today the Senate unanimously passed the Concerns Over Nations Funding University Campus Institutes in the United States (CONFUCIUS) Act. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced the legislation to address concerns about Confucius Institutes’ suppressing free speech on American college campuses. 

“Confucius Institutes are under the control of the Chinese Communist Party in all but name. They are propaganda centers thatthreaten academic liberty and free speech without shame, and too many American schools are falling victim to the political con every day. This bill would give colleges and universities full control over their resident Confucius Institutes and restore freedom of thought on their campuses. The Senate passed the CONFUCIUS Act unanimously just months ago, and it is good news for students and educators that my colleagues did the same again today. I hope the House joins us in sending the CONFUCIUS Act to the president’s desk,” said Kennedy.

At universities across the U.S., the Chinese government is waging an influence war through its Confucius Institutes. Though ostensibly designed to promote cultural studies on college campuses, Confucius Institutes receive direct funding from the Chinese government.

The CONFUCIUS Act reduces the Chinese Communist Party’s influence on U.S. colleges and universities by granting full managerial authority over Confucius Institutes to the universities that host them. 

Specifically, the CONFUCIUS Act provides that Confucius Institutes must:

  • Protect academic freedom on the campus where the Confucius Institute is located,
  • Prohibit the application of any foreign law on any campus of the institution, and
  • Grant full control over what a Confucius Institute teaches, the activities it carries out, the research grants it gives and the individuals it employs to the college or university on which it is located.

This bill would prohibit federal government funding to colleges and universities that host Confucius Institutes and are not in compliance with the above provisions. The funding prohibition would only apply to funding directed to the college or university and would not include funding disbursed to students, such as Pell Grants.

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) have cosponsored the legislation.

The Senate twice passed the legislation unanimously in the 116th Congress.

Background:

  • According to the nonpartisan National Association of Scholars, there are at least 55 Confucius Institutes on U.S. soil, 48 of which are on university or college campuses.
  • In May 2020, the College Republican National Committee and the College Democrats of America wrote a joint letter calling for the “immediate and permanent closure of all Confucius Institutes in the United States” due to their “concerns over the present state of academic freedom” and “the continued exploitation of liberal, democratic academic institutions by authoritarians.”
  • These institutes can threaten universities by withholding funding in order to achieve their objectives, such as regulating speech the Chinese government opposes. Universities forced to choose between losing funding or upholding free speech are often tempted to yield to an institution funded by a foreign government over the interests of free speech. This allows foreign governments like China’s Communist Party to exert influence over American schools (such as prohibiting the Dalai Lama from speaking on a campus) and even apply Chinese Communist laws on U.S. soil.

The bill text is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) today introduced the American Financial Markets Integrity and Security Act to ban malign Chinese companies—including the parent, subsidiary, affiliate or a controlling entity—that are listed on the U.S. Department of Commerce Entity List or the U.S. Department of Defense list of Communist Chinese military companies from accessing U.S. capital markets. 

“The Chinese Communist Party shouldn’t find ready investors on U.S. soil. I’m thankful to partner with Sen. Rubio to ensure that American capital isn’t developing, expanding, or strengthening China’s military. This is a national security priority, and I hope our colleagues pass this bill without delay,” said Kennedy. 

“The Chinese Communist Party’s exploitation of U.S. capital markets is a clear and ongoing risk to U.S. economic and national security that must be addressed. The American Financial Markets Integrity and Security Act will ban these companies from operating in U.S. capital markets and make clear to the Chinese Communist Party that they will no longer be able to exploit our financial system. I urge the Biden Administration to support this bill and build upon—not undo—the critical work the previous administration took to address China’s exploitation of U.S. capital markets,” said Rubio.

Currently, there are a number of Chinese companies accessing U.S. capital markets, and more than 30 of these are identified on lists released in June and August 2020 by the Pentagon. This includes those companies that the U.S. government has sanctioned yet are operating in the U.S. capital market system while being involved in the Communist Party’s military, espionage, human rights abuses, “Military-Civil Fusion Strategy” and the “Made in China 2025” industrial policy.

As part of efforts to guard American investors and their capital, this December, the president signed into law the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, Kennedy’s bill to protect American investors and their savings from Chinese and other foreign companies that operate on U.S. stock exchanges while refusing to submit to Securities and Exchange Commission oversight.

Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) have also cosponsored the American Financial Markets Integrity and Security Act.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) introduced companion legislation in the House. 

The full text of the bill is available here.  

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) today introduced the Fair Access to Banking Act, which would prevent discrimination by banks and financial service providers against Constitutionally-protected industries and law-abiding businesses. The bill builds off the Trump Administration’s Fair Access Rule.

“Banking isn’t a red versus blue battleground. Law-abiding Americans should have access to financial services regardless of political position. The Fair Access to Banking Act would ensure that banks rely on impartial risk assessments—rather than politicized discrimination—when providing their services. If banks want to become advocacy groups that ignore the Constitutional protections of their clients, they would be breaking the law,” said Kennedy. 

Fairness matters. There is no place in our society for discrimination, and big banks are no exception. Financial service providers do not have the right to circumvent the Constitution or the law to create de-facto bans on legally-compliant businesses like energy producers or firearms manufacturers when they believe it is politically convenient. Our legislation makes it illegal to do so and imposes serious consequences on those who choose to violate the law,” said Cramer. 

The need for this legislation is driven by the recent actions of some of the largest U.S. banks that are using their economic standing to discriminate against energy producers. Last year, five of the country’s largest banks announced they will not provide loans or credit to support oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge even though Congress explicitly authorized it. Last fall, JPMorgan Chase declared it would refuse financial services to coal producers, and Bank of America began a politically-motivated effort to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from its financing activities by 2050, an effort directly targeting producers of reliable American energy.  

Discrimination by financial service providers also extends to industries protected by the Second Amendment, with banks like Capital One including “ammunitions, firearms, or firearm parts” in its prohibited payments section, and payment services like Apple Pay and PayPal denying their services for transactions involving firearms or ammunition.

In response to these developments, the Trump Administration created the Fair Access Rule—which this legislation would codify—to prevent these and other acts of discrimination, but President Joe Biden has paused the rule’s implementation. 

Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) have also cosponsored this legislation.

The bill has a wide array of industry support, including endorsements from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Independent Petroleum Association of America, National Rifle Association, Kentucky Coal Association, Lignite Energy Council, National Mining Association, National Association of Wholesale Distributors and the Day 1 Alliance.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), along with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Reps. Mike Johnson (R-La.), Steve Scalise (R-La.), Clay Higgins (R-La.) and Garret Graves (R-La.) today urged President Joe Biden to grant a request for a major disaster declaration for Louisiana, which has been battered by winter storms. 

The letter is available below and here.

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Biden:

Thank you for your prompt action to issue an emergency declaration for the State of Louisiana due to the recent winter weather event that began on February 11, 2021. We are confident the federal resources unlocked by that declaration saved life and property as our communities responded to the crisis. The recovery process is now underway, and it is apparent additional federal assistance is warranted. As such, we respectfully ask that you grant the State of Louisiana’s request for a major disaster declaration.

As you are aware, many of the characteristics of this recent weather event were unprecedented, and its impacts stretched across huge swathes of the state. At the event’s peak, more than 200,000 Louisianians were without electricity, and seven hospitals and six nursing homes relied upon generators as their sole source of electricity.

The most significant impact, however, came in the form of disruptions to the delivery of water to impacted areas. Due to damaged water mains and related distribution infrastructure, roughly one-quarter of the state’s population experienced either a loss of access to safe drinking water or a loss of access to water altogether. These disruptions extended to hospitals and nursing homes, where bulk water was brought in via truck to continue services to our most vulnerable populations. All told, 63 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes issued emergency declarations in response to this event, and tragically, the state reports six fatalities stemming from the treacherous weather.

In addition to these considerations, we remain concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic and a record-setting 2020 hurricane season have placed a tremendous strain on the state’s ability to effectively recover from February’s winter weather event. In fact, the emergency declaration you issued for this event marks the tenth federal emergency or disaster the state has experienced in the past 24 months. For these reasons, we ask that you grant the State of Louisiana’s request for a federal disaster declaration as soon as possible. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) today introduced legislation that would prohibit the Export-Import Bank (EXIM) from providing loans to individuals and companies that are delinquent on repaying their tax debt.  

“American taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize businesses that haven’t even paid their own taxes, and I’m proud to work with Sen. Braun to bring accountability to the Export-Import Bank,” said Kennedy.

“The Export-Import Bank should not serve as an ATM for tax delinquents and this legislation will address this loophole, while also rooting out potential fraud from dozens of companies,” said Braun. 

The EXIM Bank currently requires companies applying for certain financing to self-certify that they do not have delinquent federal debt. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) analyzed federal data and identified billions of dollars in authorized EXIM transactions associated with dozens of companies that may have fraudulently applied for financing.

The GAO found that:

  • Federal law states that applicants who are delinquent on federal debts may not receive federal direct loans, loan guarantees or loan insurance until the delinquent debt is satisfactorily resolved. 
  • Financial pressures potentially incentivize participants or employees to commit fraud on applications to use EXIM.
  • Using data from the System for Award Management (SAM), GAO found that, from calendar years 2014 through 2016, EXIM authorized transactions with an aggregate authorization value of about $1.7 billion that were associated with 32 U.S.-based companies that had a delinquent federal debt indicator in SAM in the same month that EXIM authorized these transactions.

EXIM concurred with GAO’s recommendation that the bank should use available data instead of self-certification to prevent companies with delinquent federal debt from obtaining EXIM financing.

As a result of these findings, this legislation would ensure that:

  • EXIM could use SAM data and data-analytical approaches to detect applicants and participants with potentially delinquent federal debt and work with the Internal Revenue Service to confirm delinquencies. 
  • Companies that have fraudulently certified that they do not have federal debt would lose access to EXIM financing, and EXIM would deny applicants holding such federal debt. 
  • The president could waive the prohibition if the president determines that the work being carried out by an entity with delinquent federal debt significantly affects U.S. interests. 
  • Debt that is being repaid in a timely manner is not considered to be seriously delinquent federal debt.