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WASHINGTON Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) today introduced the bipartisan Small Business Broadband and Emerging Information Technology Enhancement Act to address the lack of broadband internet and other emerging information technology resources in rural areas by improving Small Business Administration (SBA) programs.

“Small businesses represent 97% of Louisiana employers, and they need broadband to create and sustain more jobsespecially after our state suffered through a series of natural disasters over the last year-and-a-half. This bill would help expand access to broadband and other crucial technological resources for job creators in our state,” said Kennedy.

“Small businesses are engines of economic growth and the heart of communities across New Hampshire. That’s why it’s been heartbreaking to see so many small business owners teeter on the edge of bankruptcy throughout the pandemic. As we begin to put the pandemic behind us and businesses resume their operations, they need tools to boost their resilience moving forward. Reliable broadband is key to their success. I’m reintroducing this bipartisan bill to improve SBA programs that expand access to broadband services, particularly in underserved and rural areas. This would build on the historic investments I helped to secure as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law that will close the digital divide and improve the success of small businesses and families alike. I urge the Senate to act quickly on this commonsense bill to help small businesses evolve and overcome challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.said Shaheen.

The Small Business Broadband and Emerging Information Technology Enhancement Act would:

  • Direct the SBA Office of Investment and Innovation to designate a senior employee to serve as the broadband and emerging information technology (BEIT) coordinator.

  • Provide SBA employees with BEIT training to help small businesses use such technologies.

  • Report on the SBA’s work related to broadband and other emerging information technologies.

  • Require the SBA Chief Counsel for Advocacy to evaluate the impact of broadband speed and price on small businesses.

  • Authorize small business development centers to help businesses access and use BEIT.

    The bill text is available here. 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) penned this op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, which discusses President Biden’s decision to send Russia billions of dollars in special drawing rights.

“U.S. European Command warned a year ago that a crisis could be imminent in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin had set up more than 100,000 members of his military to breathe down Ukraine’s neck—the biggest mobilization since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. As Mr. Putin prepared to invade a sovereign democracy, the Biden administration continued pushing for more than $17 billion in International Monetary Fund allocations for Moscow.

“President Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen ultimately got what they wanted in August, when the IMF doled out more money in one general allocation than ever before. The $650 billion outlay of IMF IOUs backed by the U.S. Treasury—called special drawing rights—sent money to Moscow while the world watched Mr. Biden abandon Bagram Air Base to the Taliban. Iran gained access to about $4.5 billion through the IMF deal, and China had a windfall of $40 billion.

“In this case, there were no sanctions to evade because the Biden administration simply handed Vladimir Putin, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Xi Jinping the money. The IMF special drawing rights function as subsidies, since countries awarded these tokens can exchange them for hard currency like dollars and euros on demand without having to repay the principal. Immediately after the White House finalized these subsidies, Russia’s foreign reserves hit a new high.

“To further put that $17 billion in perspective, Mr. Biden asked Congress for only $10 billion in Ukraine aid after Russia’s violent invasion began leading every newscast.

“The White House’s most egregious move may be yet to come. The Biden administration purposefully structured the 2021 allocation as a down payment on another flood of special drawing rights this year, totaling $350 billion. Some Democrats asked Ms. Yellen in November to back a tranche of about $2 trillion. In either case, Treasury would again lay tens of billions of dollars at the feet of dictators and terror states. But more free money won’t beget better behavior.

“As the new axis of evil grew richer last fall, it grew markedly more belligerent. Russia invaded Ukraine, Iran became more incorrigible in its nuclear-deal demands, and China signaled recently it believes its claim to Taiwan is even stronger than Russia thinks it has to Ukraine.

“Mr. Biden and Ms. Yellen can’t say they weren’t warned. I started imploring Ms. Yellen not to subsidize our enemies in the name of Covid relief last March, as did the Journal’s editorial board.

“The Biden administration also can’t claim it was forced into the deal by the IMF, given that the U.S. has the largest voting share in the fund. The allocation that lined the pockets of Messrs. Putin and Xi had to have U.S. approval because the world’s largest economy can veto major IMF decisions.

“Treasury can’t claim it had no other options. The IMF could have avoided spending the bulk of the $650 billion general allocation on dictators and countries that didn’t need the aid by making the special allocation for the poorest nations. Again, these pages pointed out that Mr. Biden’s objection to a tailored approach was that it would require him to submit to Congress—which he seems generally reluctant to do.

“The White House’s eyes were wide open, and its hands weren’t tied. Team Biden knew Mr. Putin was mobilizing against Ukraine and greenlit $17 billion for Russia anyway, while slowing military aid for Ukraine.

“China and Iran have been taking notes at every turn. Mr. Biden’s end-run around Congress left rogue leaders emboldened and enriched. His task now is to get America out of Iran-deal negotiations, force Russia out of Ukraine, and keep China out of Taiwan.

“He needs to demonstrate resolve. He can start by disavowing future IMF allocations that would pour money into Russia, China, Iran and their like. Let’s shut off the IMF spigot to communists and terrorists and make sure it stays shut.”

The op-ed is available here.


 

Watch Kennedy’s comments here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today questioned Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her nomination hearing to become an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. The remarks include:

Kennedy: “Do you have an opinion about whether these efforts to pack the United States Supreme Court delegitimize the court? Do you have an opinion?”

Jackson: “Senator, I have an opinion about the efforts. It’s not an opinion that I think is appropriate for me to share. And, so, therefore, I don’t have anything further to add.”

Kennedy: “So, you do have an opinion, but you don’t want to share it?”

Jackson: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me as a nominee to comment on a political matter that is in the province of Congress.”

Kennedy: “Well, in deciding to join the United States Supreme Court, if you’re affirmed, wouldn’t it make a difference to you whether you’re one of nine or one of 28?”

Jackson: “Would it make a difference?”

Kennedy: “Don’t you think that impacts the judiciary, that involves the judiciary?”

Jackson: “Senator, certainly it involves the judiciary. I would be thrilled to be one of however many Congress thought it appropriate to put on the court.”

Kennedy: “You’d be okay if it was 28?”

Jackson: “If that’s Congress’s determination, yes. The Congress makes political decisions like that.”

Watch this exchange here.

Watch the senator’s comments here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today announced $1,737,906,000 in disaster aid for Louisiana. The relief funds come through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant program.

“Louisiana families had so many needs after Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Ida and other storms hit. One of the biggest needs for Lake Charles and south Louisiana continues to be housing. For more than a year, disaster victims have been enduring and rebuilding largely on their own. Last September, Congress passed a supplemental disaster relief bill with money to address housing needs in Louisiana, but—as of a few days ago—HUD still hadn’t sent our state officials the money. Earlier this month, I asked President Biden to hurry up and cut that check. I’m glad to tell you that it looks like he listened, and the aid is coming. Now—after months of delay—HUD is finally writing the check for that $1.7 billion, and the resilient people of our great state will finally receive that relief,” said Kennedy.

As the only member of the Louisiana delegation to sit on the Appropriations Committee, Kennedy has repeatedly worked with HUD to secure more disaster relief to help Louisiana communities recover from the damage done by Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Ida and the floods of May 2021.

Kennedy spoke personally with HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge in the wake of Hurricanes Laura and Delta and worked successfully to get billions of dollars in additional disaster aid for Community Development Block Grants included in the funding bill that became law last fall. This $1.7 billion in grants comes from that allocation.

Previously, southwest Louisiana received $595 million from HUD for disaster recovery from Hurricanes Laura and Delta through the government funding bill, the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Act, that was recently signed into law.  While this $1.7 billion comes from the same law that sent the $595 million to Lake Charles and surrounding areas in February 2022, HUD had not yet allocated this $1.7 billion to Louisiana state officials. Earlier this month, Kennedy urged President Joe Biden to expedite this aid to the state. Days later, HUD announced that the $1.7 billion was on its way to Louisiana.

The funds include:

  • $1,272,346,000 to the state of Louisiana to help recovery efforts related to Hurricane Ida and the severe weather and flooding that hit Louisiana in May 2021. Lake Charles will receive $10,776,000, and Baton Rouge will receive $4,648,000 to address these disasters. 
  • $450,136,000 to the state of Louisiana to help recovery efforts related to Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

Video of Kennedy’s statement is here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) in introducing the No Government Contracts for Known Leakers Act to stop government employees and agencies from knowingly entering into contracts with people or entities guilty of leaking nonpublic government information to unauthorized persons or entities.

“Americans don’t do business with people who refuse to protect their private information, and their government should apply the same standard to leakers. There’s no reason to pour tax dollars into people or companies that lack integrity or to give them access to sensitive information,” said Kennedy.

“The recent revelations from court filings in the Durham probe underscore the importance of ensuring that the government is not contracting with individuals who have improperly disclosed nonpublic information. It is common sense that we should protect taxpayer dollars and information from people who have previously violated the public trust and used government information for ulterior purposes,” said Hagerty.

A recent court filing by Special Counsel John Durham stated that a technology executive—whose company was hired by the White House to provide internet-related services—was exploiting this “sensitive arrangement” and his access to White House internet domain name information to work with Clinton Campaign operatives in 2016 to create a false narrative that rival candidate Donald J. Trump was colluding with Russia. Then, they pitched the narrative concocted with this information to the FBI, which initiated a federal investigation into the Trump Campaign and later President Trump.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) also cosponsored the bill.

Text of the No Government Contracts for Known Leakers Act is available here.

Watch Kennedy’s comments here

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today delivered opening remarks at Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination hearing to become an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. The remarks include: 

“I hope we will be able to use this hearing today to talk about . . . two subjects. The first is the legitimacy of the United States Supreme Court. Where does the court get its legitimacy? What can we do to enhance it? Judicial legitimacy is important. I don’t have to tell you that. I’m rather fond of the Constitution. I know you are, too. When members of the United States Supreme Court interpret it, I want the American people to believe it. I want the American people to say, ‘Well, I may not agree, but the men and women who made that decision are intellectually honest and people of good faith.’

“One of the primary roles of the United States Supreme Court is to uphold the rule of law. And, sometimes, justices have to uphold the rule of law when it’s not popular. Sometimes justices have to uphold the rule of law when it’s not popular with the majority of Americans. Boy, that’s tough. It’s also important. Sometime—not generally, but sometimes—the majority can mean that all the fools are on the same side. And that’s what the Court’s there for.

“And I’m rather fond of the Bill of Rights, and I know you are as well. I’ve never believed that the Bill of Rights is there for the high school quarterback or the prom queen. They’re covered by it, but the Bill of Rights is there to protect the rights of people who don’t see the world exactly like everybody else or who don’t look exactly like everybody else.

“Now, unfortunately, through history, we have had people—some well-intentioned—who tried to delegitimize the Supreme Court. We have a president way back when who tried to impeach a Supreme Court Justice. . . . And most of the people who want to delegitimize the Supreme Court believe—unlike our founders, in my judgment—believe that the members of the Supreme Court ought to be and are politicians in robes. They believe that the United States Supreme Court ought to be a mini-Congress. They believe that the law is not the law—the law is supposed to just be politics practiced in a different way—and they believe in court packing. And they’re wrong.

“Number two, I hope today that we can use this as an opportunity to talk about if not explicitly, at least implicitly—that’s what I'm going to try to do—the appropriate balance between representative government and declarative government. 

“Now, in representative government, as you well know, people, through their elected representatives, make policy. In declarative government, policy is made by the unelected: the administrative state and the federal judiciary. Now, both are important. Both are important. I’m not saying this is a zero sum game, or either/or. But what’s just as important is that we have the appropriate balance between representative government and what I’ll call declarative government. 

“I mean, we have an administrative state. Did any of us ever think it would get this big? Is that healthy? We need to ask ourselves, ‘Is it really healthy to arrive at a circumstance where the administrative state passes 35 laws a year to our one? Is it really healthy to have an administrative state that makes its own laws, interprets its own laws, and enforces its own laws before courts, with respect to which the administrative state appoints the judges? I think that’s a fair question to ask. 

“With respect to declarative government, and the Supreme Court, and the federal judiciary—federal judges have enourmous power. They have to, but they do, they have enormous power. You’re appointed for life. You can’t be unelected. Your salary can’t even be reduced. And you have to have that power. Judicial power is important. So is judicial restraint.

“I believe that the appropriate role of the federal judiciary is the following: Federal judges don’t make law. They don’t tell us what the law ought to be. They tell us what the law is.”  

. . .

“I’ll leave you with these last thoughts . . . ‘The American people love democracy, and the American people are not fools. The people know their value judgments are quite as good as those taught in any law school—maybe better.  Value judgments, after all, should be voted on, not dictated.’

“I look forward, Judge, to getting to know you better.”

Video of Kennedy’s comments is available here.

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today led a bipartisan group of senators in urging Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to provide resources for private and public institutions to defend against cyberattacks by Russia or its proxies.

“The realm of cyber escalation remains largely unexplored.  Presently, Russia is justly cornered by extreme sanctions measures and there are concerns it will lash out against the United States through non-kinetic attacks,” the Senators wrote.

“Even beyond the current Russian-induced conflict, cyber threats are growing faster than our private, state, and local institutions can adapt to them.  From banks, hospitals, liquified natural gas terminals, bridges and roads, our institutions need to be informed and supported by the federal government in order to be prepared to absorb and rebuff offensive cyber operations by foreign adversaries,” they continued. 

The senators asked for answers regarding, among other things, what measures the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security have taken to reduce Americans’ cyber vulnerabilities and the state of American institutions’ preparedness for a major Russian cyber offensive.

The senators also urged Austin and Mayorkas to provide a written assessment of all recent significant malicious cumulative cyber activities against the U.S. or reported activities against U.S.-based private institutions by Russia or a suspected proxy. 

We must act now, with increased haste, before we find ourselves under a major retaliatory cyber offensive that causes extreme disruption in the lives of everyday Americans,” they concluded.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) also signed the letter.

The letter is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $7,738,685 in a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to Vernon Parish to cover debris removal costs related to Hurricane Laura.

“This $7.7 million will help Louisianians in Vernon Parish continue recovering from the costs of Hurricane Laura,” said Kennedy.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and more than 30 other senators in introducing a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the Biden administration’s 2021 Final Rule on the Title X Family Planning Program, which reversed the Trump administration’s 2019 ban on federal funding to entities that provide abortion referrals to pregnant mothers.

The 2019 rule did not reduce Title X funding but redirected it to providers that do not perform or promote abortions as part of their “family planning” practices.

“The Trump administration made the right choice in banning Title X dollars from funding abortion. Unfortunately, President Biden decided to reverse that ban and send taxpayer money to support snuffing out innocent lives in the womb. I’m proud to join Sen. Rubio in working to nullify President Biden’s unilateral move so that we can protect unborn life and Americans’ consciences,” said Kennedy.

“The Biden Administration’s rule is an assault on the most sacred and fundamental human right, the right to life. I will continue to protect the sanctity of life and do everything I can to make sure taxpayer dollars are not used for or promote abortions,” said Rubio.

The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to overturn certain federal agency regulations and actions through a joint resolution of disapproval. If such a joint resolution is approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the president, or if Congress successfully overrides a presidential veto, the rule at issue becomes invalid.

Rep. Tony Gonzalez (R-Texas) introduced the resolution in the House.

Text of the resolution is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Rep. Julia Letlow (R-La.) today urged Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough to explain and reconsider the VA’s decision to close the VA hospital in Alexandria. The VA failed to consult with Kennedy or Letlow before announcing its plan to make changes to VA medical facilities in Louisiana.

“Your report for restructuring includes an estimated $2 trillion infrastructure overhaul and recommends closing 17 medical centers in 12 states without clear guidelines on direct replacements,” said Kennedy and Letlow.

“Most alarmingly, your recommendations include closing the VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Alexandria, Louisiana, and a complete rebuild of the Shreveport VAMC. According to your report, the justification for the closure of the Alexandria VAMC is based on calculations that the enrolled veteran population across Central Louisiana (CenLa) will decrease from 39,600 to 39,312 in 2029, a difference of only 288 enrollees over 10 years,” the lawmakers explained.

“As this report is considered by Congress and others, we urge you to reconsider the closure of the Alexandria VAMC. This facility is critical for veterans across Louisiana and the detrimental effects of its closure would be immeasurable,” Kennedy and Letlow wrote.

Kennedy and Letlow asked McDonough to provide information including the VA’s assessment criteria for closing and rebuilding the facilities in Louisiana.

They also requested a comprehensive explanation of how the VA will maintain care for veterans who depend on the Alexandria VAMC after the medical center’s closure.

Louisiana veterans deserve clear-cut answers explaining how any changes will affect their access to life saving care,” they concluded.

The letter is available here.