WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sens. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and six others in introducing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Reauthorization and Reform Act to reauthorize the NFIP for five years and reform the program to cut waste, abuse and mismanagement. The legislation would improve the accountability, affordability and sustainability of the NFIP and place guardrails on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) new Risk Rating 2.0 system, which drastically hikes Americans’ flood insurance premiums.
“Roughly half-a-million Louisianians depend on flood insurance to safeguard their homes and businesses. The National Flood Insurance Program protects workers and families who need to take care of their biggest investments—their homes. We have to extend this program and protect it from political games,” said Kennedy.
“We need to reform the NFIP to ensure it is affordable and accessible for the homeowner, accountable to the taxpayer, and sustainable for the future. This bill is full of real solutions to achieve these goals,” said Dr. Cassidy.
The bill emphasizes prevention and mitigation efforts and addresses issues with FEMA’s management of the NFIP, including low participation rates, inaccurate flood maps, indifference to the benefits of flood control infrastructure, unsustainable debt service costs and contractor profiteering.
FEMA implemented Risk Rating 2.0, its new NFIP rating system, last month. Risk Rating 2.0 hikes rates on insurance premiums, forcing homeowners to drop coverage or lose their homes. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects that 900,000 policyholders (who make up nearly 20 percent of the program) will drop NFIP coverage as a result of Risk Rating 2.0. The NFIP Reauthorization and Reform Act will put guardrails on Risk Rating 2.0 to safeguard policyholders from sudden rate shocks.
Nov 01 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Republican senators wrote to President Joe Biden to oppose his administration’s reported plan to offer illegal immigrants up to $450,000 per person in taxpayer dollars to settle lawsuits resulting from those individuals’ violating U.S. immigration law.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), 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.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) joined Kennedy in asking the president to refuse to issue any settlement payments for immigrants who broke U.S. laws.
“At a time when respect for our country’s immigration laws is at an all-time low, our federal government is now seeking to financially reward aliens who broke our laws,” wrote the senators.
According to media reporting, the federal government is considering paying out more than $1 billion to illegal immigrants based on allegations against the Department of Homeland Security.
“These illegal immigrants disregarded our immigration processes, cut in front of those seeking to legally enter our nation, and put children at risk of great personal injury or death by placing them in the hands of abusive smugglers. Not only would these settlements be breathtakingly unjust and unwise, but they reinforce the conditions that make it easy for the cartels to recruit more people to undertake the treacherous journey to our southwest border, and serve only to encourage more illegal immigration,” they continued.
“Americans are a kind and generous people who welcome a diverse array of immigrants from around the world. Our nation has been made stronger by the generations of legal immigrants that have contributed to our country and achieved the American Dream. But rewarding illegal immigration with financial payments runs counter to our laws and would only serve to encourage more lawlessness at our border,” the senators concluded.
The letter is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and other Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in requesting that Attorney General Merrick Garland provide the evidence he used to draft a memo targeting parents exercising their First Amendment rights.
“Please provide all evidence you personally used or relied on between Wednesday, September 29, 2021, and Monday, October 4, 2021—other than the content of the [National School Boards Association] letter dated Wednesday, September 29—that formed the basis for the memo issued by the [Department of Justice] dated Monday, October 4th that addressed ‘ . . . harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff . . . ’,” the senators wrote.
“Please respond in writing by Monday, November 1, 2021 . . . Because you were able to distill your evidence and craft a memo that fixed the gaze of the FBI directly on concerned parents across this country in just four days, you should be able to share that evidence with us in the same period of time,” the senators concluded.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) also signed the letter.
Watch Kennedy’s questioning of Garland about his memo here.
The letter is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Main Street Growth Act to expand small companies’ access to capital markets.
“Small business owners work hard to serve their communities, but existing capital markets aren’t wide open to these job creators. The Main Street Growth Act would give smaller companies the option of listing on their own specialized exchanges, where they would be more visible to investors. These exchanges would promote growth in America’s economy by better meeting the needs of small business owners, their employees and investors,” said Kennedy.
Small companies often have difficulty accessing capital markets because their stocks are less visible and are traded less frequently than the stocks of larger companies.
The Main Street Growth Act would create tailored, dedicated exchanges known as “venture exchanges” for trading stocks in smaller companies. Giving small companies their own specialized exchanges would increase their visibility and access to capital. Venture exchanges would also give investors more access to the potential growth opportunities that small companies offer.
Listing on a venture exchange would be completely optional for small businesses, start-ups and emerging growth companies that qualify under the bill.
Text of the Main Street Growth Act is available here.
Watch Kennedy’s questioning here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The senator’s questions focused on why the Justice Department (DOJ) has not reversed its memo targeting parents after the National School Boards Association stated that it regretted and apologized for its letter asking DOJ to intervene.
Key excerpts include:
Kennedy: “When you got [the letter] that prompted your memorandum to give the FBI new duties in making sure our parents aren’t dangerous domestic terrorists, you didn’t investigate before you issued your memorandum the incidents cited in the letter, did you?”
Garland: “Look, I took the statement by the National Association, which represents thousands of school board members. When they said that they were facing violence and threats of violence, and when I saw on the news media reports—”
Kennedy: “But you didn’t investigate the incidents in the letter, did you?”
Garland: “This is the first step. This is an assessment step that comes before investigations.”
Kennedy: “Right. Before you issued your memo, you didn’t investigate the incident.”
Kennedy: “Can we agree that we have thousands, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of kids growing up today who are more likely to commit a crime and go to jail than own the home and get married?”
Garland: “I don’t know about the comparative statistics. I do know there are too many people who are committing crime.”
Kennedy: “And one of the reasons for that is lack of parental involvement, isn’t it?”
Garland: “I think parental involvement is essential. I think it’s key both to bringing up good kids.”
Kennedy: “So, why do you want to issue a memorandum listing incidents that you didn’t investigate that anybody who has any fair-minded knowledge of the world knows is going to have a chilling effect on parental involvement with respect to what their kids are learning at school?”
Garland: “Just want to be clear, again, Senator, my memorandum did not list any of those incidents.”
Kennedy: “Come on, general. We both know this had a chilling effect. You don’t think there are parents out there in the real world that said, ‘Oh, my God. Maybe we shouldn’t go to the school board meeting. There'll be FBI agents there.’ This isn’t La La Land.”
Watch the video of Kennedy’s questioning here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III regarding the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate and the Navy’s recent order that U.S. military service members could lose their veterans’ benefits for failing to comply with the mandate.
“Without an approved medical exemption or religious accommodation, service members who decline to fully vaccinate against COVID-19 within the timelines prescribed by Secretaries of Military Departments will be found to have disobeyed a lawful general order. . . . As a result, service members found in violation may face punitive or administrative action, including the initiation of discharge proceedings,” wrote Kennedy.
“These heroes are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend American liberties, but they are now losing their own freedom and possibly their livelihoods at the hands of this administration,” he continued.
Kennedy also raised concerns that the vaccine mandate will compromise military readiness and America’s national security at a time when America’s adversaries are looking for weakness in U.S. resolve and readiness.
The senator asked Austin whether service members discharged because of the vaccine mandate will receive an honorable or dishonorable discharge and what benefits these service members stand to lose as a consequence of the mandate.
“I support the vaccine, but I also support the freedom Americans have to make their own medical decisions concerning this vaccine. Coercing service members to take this vaccine by threatening their honor, livelihoods, and benefits runs contrary to our shared American values and undermines our national security interests,” concluded Kennedy.
The letter is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $594,931,000 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for disaster recovery from Hurricanes Laura and Delta. This funding comes to Louisiana through the government funding bill, the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Act, that was recently signed into law.
Sen. Kennedy advocated for the inclusion of the disaster relief for Louisiana in the bill.
“Louisianians are still reeling from the damage left by Laura and Delta. We need a helping hand as we rebuild, and I am pleased to see this $594.9 million that Congress set aside for Louisiana’s recovery efforts come to our state,” said Kennedy.
The Louisiana Office of Community Development will receive the award in the form of a community development block grant from HUD. The funds are part of the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Act.
Background on Kennedy’s response to historic natural disasters:
- On October 19, the Senate passed the State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act, cosponsored by Kennedy. The bill would allow state governments to use unspent pandemic relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund to provide relief for natural disaster victims and to invest in infrastructure needs.
- On Sept. 30, Kennedy voted in support of a short-term funding bill to send disaster aid to Louisiana and to extend the National Flood Insurance Program without raising the debt limit. This bill provided the $595 million awarded to Louisiana above.
- On August 2, Kennedy offered an amendment to the Senate’s infrastructure bill providing $1.1 billion in disaster relief to Louisianians recovering from Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta. The Senate blocked the amendment.
- On July 21, Kennedy joined Louisiana’s congressional delegation in urging the Office of Management and Budget to prioritize Louisiana’s request for supplemental disaster relief.
- On July 15, Kennedy introduced and asked the Senate to pass the Gulf Coast Hurricane Aid Act of 2021. The bill would provide $1.1 billion in disaster relief to Louisianians recovering from historic storms. The Senate blocked the bill’s passage.
- On May 18, Kennedy again urged President Biden to provide supplemental disaster relief for southwest Louisiana.
- On May 13, Kennedy helped introduce the Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act, which would allow rural homeowners, renters and small businesses to access disaster relief more easily in the wake of a natural disaster.
- In September 2020, Kennedy wrote to Senate leadership, Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), to request that the Senate consider emergency supplemental aid to help Louisiana residents recover from Hurricane Laura.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $1,582,575 in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) award for disaster recovery in West Feliciana Parish.
“The West Feliciana Parish community is still recuperating from the flooding of 2016, and I am pleased to see this $1.58 million help repair the Plettenburg Bridge,” said Kennedy.
FEMA will award $1,582,575 to West Feliciana Parish to repair damage to the Plettenburg Bridge that connects to Cat Island. Severe storms and flooding in 2016 impaired the structural integrity of the bridge, which included the loss of concrete support elements, bridge deck, guard rail, embankment and asphalt approaches on both ends of the bridge. This grant will cover 90% of the project cost.
Oct 25 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) in introducing the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act to require the online publication of financial disclosure reports for federal judges and to mandate that federal judges submit periodic transaction reports for certain securities transactions.
“Existing law already requires many federal officials to disclose certain securities transactions. As a matter of transparency and accountability, federal judges should do the same. The Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act would give the public, including litigants, access to this important information while protecting judges’ personal information and security,” said Kennedy.
“The STOCK Act rightly strengthened disclosure requirements and boosted transparency for elected officials, but federal judges were inexplicably carved out of these tougher rules. This legislation would subject federal judges to the same disclosure requirements of other federal officials so we can be sure litigants are protected from conflicts of interest and cases are decided fairly,” said Cornyn.
“A fundamental pillar of our justice system is the right to a fair and impartial trial. Litigants need confidence that they will receive an unbiased hearing free from outside influence and based only on the facts and the law. I’m proud to introduce this bill with my colleagues that will strengthen financial disclosure requirements for federal judges and help bolster confidence in the justice system,” said Coons.
“Our judicial officials should be bound by the same financial disclosure requirements that our elected officials are. This level of increased transparency will hold officials accountable and ensure that litigants are not caught in a conflict of interest. Today’s introduction of the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act brings us one step closer to guaranteeing equal justice under the law,” said Durbin.
“By making judicial financial disclosures more easily available, this bill will help increase transparency and reassure the American people that the federal judicial system remains unbiased and fair,” said Grassley.
“Life-tenured judges follow lower transparency standards than any other federal officials. This bipartisan bill will make sure the judiciary discloses as much about its stock transactions as the elected branches of government. That’s an important safeguard,” said Whitehouse.
“Texans and the American people deserve accountability and ethical integrity from every branch of government. Our judges have a duty to avoid conflicts of interest in their courtrooms and even the appearance of improprieties that could call into question their impartiality. Recent reporting that federal judges across the country have failed to recuse themselves from cases in which they have a financial interest is extremely concerning and undermines faith in our judicial system. That’s why I’m proud to co-sponsor this bill that will increase accountability by requiring federal judges to make necessary financial disclosures,” said Cruz.
“I’m working with my colleagues to strengthen transparency rules to ensure all Americans receive fair and impartial treatment in court without fear of any conflict of interest,” said Ossoff.
The Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act would require that federal judges’ financial disclosure reports be made publicly available online and require federal judges to submit periodic transaction reports of securities transactions in line with other federal officials under the STOCK Act. The bill would amend the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 to:
- Require the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to create a searchable online database of judicial financial disclosure forms and post those forms within 90 days of being filed, and
- Subject federal judges to the STOCK Act’s requirement of filing periodic transaction reports within 45 days of securities transactions over $1,000.
The bill also preserves the existing ability of judges to request redactions of personal information on financial disclosure reports due to a security concern.
Under current ethics guidelines and federal law, federal judges are prohibited from hearing cases that involve a party in which they, their spouse or their minor children have a financial interest. Federal judges are instead supposed to disqualify themselves in any proceeding in which their impartiality may be questioned. Despite this, a recent report from the Wall Street Journal found that between 2010 and 2018, more than 130 federal judges failed to recuse themselves in nearly 700 cases in which they or an immediate family member held stock in a company involved in the case.
While federal judges are required to submit financial disclosure reports, current law does not provide sufficient transparency or certainty for litigants to discern if they have a conflict of interest. The current process for obtaining judicial financial disclosure forms can be cumbersome and take months or even years to obtain. By contrast, financial disclosure reports for the president, members of Congress and presidential-appointed and Senate-confirmed officials are readily available online.
Litigants need real-time access to judges’ financial disclosures and securities transactions in order to preserve the integrity of the proceedings and ensure a recusal when there’s a potential conflict of interest in their case.
Text of the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act is available here.
Oct 22 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and more than 40 other Republican senators in introducing the Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act to stop the Biden administration’s plan to give the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) access to the personal banking information of virtually every American.
“The Biden administration seems determined to insert Big Brother into every nook and cranny of Americans’ lives. The IRS’s plan to snoop into Louisianians’ bank accounts violates their privacy and scuttles due process. In its own words, Biden’s plan would create a ‘comprehensive financial account information reporting regime’ aimed at everyday Americans, and I’m proud to work with Sen. Scott and others to fight this invasion,” said Kennedy.
“The Democrats’ plan to allow the IRS to spy on the bank accounts of nearly every person in this country, even those below the poverty line, should be deeply concerning to anyone who values privacy and economic inclusion. Of the more than 7 million American households that are currently unbanked, the majority are low-income, rural, and minority Americans. Implementing the Biden reporting scheme will disproportionately harm those who need greater access to our financial institutions and people living paycheck to paycheck. My colleagues and I will not stop fighting the Democrats’ wrong-headed proposal to implement more federal government intrusion into our lives,” said Scott.
“Every American should be wary of giving the IRS more power and more tentacles into private financial transactions. The IRS bank reporting proposal is one of the biggest expansions of the agency’s authority we’ve ever seen, and is fundamentally flawed. I’m proud to support Senator Scott’s legislation to stop this proposal in its tracks and protect Americans’ personal, private financial information,” said Crapo.
“The Biden administration’s plan to allow the IRS to monitor Americans’ bank accounts is a dangerous idea that will only prove to be worse over time. Today the administration wants to know your annual account inflows and outflows. What will they demand access to tomorrow? I’m glad to join Senator Scott and Senator Crapo in working to ensure this terribly flawed proposal never sees the light of day,” said Toomey.
President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and the IRS are seeking access to every working American’s financial information by requiring financial institutions to report to the IRS withdrawals and deposits totaling at least $10,000. Nearly every American, even those living below the poverty line, would be subject to this proposed reporting regime as the average American has annual expenditures of more than $60,000 per year.
The Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act would prevent the IRS from implementing Democrats’ plan to uncover Americans’ financial records.
Kennedy had previously explained the dangers of the Biden administration’s plan. Video of his comments is available here.
Text of the Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act is available here.