Media

ARABI, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) met with St. Bernard Parish president Guy McInnis, St. Bernard Parish Sheriff James Pohlmann and St. Bernard Parish Director of Homeland Security John Rahaim to receive updates on storm recovery efforts following devastating tornado destruction in the area.

“No one can describe the pain that having your home or livelihood destroyed causes, and southeast Louisianians have felt this pain time and time again from natural disasters over the last year and a half. Despite all of this, Arabi and nearby communities and their leaders are determined to rebuild alongside one another.

“Becky and I are praying for the Louisianians who are suffering in the aftermath of this week’s tornadoes,” said Kennedy.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and the other Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today sent a letter asking Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to provide information related to the case of Wesley Hawkins.

“During your confirmation hearing, you were asked by multiple members about the extraordinarily lenient sentences that you have given to child pornography offenders. Your sentences for child pornography offenders were routinely less than the sentences recommended by the sentencing guidelines and less than the sentences recommended by the prosecutors—in fact, you gave reduced sentences far more often than did average federal judges,” wrote the senators.

“In one specific case that was addressed at the hearing, you sentenced a man named Wesley Hawkins, who distributed child pornography on the internet. The sentencing guidelines recommended a sentence of about 8-10 years. As a result of a plea agreement, the prosecutors in the case recommended a 24-month sentence, and your own probation office recommended 18 months. You, however, sentenced Hawkins to a mere three months in [Bureau of Prisons] custody for his crimes. In 2019—when he would have been in prison if you had followed the sentencing guidelines—Hawkins apparently did something that caused you to send him back to BOP custody for six months in a halfway house, along with instituting new restrictions on his computer usage,” they continued.

“Your lenient sentencing in the Hawkins case was the subject of significant interest in the Committee’s review of your judicial record. Our review of your nomination requires that the Committee fully understand the circumstances that informed your actions in this case. . . . please immediately provide the Committee with a copy of the probation petition that you referenced in that April 2019 order, and an explanation of what Hawkins did in 2019 that earned him twice as much time in BOP custody as your original three-month sentence,” the senators concluded.

The letter is available here.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) today urged Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell to waive monthly rent payments through Oct. 31, 2022 for survivors of Hurricanes Laura and Delta in southwest Louisiana.

“Southwest Louisiana was devastated by an unprecedented string of natural disasters in 2020 and 2021. Hurricanes Laura, Delta, a severe winter storm, and the May 2021 flood event caused extensive damage to the region and created major disruptions to the recovery process. These disasters were in addition to pandemic-related challenges, lumber shortages, and nationwide supply chain issues that have hamstrung construction and rebuilding efforts. These compounding issues have caused extensive delays for Southwest Louisiana families trying to return to permanent housing,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Nearly 19 months after Hurricane Laura’s landfall and six months after Congress appropriated funding, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has finally announced its allocation to the State of Louisiana through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program. Louisiana’s share of CDBG-DR funding will largely be used to address unmet housing needs. While these long-term recovery resources will greatly help Louisiana’s recovery mission, the funding is still making its way through the bureaucratic process and is not able to be spent at this time. . . . A waiver on rent through October 31, 2022, will allow CDBG-DR money to flow into the community and address essential housing needs before rent payments begin,” they continued.

“Given these unique circumstances, we believe FEMA should take action to provide additional relief for hurricane survivors in Southwest Louisiana,” concluded the lawmakers.

The letter is available here.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $27,629,733 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants in disaster aid for Louisiana.

“Hurricanes, storms and floods have battered Louisiana, but we always come back tougher after every disaster. This $27 million will help us recover from the devastation of Hurricanes Laura and Ida,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $10,895,299 to Jefferson Parish for debris removal related to Hurricane Ida.
  • $6,627,823 to the Grant Parish Police Jury for emergency protective measures related to Hurricane Laura.
  • $5,401,696 to Jefferson Parish for debris removal related to Hurricane Ida.
  • $1,887,875 to Plaquemines Parish for emergency protective measures related to Hurricane Ida.
  • $1,586,698 to the Society of the Roman Catholic Church for emergency protective measures related to Hurricane Laura.
  • $1,230,342 to St. James Parish for debris removal related to Hurricane Ida.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) in introducing the Protecting Medicaid Beneficiaries Act to expand existing safeguards for Medicaid.

“The Protecting Medicaid Beneficiaries Act would safeguard tax dollars by helping ensure Medicaid assistance goes to those who actually need it, and I’m proud to partner with Sen. Inhofe to protect Medicaid recipients,” said Kennedy.

“If you look at the numbers, it is clear that fraud is rampant within Medicaid, and billions of dollars are wasted every year as a result. Those who truly need Medicaid, should be able to get Medicaid, and our taxpayer dollars should be preserved to that end. For that to happen, we must ensure that individuals trying to game the system are discovered in the first place. That’s why I am glad to introduce the Protecting Medicaid Beneficiaries Act—a bill that will go a long way in ensuring those who need Medicaid, get Medicaid by rooting out misuse of taxpayer dollars within the system and promoting fiscal integrity,” said Inhofe.

The Protecting Medicaid Beneficiaries Act would expand the Asset Verification Services (AVS) program, which helps ensure that Medicaid beneficiaries are legally eligible to receive benefits, to all Medicaid applicants. AVS currently only applies to aged, blind and disabled Medicaid applicants. 

According to certain estimates as of 2012, waste and fraud accounted for the loss of 10 percent of Medicaid and Medicare spending.  As of 2018, the Louisiana Department of Health had sent Medicaid payments to many individuals who were ineligible for them, including people making more than $100,000 annually.

Text of the Protecting Medicaid Beneficiaries Act is available here.

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.