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.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and fellow lawmakers in reintroducing bipartisan legislation to improve underserved states’ ability to successfully compete for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards.
“States like Louisiana use FAST grants to help small businesses succeed, but the program’s assistance is not reaching communities that rely on these resources to spark innovation. The FAST Fix Act would prioritize applicants in historically underserved areas in Louisiana and elsewhere. I’m proud to partner with Sen. Risch to see this through,” said Kennedy.
“The FAST Partnership Program is not sufficiently focused to reach the underserved states it’s intended to benefit. The FAST Fix Act will make commonsense changes to the program application process to ensure research and development grants reach states like Idaho to galvanize our continued growth and success,” said Risch.
The FAST Fix Act would reform the Small Business Administration’s Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program to encourage federal research and development grants to be awarded to small businesses and universities in states that have historically lacked SBIR and STTR awards. This bill would encourage more awards to commercialize ideas, compete in the global marketplace and create local jobs.
Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also co-sponsored the legislation.
Background: The FAST Partnership Program provides one-year funding to organizations to develop SBIR/STTR outreach and training programs to help facilitate more awards in their state. Special consideration is intended for entities in states that have historically lacked awards. But under the one-size-fits-all application process, the federal government gives equal consideration to all applicants for the FAST program, regardless of their SBIR/STTR award history. As a result, the program is not penetrating the very states it is intended to serve.
The FAST Fix Act would increase competition for FAST grants in each state and give priority to applicants located in historically underperforming states to ensure more SBIR/STTR awards are distributed to underserved areas.
Kennedy reintroduces bill to protect Americans with preexisting conditions, defend their private health insurance
Mar 16 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today reintroduced the Continuing Coverage for Preexisting Conditions Act to keep in place legal protections for people with preexisting medical conditions.
“Americans deserve affordable and effective health care, not bureaucratic rationing. Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides on Obamacare, my bill would allow Americans with preexisting health conditions to keep their coverage. As Democrats push to socialize medicine, I won’t stop defending Americans’ right to choose and retain their private health insurance,” said Kennedy.
The Supreme Court continues to consider arguments about the constitutionality of Obamacare, and Democrats blocked Republican-led efforts to protect Americans with preexisting conditions at least five times in the 116thCongress. This legislation would ensure that Americans with preexisting conditions keep their coverage even if the court rules that Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. The bill would also protect individuals who receive private coverage through the health insurance exchanges that Obamacare established.
The bill text is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $19,623,422 from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide relief for destruction caused by Hurricane Laura.
“Hurricane Laura devastated our state, damaging tens of thousands of homes and causing billions of dollars of damage. These funds will help get our state back on its feet and provide much-needed help to those who suffered.”
The funds were a result of a cost share adjustment, and were awarded for the following purposes:
- $10,156,500 for debris removal to the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury
- $3,842,204.50 for Emergency Protective Measures to the Jefferson Davis Electric Cooperative
- $2,833,659 for debris removal to the City of Sulphur
- $1,669,785.80 for Emergency Protective Measures to the Louisiana Department of Military
- $1,121,273.44 for debris removal in Beauregard Parish
Kennedy announces $35 million for mental health, substance abuse prevention and treatment
Mar 11 2021
MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $35,432,883 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the form of a Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG) and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG).
“The coronavirus pandemic has closed schools, shuttered businesses and given many Louisianians a hard road to walk. As we help our neighbors struggling with depression and other mental health or substance abuse challenges, it’s good to see this $35 million invested in making communities healthier. No one in Louisiana should feel they have to face their trials alone,” said Kennedy.
The MHBG grant totals $11,975,406. These funds will help offer community-based mental health services to individuals struggling with mental illness.
Another $23,457,477 has been allocated through the SABG. This grant will aid communities in enacting substance abuse prevention and treatment activities.
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.
Kennedy, Scott, colleagues introduce legislation to protect faith-based foster care providers
Mar 10 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and fellow senators in introducing the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, which protects child welfare providers from being discriminated against for acting in accordance with their deeply held religious beliefs.
“Faith-based child welfare providers are an essential part of caring for some of the most vulnerable children in our communities. I’m deeply saddened to see some government officials punish foster services for their sincere religious beliefs. That discrimination comes directly at the expense of boys and girls who are waiting for loving, healthy homes. No government agency that discriminates against people based on their faith—which goes against the interests of foster children—deserves taxpayer dollars,” said Kennedy.
“In South Carolina and across the country, faith-based foster care providers support the 400,000 children in our foster care system who—through no fault of their own—have nowhere else to go. At a time when religious freedoms are under assault, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act is a necessary protection for those who are living according to their convictions. I am grateful my colleagues are standing with me to protect this most fundamental right,” said Scott.
The bill prohibits federal, state and local government agencies that receive federal adoption assistance funding from discriminating against child welfare service providers based on the providers’ unwillingness to take action contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.
This would include all agencies that receive funding under Part B (Child and Family Services) or Part E (Federal Payments for Foster Care, Prevention and Permanency) of Title IV of the Social Security Act.
Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), 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), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), James Risch (R-Idaho), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) also co-sponsored the legislation.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Heritage Action and Family Research Council support the bill.
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) introduced companion legislation in the House.
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.
Kennedy, Thune, colleagues reintroduce bicameral legislation to permanently repeal the death tax
Mar 09 2021
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.