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WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Hospital Transparency Compliance Enforcement Act to increase penalties on hospitals that hide the true costs of their items and services from patients.

“Patients need to know the true cost of hospital items and services. This bill would protect patients by clarifying how much a hospital visit might really cost so that they can make informed choices about their care,” said Kennedy.

The Hospital Price Transparency Rule requires hospitals to establish and make public a list of the prices that hospitals charge for items and services. Hospitals must also display charges in a consumer-friendly manner. As of July 2021, however, less than six percent of hospitals comply with this transparency rule, according to some estimates.

This January, the government implemented higher penalties on hospitals that don’t comply with the transparency rule. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires non-compliant hospitals with 30 or fewer beds to pay a penalty of $300 per day, those with 31 to 550 beds to pay between $310 and $5,500 per day and those with more than 550 beds to pay $5,500 per day.

The Hospital Transparency Compliance Enforcement Act would:

  • Double the current government penalties on non-compliant hospitals. Penalties would increase to $600 per day for hospitals with 30 or fewer beds, $620 to $11,000 per day for hospitals with 31 to 550 beds and $11,000 per day for hospitals with more than 550 beds.

  • Require all hospitals to comply with the higher penalties within 100 days after the end of the public health emergency.

  • Prohibit hospitals from shielding information on their websites using webpage coding.

  • Give non-compliant hospitals 60 days after notice of non-compliance to pay their monetary penalty.

  • Require the CMS to publish the names of hospitals that have not complied.

Text of the Hospital Transparency Compliance Enforcement Act is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in introducing the Preventing Usurpation of Power and Privileges by Extralegal Territories’ Sedition (PUPPETS) Act to sanction individuals who assist in establishing puppet governments in Ukraine.

“Putin isn’t waging his war of aggression alone. Those who join in his terrorism should also bear its consequences—personally and politically. Russia’s war is one of terror, and America won’t tolerate it or excuse its co-conspirators,” said Kennedy.

“The world will become a very scary place if we allow thugs like Putin to invade sovereign nations without severe consequence. We must be clear and unyielding in our support for the Ukrainian people’s fight against a merciless tyrant, and that begins with calling his actions for what they are—an act of terrorism. Any participants in or supporters of this evil scheme should be prepared to face the consequences,” said Rubio.

The PUPPETS Act would designate certain entities as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). Such a designation blocks property and prohibits transactions with these entities and their members, and adds all their members to the Terrorist Exclusion List, which prevents their entry into the U.S.

The bill would designate as FTOs several entities, including the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and any entity claiming to be the government of any other region of Ukraine that is not the government elected in Ukraine’s most recent national and local elections. The bill would prevent U.S. flagged aircraft and ships from taking any action that would imply recognition of sovereignty for these entities.

The PUPPETS Act would also designate as a State Sponsor of Terrorism any government that the Secretary of State finds to have recognized or assisted the DPR, LPR or other Russian puppet governments in Ukraine. These governments would be barred from receiving U.S. foreign assistance.

Rep. Carlos Giménez (R-Fla.) introduced the bill in the House.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Require Employees To Uniformly Return Now (RETURN) Act to require teleworking Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees to return to in-office work in order to resolve a massive IRS tax return backlog.

“The IRS’s employees are working from home while it faces a mountainous tax return backlog. The RETURN Act would bring these employees back into the office so the IRS can eliminate the backlog and get hardworking Americans their tax refunds,” said Kennedy.

The IRS is facing a backlog of nearly 24 million tax returns from 2020. The IRS claims one factor causing the backlog was the pandemic, which forced IRS employees to work from home. As of January 2022, almost 70 percent of IRS employees were still teleworking full-time despite the federal workforce having a 98 percent vaccine mandate compliance.

The RETURN Act would require all IRS employees teleworking due to pandemic precautions to return to full-time, in-office work until the IRS Commissioner determines the backlog is resolved.

The bill would maintain telework options that existed for select circumstances prior to the pandemic and allow a five-day grace period after enactment to allow employees to transition back to the office.

Text of the RETURN Act is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) to introduce the Deterring Communist Chinese Aggression Against Taiwan Through Financial Sanctions Act, which would impose devastating financial sanctions on the Chinese government if Communist China invaded or blockaded Taiwan or attempted to change the status of Taiwan’s governance through by force.

“Russia is not acting alone in its hostile war of aggression—Moscow is banding together with Beijing to bully the world. Now more than ever, we must make it clear to the Chinese Communist Party that armed aggression towards Taiwan would deal a devasting blow to China’s economy. As we know, waiting too long to sanction bad actors can create major national security risks at home. We can’t let China seize the moment to attack one of America’s key partners in the Pacific,” said Kennedy. 

“Taiwan is one of America’s most important partners in the Asia-Pacific, and its peace and stability are in our political, security, and economic interests. We have watched Communist China’s increasingly frequent actions to harass and intimidate the Taiwanese people, through regular military encroachments and cyberattacks. We must be clear that these intimidation tactics will not be ignored. As Beijing quietly watches Putin’s invasion of and assault on Ukraine, America must stand strongly behind our partners in democracy and leave no ambiguity as to our resolve to condemn and punish tyrants who attack our partners. Passing this bill will make clear to General Secretary that if he mimics Putin’s invasion then he will be met with economic isolation and severe financial sanctions. I urge my colleagues to join me in this important work, and I hope to see this bill move swiftly through the Senate,” said Scott. 

“The situation in Ukraine is the very real consequence of weak leadership and a lack of a true deterrence for Russia. Taiwan is a friend, good trading partner, and beacon of freedom and democracy. Our bill threatens crippling financial sanctions as a deterrence to China trying to follow in Putin’s footsteps as it relates to Taiwan,” said Cramer. 

The Deterring Communist Chinese Aggression Against Taiwan Through Financial Sanctions Act would:

  • Sever all financial transactions between the U.S. and China if China engages in an armed aggression against Taiwan or its territories, invades Taiwan or its territories, blockades Taiwan or its territories or attempts to change the status of Taiwan’s governance through the use of force. Penalties include:
    • Prohibition on transactions of property
    • Revocation of visas and restrictions on Chinese nationals involved in the use of force against Taiwan
    • Prohibition on any transfers of credit or payments between financial institutions with Communist China
    • Ban on investment in equity or debt of sanctioned persons
    • Prohibition on financial engagements with Chinese military companies, software companies, financial messaging systems and digital currencies.
  • Require the president to implement such sanctions 30 days after a triggering event.

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to identify and bring to justice criminals guilty of targeting Catholic churches and worshipers. 

“In August 2020, I wrote a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) expressing alarm over the violence in the United States aimed at Catholics and their institutions and property. In that correspondence, I highlighted examples of the senseless acts of destruction that had taken place: For example, rioters attacked a bookstore run by nuns, vandals demolished reverent statues, and arsonists set churches on fire. In one case, criminals targeted a church while worshipers were still inside. I concluded by asking that the department, which you now head, act swiftly and carefully to bring an end to these heinous crimes,” Kennedy wrote.

Kennedy pointed out that the DOJ never responded to that letter and that violence against Catholicism has continued largely unchecked.

“Data compiled by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops shows that almost 80 additional attacks have occurred in America since August 2020. While arson still seems to be a popular offense, graffiti and the beheading of holy statues have also become crimes of choice. . . . In my state of Louisiana, a delinquent broke the heads off statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary and threw planters and statues at the church’s stained-glass windows,” continued Kennedy.

“The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Yet during the COVID-19 pandemic, people of faith experienced significant interference with the practice of their religion. If the government continues to let these crimes go unpunished, it will further inhibit the people’s practice and enjoyment of their fundamental, constitutional right. Thus, I again ask that the DOJ increase efforts to identify and prosecute criminals targeting Catholic people and property so that the tens of millions of Catholics in our country can continue to practice their faith safely,” Kennedy concluded.

Kennedy’s August 2020 letter is available here.

The letter is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Tracking Bad Actors Act to create a public database of people who have committed financial crimes or have civil liability for financial misdeeds. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) is an original cosponsor of the bill.

“Financial fraudsters prey on investors like vultures. The Tracking Bad Actors Act would help expose these offenders to protect American families and workers against financial fraud,” said Kennedy.

“The world of finance is too opaque, and the Tracking Bad Actors Act would allow people in Wyoming and elsewhere to easily search a database to determine if their accountant or financial manager has broken federal financial laws. I’m proud to work with Senator John Kennedy to help consumers and bring greater transparency to our national financial sector,” said Lummis.

The Tracking Bad Actors Act would require the federal government to create a public database of bad actors convicted or held criminally or civilly liable for securities violations. This database would allow investors and brokerage firms to guard against people known to have engaged in fraud.

This information would be made available to the public, free of charge. To the extent practical, the bill would require the database to contain all enforcement actions agencies have taken.

The database would be operational within three years of the bill’s becoming law.

Text of the Tracking Bad Actors Act is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $16,157,989 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for south Louisiana in disaster relief.

“Louisianian families have suffered a brutal year-and-a-half of hurricanes. They are strong, but they need help, and this $16 million will help our state recover,” said Kennedy.  

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $5,357,821 to Plaquemines Parish for debris removal related to Hurricane Ida.
  • $4,281,255 to the Jefferson Davis Electric Cooperative for state management costs as a result of Hurricane Laura.
  • $3,040,097 to the South Lafourche Levee District for debris removal related to Hurricane Ida.
  • $2,263,025 to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development for debris removal related to Hurricane Zeta.
  • $1,215,791 to Lake Charles Memorial Hospital for emergency protective measures related to Hurricane Delta.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) released the following statement in response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address.

“Here's the unvarnished truth as I see it: President Biden has mismanaged Covid. President Biden has mismanaged the economy. President Biden has opened up our southern border, and President Biden has sent inflation sky-high. President Biden has forfeited America's energy independence. President Biden's Justice Department has treated caring parents like criminals, while his tolerance for the Defund the Police movement has helped turn our cities and our streets over to criminals. President Biden has mismanaged Afghanistan, and I pray he doesn't mismanage Russia’s war of aggression.

“And tonight, I heard President Biden say that he aims to stay the course. Isn’t that just like Washington, D.C.? Figure out what doesn't work, and keep doing it.

“For Louisiana families, that’s bad news. It’s bad news at work. It’s bad news at the grocery store. It’s bad news at home, and it’s bad news at the gas pump. It’s bad news for the education of our children. It’s bad news for the security of our country. 

“American sovereignty and national security depend on America’s energy independence. We know that. That’s not a startling realization—that’s just a known fact that we all understand. And that depends, in part, on Louisiana’s oil and natural gas resources—resources that this president continues to ignore. He also continues to ignore the good jobs that oil and gas create.

“Right now, the Biden administration doesn’t seem to accept or address the reality of a new Axis of Evil. China and Russia’s de facto alliance anchors a group of bad actors—of outlaws, of tyrants—that are getting bolder and more aggressive every day. 

“Because of the president’s own policies at home and abroad, inflation continues to surge at the grocery store—we know that—and at the gas pump, and at the clothing store, and everywhere, and I didn’t hear a solution from him tonight. He still wants to spend more and borrow more.

“What President Biden doesn’t want to do is secure our border. I didn’t hear a plan for doing that tonight, either. We don’t know who’s coming across our border into our country. We have absolutely no idea, and President Biden doesn’t seem to care about the drug or human trafficking that rage on. 

“Meanwhile, our kids—we’re only as valuable as our children, folks—our kids are falling behind because their schools were closed for far too long. The president did a whole lot more to intimidate parents than to get teachers back in the classroom. 

“A better future for these kids and for all Americans demands principled, clear-eyed, tough leadership, and I hope the American people see some soon.”

View Kennedy’s full statement here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and more than 20 other senators in urging President Biden to boost defense spending and reverse his anti-energy policies so the U.S. would be better positioned to compete against Russia and China. The letter comes ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address, which the president will deliver tonight.

“. . . as our nation prepares for this new era of authoritarian aggression led by the dictators in Russia and China, we have serious concerns that we encourage you to address in tonight’s State of the Union and thereafter act upon immediately,” the senators wrote.

“First, you must submit a robust military budget that significantly increases defense spending to reflect the realities of our geostrategic competition with China and Russia. Your Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget proposed significant real cuts to the Department of Defense when, at the same time, you proposed massive increases to almost every other federal agency and department. Putin and Xi were undoubtedly encouraged that the President of the United States proposed significant budget cuts to his own armed services,” the senators continued.

“Second, your Administration’s energy policies—which focus on restricting, delaying, and killing the production of American energy—have had the predictable but catastrophic effect of driving up energy prices for American working families, increasing pinks slips for American energy workers, and significantly empowering our adversaries, especially Putin, who has used energy as a weapon for decades,” continued the senators.

The senators pointed out that the Biden administration has worked to disarm America’s energy sector and expressed hope that Biden will make a course correction in his State of the Union address. They encouraged the president to take several actions to reverse his anti-energy policies, protect America’s national security and support American allies, including:

  • Rescind the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline.

  • Commit to fast-tracking and producing American energy on federal lands.

  • Direct the Department of the Interior to finalize a new five-year offshore lease plan by June 30, 2022.

  • Sanction Russian oil and gas exports to America and U.S. allies.

  • Issue all pending export licenses and announce an initiative to surge American liquefied natural gas exports to America’s allies and partners in Europe who are dependent on Russian energy.

“The American people are looking to their President to rise to this critical moment. Our national security, global stability for ourselves and our allies, as well as the prosperity of every American family are on the line,” concluded the senators.

The letter is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) urged Ambassador-at-Large in the Office of International Religious Freedom, Rashad Hussain, and Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Ian Campbell, the current leading U.S. diplomat in Finland, to closely examine the Finnish government’s criminal prosecutions of Rev. Dr. Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen for expressing their religious beliefs.

“The origins and circumstances of the criminal prosecution against Rev. Dr. Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen are clear: these Christians are on trial for their faith—which is, apparently, incompatible with Finnish law.  Even more concerning, Rev. Dr. Pohjola is a Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, and Dr. Päivi Räsänen is a Member of the Finnish Parliament. If these Finnish leaders are unable to engage in freedom of speech and the free exercise of their Christian faith, what ultimately protects ordinary people exercising their faith in Finland and elsewhere from similar abuses of power at the hands of intolerant governments?” wrote Kennedy.

Kennedy noted Congress’s 1998 passage of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), which establishes an annual report on international religious freedom, detailing the status of religious freedom in foreign countries, violations of religious freedom by foreign governments, and the United States’ efforts and policies in support of religious freedom. 

“Under IRFA’s authority, the Office of International Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State was established to promote ‘universal respect for freedom of religion or belief for all’ because the United States ‘recognizes religious freedom as an inalienable right and is therefore committed to its preservation and advancement for all,’” wrote Kennedy.

“I ask that you stand up for religious freedom and stand against any erosion of this fundamental right—no matter where this erosion may occur,” concluded Kennedy.

While this criminal prosecution began in April 2021 and focuses on events occurring years earlier, the case is only now approaching a final verdict at trial.

The letter is available here.