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WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and other Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to prosecute criminal protests outside the home of judges.

“We continue to be baffled over the lack of prosecutions under Title 18, Section 1507 of the U.S. Code. We understand it is the policy of the Justice Department not to discuss any pending or potential investigations, but this is an urgent matter of national importance,” wrote the senators. 

Last week, a man attempted to assassinate Justice Brett Kavanaugh after learning where the justice lived by watching videos of the protests in front of his house. Reports indicate that those seeking to intimidate the justices at their homes plan to expand their campaign of harassment to their children’s schools.

“While judges serve a public office, the principle of judicial independence means that their deliberations should be free from influence outside the courtroom. . . . This means especially that their deliberations should be free from harassment and intimidation, nowhere more than in their homes where their families reside,” they continued. 

“The responsibility of a judge—or justice—is to follow and apply the law according to his or her judgment. It is not to do so according to the judgment of their community, or the desires of their political party, or the will of the mob. It is only their judgment that counts. This is why they are given life tenure, so that external considerations—such as politics or public opinion—will not influence their constitutional duties.

“Given these important distinctions it is only fitting that Congress prohibited the parading and picketing of judges’ houses in order to influence their decisions. It is a measure that preserves judicial independence,” the lawmakers explained.

Sens. 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.) also signed the letter.

The letter is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Inmate Financial Accountability Task Force Act to ensure that crime victims receive the restitution offenders owe them. 

“Convicted felons shouldn’t be able to hoard their money for cigarettes, snacks and games while dodging what they owe to their victims and their own children. I’m thankful to work with Congressman Gooden to make sure that crime victims get the restitution they’re entitled to—and that it comes from the pockets of the people who wronged them,” said Kennedy. 

Criminals in federal prison should not be shielded from their debts and obligations. Victims of their crimes deserve payment, and the mothers and fathers of their children deserve on-time child support payments. This bill would inject more accountability into the criminal justice system and is long overdue,” said Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas), who introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Because victims of crime rarely see any of the financial compensation they are owed, the Inmate Financial Accountability Task Force Act wouldcreate a task force to examine the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) collection of victim restitution, child support for inmates’ children and fines.

While there have been several high-profile cases, including the Boston Bomber and Larry Nassar, of inmates who have spent thousands of dollars on themselves while paying the bare minimum in restitution to victims, the problem with collecting restitution remains widespread. Analysis from the Government Accountability Office found that the Justice Department collected just four percent of restitution owed from 2014 through 2016—only $1.5 billion of the $34 billion ordered.

Currently, the restitution process is outdated and fragmented. It involves several state and federal agencies, the judicial system and law enforcement organizations. In addition, it is challenging for law enforcement to monitor, deter and report illicit financial activity within BOP accounts in real-time.

The task force would issue a report to Congress with suggestions to prevent illicit financial activity and suggest best practices for federal agencies to improve the collection of money owed to victims and child support due to inmates’ children.

Text of the bill is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) released the following statement upon President Joe Biden’s nomination of U.S. Magistrate Judge Dana Douglas to a seat on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals:

“I enjoyed meeting with Judge Douglas recently. I look forward to reviewing her record and getting to know her more in the coming weeks and when she comes before the Judiciary Committee.”

WASHINGTON—Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today announced a $6,160,056 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant in disaster aid for Louisiana.

“This much needed $6 million will go towards supporting our State Police, and will help the city of Thibodaux clear debris,” said Kennedy.  

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $4,534,943 to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety (State Police) for emergency protective measures as a result of Hurricane Ida.
  • $1,625,113 to the city of Thibodaux for debris removal as a result of Hurricane Ida.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) led Louisiana’s congressional delegation in urging the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to address staffing shortages and roles at Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Oakdale in Allen Parish.

FCC Oakdale houses approximately 2,000 federal inmates and faces unsustainably low staffing levels that is nearing crisis. There are approximately 116 staff vacancies, including 65 vacancies for correctional services staff, at the facility. These vacancies force FCC Oakdale to rely on mandatory overtime in order to meet the basic safety needs of its mission.

“The use of mandatory overtime and augmentation as a solution to chronic staffing shortages is a dangerous practice. These practices lead to exhaustion, fatigue, and apprehension among FCC Oakdale employees. Sadly, these solutions are increasingly becoming the norm at FCC Oakdale and elsewhere,” wrote the lawmakers.

“As concerned members of the Louisiana Delegation, we write to inquire about actions the Bureau of Prisons plans to take in order to maintain adequate staffing levels at the FCC Oakdale facility. We ask that you consider using existing authorities, such as the ability to provide retention bonuses, that will keep staff onboard and allow FCC Oakdale to attract additional personnel needed to perform critical staffing functions,” they explained.

The delegation’s request would not require any additional funding, as the BOP already has funds that could be used to support safety by providing retention bonuses to Oakdale staff.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Mike Johnson (R-La.), Julia Letlow (R-La.), Clay Higgins (R-La.), Garret Graves (R-La.) and Troy Carter (D-La.) also signed the letter.

The full letter with its specific requests for information is available here.

WASHINGTON—Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), in addition to 29 other colleagues, in opposing a proposed rule from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that would require publicly-traded companies to make certain climate-related disclosures in registration statements and reports. In voicing their concerns regarding the SEC’s regulatory overreach, the senators called for the rule to be rescinded due to the burden it would place on farmers, agricultural producers and ranchers.

While farmers and ranchers have never been subject to SEC oversight, the proposed rule’s Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions reporting requirement would place a major reporting burden on the many agricultural producers that provide raw products to the value-chain. This substantial reporting requirement would significantly burden small, family-owned farms with a new, complex and unreasonable compliance requirement, resulting in costly additional compliance expenses, reduced access to new business opportunities, and potential consolidation in the agriculture industry,” they wrote. 

“Should the SEC move forward with this rule, it would be granted unprecedented jurisdiction over America’s farms and ranches, creating an impractical regulatory burden for thousands of businesses outside of the scope of the SEC’s purview, including our nation’s farmers and ranchers,” they continued.

The letter is available here.

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), joined a group of more than 10 senators, led by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), in introducing the Keep Our Communities Safe Act. The legislation would close the “catch-and-release” loophole. That policy requires the government to release illegal aliens into the United States’ interior after detaining them for six months, if no other country accepts them for deportation.

“America’s border crisis threatens our national security and the safety of our local communities. We can’t afford to send violent offenders out into the country, and the Keep Our Communities Safe Act would make sure that officials don’t ‘catch and release’ offenders when they are here illegally,” said Kennedy.

The Keep Our Communities Safe Act would close the loophole that prevents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from detaining illegal immigrants for more than six months when:

  • The alien’s release would threaten the safety of the community and the alien either is an aggravated felon or has committed a crime of violence; 
  • The alien would be removed in the reasonably foreseeable future;
  • The alien would have been removed if not for the alien’s refusal to make all reasonable efforts to comply and cooperate with DHS efforts to remove him or her;
  • The alien has a highly contagious disease;
  • The alien’s release would have serious adverse foreign policy consequences; or
  • The alien’s release would threaten national security.

Full text of the bill can be found here.

WASHINGTON—Sen. John Kennedy today announced $2,121,496 in Federal Emergency Management Agency grants in disaster aid for Rapides Parish in Louisiana.

“I’m thankful for this grant that will directly help prevent people’s homes in Rapides Parish from facing flood damage,” said Kennedy.

The grant will fund projects that raise the flood elevation level of 15 properties in the Parish.

 

 

 

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) today introduced the Safe Schools Act to use any unspent COVID relief funds provided through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund for school security measures. Schools in Louisiana and across the country could use money from the program to harden their facilities against safety threats.

“We need to keep our kids and teachers safe, and we know what works. The federal government already has $150 billion that local communities can use to protect students with security officers, school perimeters, mental health resources and more. The Safe Schools Act would use those resources to make our schools safer now,” said Kennedy.

“While we made some progress in previous legislation to make our schools stronger, harder, and safer, certainly there is more that can and must be done immediately to protect kids. What happened in Uvalde was a horrific tragedy. While many have been quick to play politics, one thing we can all agree on is that Congress must act to harden schools. For these reasons, I am introducing this legislation that allows the abundance of unused COVID relief dollars to be allocated to secure schools in Kansas and throughout the nation,” said Marshall.

$150 billion of the $189.5 billion provided to schools through this fund remain unspent. Under current law, states can obligate and spend this money through the end of 2024.

The Safe Schools Act would allow schools to use this funding to hire and retain armed school resource officers.

In addition, schools could use the money to provide:

  • locks, 
  • security cameras and systems,
  • fencing, 
  • violence-prevention programs,
  • anonymous reporting systems,
  • threat assessment and intervention teams,
  • training for school officials to respond to mental health crises,
  • technology to quickly notify local law enforcement during an emergency,
  • entry control measures for school campuses and
  • other safety measures.

Text of the bill is available here.

 

 

 

 

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) today introduced the Stop Gun Criminals Act to reduce gun violence by establishing a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for felons who possess a firearm illegally.

“Repeat criminals commit a large amount of the shootings that afflict American communities. They think gun laws are meant to be broken. Compassion and common sense tell us that getting those proven offenders off the streets will save lives and reduce gun violence. The Stop Gun Criminals Act would ensure that violent criminals who break our gun laws can’t continue threatening innocent communities,” said Kennedy.

“Violent felons commit the vast majority of gun crimes and should be held accountable for their actions. Instead of releasing criminals onto the streets to commit more crime, our bill will establish mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders,” said Cotton.

A small number of criminals carry out a disproportionate number of shootings, making communities across the country less safe. Despite this, the current average federal sentence for all firearm crimes, including for repeat offenders who fire a gun in the commission of a crime, is only 4.25 years.

The bill would also increase penalties for the most serious criminals who use guns to commit additional crimes. The Stop Gun Criminals Act would increase the mandatory minimum sentence for serious repeat felons—those with at least three prior convictions for crimes that are punishable by at least 10 years—who use a gun in the commission of additional crimes. It would increase the minimum sentence in those cases from five years to seven years. 

Criminals who brandish a gun during a crime would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, rather than the current seven-year minimum.

Criminals who fire a gun while committing a crime would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years, rather than the current 10-year minimum.

Finally, the bill makes a technical correction to the Armed Career Criminal Act that clarifies the definition of a serious felony as any crime for which the maximum sentence is 10 years or more. 

Text of the bill is available here.