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WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, joined Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and other Republican committee members in urging Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry to stop pressuring banks to make energy-related lending commitments. The letter comes ahead of President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate.

“We are concerned by reports you have been pressuring banks to make extralegal commitments regarding energy-related lending and investment activities. These commitments would result in discrimination against lawful U.S. energy companies and their employees, higher energy costs for American consumers, and slower economic growth,” the senators wrote.

“In addition, we are equally concerned by the Biden administration’s related effort to create and impose new global warming disclosure requirements on companies without any explicit statutory authorization from Congress. Regardless of the policy merits, such requirements misuse financial regulators to achieve environmental goals and harm investors by undermining the quality and reliability of both accounting standards and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) existing corporate disclosure framework,” explained the senators.

“As marginal funding costs rise, energy companies will have two choices: raise the cost of their products or cut expenses, including by laying off employees. Eventually, they may be forced to do both. Unsurprisingly, these effects are likely to be borne by working class Americans. . . . Perhaps most disconcertingly, this self-harm will diminish America’s strategic advantage in fossil energy over adversaries but not meaningfully reduce global carbon emissions given that 90 percent of total emissions come from outside of U.S. borders, as you have recognized yourself,” they continued.

The senators also expressed concern that Biden will soon sign an executive order setting in motion a new mandate forcing publicly-traded companies to disclose non-material information on global warming:

“The apparent objective of this effort is not to protect investors, but to punish lawful energy companies by deterring lending to, and investment in, such firms,” the senators wrote.

Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) also signed the letter.

The letter is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Ending the Fentanyl Crisis Act of 2021, which would increase the legal penalties for fentanyl traffickers in proportion to the drug’s potency and make it harder for drug dealers to circulate the substance.   

“The opioid epidemic has devastated American families and communities, in large part because of fentanyl. Even a small amount of this dangerous opioid can kill someone’s son or daughter, so why doesn’t the punishment for trafficking fentanyl match the severity of the crime? It’s time to close the gap between fentanyl’s deadliness and the punishments for trafficking it, and that is what the Ending the Fentanyl Crisis Act would do,” said Kennedy. 

Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) are original co-sponsors of the bill. 

Opioid overdoses have killed almost half-a-million Americans since 1999. In 2018, 50,000 Americans died from opioid use, surpassing the number of firearm-related deaths that year. Fentanyl and its analogues, which narcotics dealers often mix into other drugs, have made the threat drugs pose to communities worse.  

The existing legal penalties for fentanyl trafficking do not reflect the drug’s potency, and current mandatory minimum sentences only apply when a trafficker possesses 40 grams or more of fentanyl or 10 grams or more of a fentanyl analogue. 

The Ending the Fentanyl Crisis Act of 2021 reduces the threshold of possession for minimum prison sentences to two grams of fentanyl or 0.5 grams of a fentanyl analogue and equips the U.S. Postal Service with resources to help combat fentanyl trafficking. 

Text of the Ending the Fentanyl Crisis Act of 2021 is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the CFPB Pay Fairness Act of 2021, which would increase accountability at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) by requiring the agency to pay its employees according to the same standards that apply to their fellow federal employees. 

“The CFPB is supposed to protect consumers, but it looks like the agency is using federal funds to pad its employees’ wallets instead. CFPB salaries eclipse those of other public servants, and we don’t even know why because the CFPB doesn’t follow the standards of the federal pay scale. The CFPB Pay Fairness Act would require the CFPB to pay its employees with transparency and integrity, ending this chapter of bloated bureaucracy,” said Kennedy.

The CFPB Pay Fairness Act of 2021 would give the CFPB 90 days to bring its employee salaries in line with the General Schedule (GS) pay scale for federal employees. Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) are original co-sponsors of the legislation.

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is arguably the least accountable government bureaucracy in our nation’s history,” said Barrasso. “This is abundantly clear when you look at the unjustifiably high salaries paid to the employees at the bureau. Taxpayers should demand that the unelected, unaccountable, and heavy-handed bureaucrats at the CFPB receive compensation in the same manner as virtually all other public servants. I’m proud to join Senator Kennedy in this effort to force this unchecked government agency to bring its employee salaries in line with the federal pay scale.”

“The CFPB is long-overdue for more accountability and oversight from Congress, and allowing their federal bureaucrats to make significantly more money than other federal workers should end immediately,” said Tillis. “This legislation would rightfully end this senseless waste and ensure CFPB employees are under the federal pay scale like every other government agency.” 

Unlike other financial regulators, the CFPB has operated outside of the regular appropriations process since it was created because the Federal Reserve funds the CFPB directly. The CFPB currently pays its employees significantly more than other federal agencies do, in part because it is not bound to the GS pay scale.

Roughly half of the employees at the CFPB receive more than $170,000 per year. CFPB salaries are capped at $259,500, while cabinet secretaries make $221,400. As a result, as many as 32 CFPB employees receive salaries larger than what a cabinet secretary earns. 

The GS pay scale offers the public guidance on what credentials, like education and professional experience, are associated with each federal salary grade. The CFPB, however, does not provide qualification standards to justify its employees’ salaries.

Text of the CFPB Pay Fairness Act of 2021 is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, and fellow senators today introduced the Protecting Investors’ Personally Identifiable Information Act, which would protect information that could reveal the identity of American investors. The legislation would prohibit the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from requiring brokers to submit investors’ personally identifiable information to its Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT).

“Investors trust the U.S. stock market with their savings and their privacy. The SEC’s Consolidated Audit Trail puts their privacy at risk by collecting personal information it doesn’t need. I introduced the Protecting Investors’ Personally Identifiable Information Act to make sure that the SEC only houses information it needs, and only while it needs it. As long as hackers and foreign enemies keep targeting federal agencies and individual Americans, the government shouldn’t make their personal information a prime target by centralizing and storing it needlessly,” said Kennedy. 

The SEC’s CAT will be fully operational in 2022, making it the largest government database of its kind. The CAT will collect all customer and order information for equity securities and listed options, including data that might be considered personally identifiable information.  

The SEC is implementing the CAT despite concerns from investor protection groups and the securities industry and in the wake of vulnerabilities that recent cyber-attacks have revealed at federal agencies.  

This bill would prohibit the SEC from requiring market participants to submit investors’ personally identifiable information to the CAT. Under this legislation, the SEC can obtain personally identifiable information related to investors only by requesting it on a case-by-case basis. Companies and investors trading on the U.S. stock exchanges would need to fulfill the SEC’s request for this information within 24 hours, though smaller brokers may request additional time.  

The bill would also require the SEC to delete personally identifiable information once the agency resolves the investigation or issue that required that information. 

“The CAT is a sitting duck that makes every American investor and retirement saver’s data privacy an easy target for Chinese hackers. We thank Senator Kennedy for his leadership in protecting America’s mom-and-pop investors by introducing this important legislation to remove their personal and financial information from the CAT,” said American Securities Association CEO Chris Iacovella.

Original co-sponsors include Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.).

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. 

Text of the Protecting Investors’ Personally Identifiable Information Act is available here

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, today sent a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) requesting Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm testify before the full committee hearing on the Biden administration’s infrastructure proposal.

“In Louisiana and many parts of America, infrastructure related to the broad swath of industries associated with energy is the main driver of jobs, prosperity and livelihoods,”wrote Kennedy.

“I am confident the Energy and Water subcommittee will closely examine President Biden’s infrastructure plan and this administration’s call for spending hundreds of billions on climate, clean energy manufacturing and research, electric grid buildout, and electric vehicle incentives. Nevertheless, the Secretary of Energy’s testimony in front of the full committee is certainly warranted,” Kennedy continued. 

The committee is scheduled to consider the $2 trillion infrastructure package with the following witnesses present: Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and EPA Administrator. 

The letter is available here.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) authored this op-ed for the American Press in Lake Charles, La., highlighting the benefits of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and Louisiana’s role in producing this resource. 

“There is a growing global hunger for liquefied natural gas (LNG)—an appetite that Louisiana can help satisfy.

“In 2019, America became the third-largest LNG exporter in the world. According to some estimates, we’re on the path to first place. American LNG exports broke several records last year and are still increasing, despite a global pandemic. Louisiana has contributed greatly to this energy renaissance: Our state produces most of the LNG that America sells to other countries.

“The global appetite for LNG keeps expanding because the fuel is cheap, plentiful, supports job growth, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. No wonder the world wants more of this energy resource.

“This LNG boom is not just good for America—it’s great for Louisiana. Before the pandemic, LNG companies were expected to invest $60 billion in our state over a decade, which could create 20,000 construction jobs for workers who build new and expand existing LNG terminals, as well as 1,500 permanent jobs for Louisianians who would operate these terminals full-time.

As Louisiana continues recovering from the pandemic and planning for a strong future, we should keep investing in the LNG projects that utilize our skilled workers and support their families. That’s why I successfully passed legislation to bring an LNG Center of Excellence to our state. As the only member of our state’s congressional delegation who sits on an appropriations committee, I advocated for this investment to be made in a Louisiana community. This center will train students in the skills they need to run Louisiana’s LNG terminals, equipping the next generation to supply the market’s growing demand.

“The Center of Excellence will also collaborate with our academic institutions to bring together experts, industry leaders, and relevant federal agencies from around the country for promoting LNG and LNG industry safety.

“At the same time, Congress needs to get rid of bureaucratic hurdles that make it harder to export America’s LNG to the countries that are lining up to buy it. To meet that challenge, I helped introduce the Natural Gas Export Expansion Act this spring. The bill would remove burdensome regulations that sometimes leave applicants waiting years just to get LNG exporting permits. That would, in turn, boost LNG exports and ensure Louisiana workers can keep meeting the worldwide demand for clean-burning fuel.

“Democrats in Congress should take note of how Louisiana produces affordable energy while caring for our environment and coastline. While some claim their goal is fighting climate change, their anti-energy policies often seem better at killing jobs than saving the planet.

“In reality, increasing natural gas production and LNG exports will not only cut down on greenhouse gases, it will also reduce America’s dependence on foreign energy while creating jobs here at home. At a time when Louisiana is still rebuilding an economy hammered by the coronavirus, I’ll keep fighting for the workers who produce smart, affordable, and reliable energy.”

The op-ed is available here.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $1,258,917 in funding from the Treasury Department’s Office of Gulf Coast Restoration. The funds will go to Plaquemines Parish to plan, engineer and design activities for the Bay Adams Headland Restoration and Marsh Creation project.

“Louisianians understand the importance of protecting our coastline, and this is especially true in Plaquemines Parish. We fight nonstop to preserve our beautiful state and protect its residents, and these funds will help restore the marshes and wetlands of southeast Louisiana,” said Kennedy.  

According to Treasury, the restoration project will restore coastline by creating roughly 35,000 feet of elevated barrier headland ridges. The project will also nourish about 2,000 acres of wetlands around Bay Adams and establish about 500 acres of new marshland.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), member of the Senate Banking Committee, wrote to committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), calling for a hearing to examine Risk Rating 2.0, a new rating system under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

“The NFIP is the primary source of flood insurance coverage for residential properties in the United States. Five million families depend on the NFIP. Risk Rating 2.0 will bring the biggest change to NFIP insurance premiums since the NFIP program began, including rate increases and mandating new policies. I have serious concerns about Louisiana families being able to afford flood insurance under the proposed Risk Rating 2.0. The NFIP only makes sense if homeowners can afford it,wrote Kennedy.

“Since the end of FY 2017, Congress has enacted 16 short-term NFIP reauthorizations with the expectation that Congress would consider reform. That time is now. Congress should oversee and debate any changes to the program, especially substantial changes to the program such as Risk Rating 2.0,” continued Kennedy.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is bypassing Congress to initiate Risk Rating 2.0, which is scheduled to go into effect for new NFIP policies on Oct. 1, 2021. New rates for existing NFIP policyholders will go into effect on April 1, 2022. This rating system would change the way premium rates are calculated, potentially making flood insurance unaffordable for Louisiana families in flood-prone areas.

Kennedy requested FEMA Deputy Associate Administrator of Insurance and Mitigation and Senior Executive of NFIP, David Maurstad, testify before the committee.

The full text of the letter is available here.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), member of the Senate Small Business Committee, today joined Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and other Republican committee members in urging Attorney General Merrick Garland, Small Business Administration (SBA) Inspector General Mike Ware and SBA Administrator Isabel Guzman to investigate Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s (PPFA) unlawful participation in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

In May of 2020, the SBA notified a number of Planned Parenthood affiliates that they had wrongfully applied for 38 PPP loans totaling more than $80 million. SBA determined that these local affiliates were ineligible for the loans under the applicable affiliation rules and that the loans PPFA received should be returned.

“On March 23, 2021, SBA provided the Senate Small Business Committee with an updated dataset on all PPP loans as of March 14, 2021. This data revealed that, not only have most of the PPFA affiliates not returned their PPP funds, as requested by SBA, but two have applied for and been approved for a second draw loan, with full knowledge of their ineligibility,” the senators wrote.

“. . . earlier this week SBA released updated data indicating that even more PPFA affiliates have been approved for PPP loans in the last month. According to the most recent SBA data, at least one additional PPFA affiliate was approved for a second draw loan since March 15, 2021. Additionally, another PPFA affiliate recently applied for and was approved for a first draw loan, despite the fact that the entity had previously returned its loan after SBA determined it was ineligible for PPP,” the senators continued. 

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Roger Marshall (R- Kan.) also signed the letters.  

Background:

On May 19, 2020, the SBA determined that local affiliates of PPFA were ineligible for PPP loans under the applicable affiliation rules and size standards and that the loans they received should be returned. The SBA cited the control PPFA exercised over its local affiliates in a number of different areas, such as medical standards, affiliate patient transfers and an accreditation review process administered every three years as evidence of an affiliated organizational structure. 

Given that PPFA has nearly 16,000 employees nationwide, the SBA determined that these PPFA affiliates were ineligible for PPP and requested that each of the 38 affiliates return the $80 million in PPP funds they wrongfully received.

The letter to Garland is available here

The letter to Ware is available here

The letter to Guzman is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Ending Pricey Insulin Act to address skyrocketing insulin prices. Three insulin producers control 99 percent of the U.S. market, and the price of the drug tripled between 2002 and 2013 alone.

The Ending Pricey Insulin Act would make the price of insulin more affordable for Louisianians and Americans living with diabetes. Kennedy moved to have the Senate pass the legislation by unanimous consent today, but lawmakers blocked his motion. The Senate could vote on the bill at a later date.

“The free market works wonders when it is truly free, but not when a few drug giants collude to hurt patients. These soaring prices have real consequences for Louisiana’s insulin users. I introduced the Ending Pricey Insulin Act to help give millions of Americans access to this crucial drug, and I hope my fellow lawmakers will help bring a little logic back to the distorted insulin market,” said Kennedy. 

The Ending Pricey Insulin Act would cap the out-of-pocket costs of insulin to $50 for a 30-day supply for individuals enrolled in all health plans. The legislation would cover uninsured people as well. Programs covered under the bill include Medicare, Medicaid, high deductible health plans, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, veterans health plans and TriCare plans.

The Ending Pricey Insulin Act also includes a retroactive clause that ensures any out-of-pocket cost above $50 that an individual pays after the bill’s enactment will be reimbursed.

More than 500,000 Louisianians suffer from diabetes, and an estimated 30,000 Louisianians receive a diabetes diagnosis each year. Nationwide, 34 million Americans have diabetes, and more than 7 million depend on insulin. 

Some diabetes patients have sued the largest insulin makers, accusing them of charging consumers a higher price than what they charge industry middlemen. In 1996, a one-month supply of Humalog insulin cost $21. By 2019, that price had soared to $275—a 1,200 percent increase.

The Trump administration allowed Medicare Part D drug plans to offer insulin at a $35 copay and also issued an executive order blocking federal funds from going to health centers that over-charge patients for insulin. The Biden administration froze this order. 

Text of the Ending Pricey Insulin Act is available here.