WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III regarding the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate and the Navy’s recent order that U.S. military service members could lose their veterans’ benefits for failing to comply with the mandate.
“Without an approved medical exemption or religious accommodation, service members who decline to fully vaccinate against COVID-19 within the timelines prescribed by Secretaries of Military Departments will be found to have disobeyed a lawful general order. . . . As a result, service members found in violation may face punitive or administrative action, including the initiation of discharge proceedings,” wrote Kennedy.
“These heroes are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend American liberties, but they are now losing their own freedom and possibly their livelihoods at the hands of this administration,” he continued.
Kennedy also raised concerns that the vaccine mandate will compromise military readiness and America’s national security at a time when America’s adversaries are looking for weakness in U.S. resolve and readiness.
The senator asked Austin whether service members discharged because of the vaccine mandate will receive an honorable or dishonorable discharge and what benefits these service members stand to lose as a consequence of the mandate.
“I support the vaccine, but I also support the freedom Americans have to make their own medical decisions concerning this vaccine. Coercing service members to take this vaccine by threatening their honor, livelihoods, and benefits runs contrary to our shared American values and undermines our national security interests,” concluded Kennedy.
The letter is available here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $1,582,575 in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) award for disaster recovery in West Feliciana Parish.
“The West Feliciana Parish community is still recuperating from the flooding of 2016, and I am pleased to see this $1.58 million help repair the Plettenburg Bridge,” said Kennedy.
FEMA will award $1,582,575 to West Feliciana Parish to repair damage to the Plettenburg Bridge that connects to Cat Island. Severe storms and flooding in 2016 impaired the structural integrity of the bridge, which included the loss of concrete support elements, bridge deck, guard rail, embankment and asphalt approaches on both ends of the bridge. This grant will cover 90% of the project cost.
Oct 25 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) in introducing the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act to require the online publication of financial disclosure reports for federal judges and to mandate that federal judges submit periodic transaction reports for certain securities transactions.
“Existing law already requires many federal officials to disclose certain securities transactions. As a matter of transparency and accountability, federal judges should do the same. The Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act would give the public, including litigants, access to this important information while protecting judges’ personal information and security,” said Kennedy.
“The STOCK Act rightly strengthened disclosure requirements and boosted transparency for elected officials, but federal judges were inexplicably carved out of these tougher rules. This legislation would subject federal judges to the same disclosure requirements of other federal officials so we can be sure litigants are protected from conflicts of interest and cases are decided fairly,” said Cornyn.
“A fundamental pillar of our justice system is the right to a fair and impartial trial. Litigants need confidence that they will receive an unbiased hearing free from outside influence and based only on the facts and the law. I’m proud to introduce this bill with my colleagues that will strengthen financial disclosure requirements for federal judges and help bolster confidence in the justice system,” said Coons.
“Our judicial officials should be bound by the same financial disclosure requirements that our elected officials are. This level of increased transparency will hold officials accountable and ensure that litigants are not caught in a conflict of interest. Today’s introduction of the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act brings us one step closer to guaranteeing equal justice under the law,” said Durbin.
“By making judicial financial disclosures more easily available, this bill will help increase transparency and reassure the American people that the federal judicial system remains unbiased and fair,” said Grassley.
“Life-tenured judges follow lower transparency standards than any other federal officials. This bipartisan bill will make sure the judiciary discloses as much about its stock transactions as the elected branches of government. That’s an important safeguard,” said Whitehouse.
“Texans and the American people deserve accountability and ethical integrity from every branch of government. Our judges have a duty to avoid conflicts of interest in their courtrooms and even the appearance of improprieties that could call into question their impartiality. Recent reporting that federal judges across the country have failed to recuse themselves from cases in which they have a financial interest is extremely concerning and undermines faith in our judicial system. That’s why I’m proud to co-sponsor this bill that will increase accountability by requiring federal judges to make necessary financial disclosures,” said Cruz.
“I’m working with my colleagues to strengthen transparency rules to ensure all Americans receive fair and impartial treatment in court without fear of any conflict of interest,” said Ossoff.
The Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act would require that federal judges’ financial disclosure reports be made publicly available online and require federal judges to submit periodic transaction reports of securities transactions in line with other federal officials under the STOCK Act. The bill would amend the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 to:
- Require the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to create a searchable online database of judicial financial disclosure forms and post those forms within 90 days of being filed, and
- Subject federal judges to the STOCK Act’s requirement of filing periodic transaction reports within 45 days of securities transactions over $1,000.
The bill also preserves the existing ability of judges to request redactions of personal information on financial disclosure reports due to a security concern.
Under current ethics guidelines and federal law, federal judges are prohibited from hearing cases that involve a party in which they, their spouse or their minor children have a financial interest. Federal judges are instead supposed to disqualify themselves in any proceeding in which their impartiality may be questioned. Despite this, a recent report from the Wall Street Journal found that between 2010 and 2018, more than 130 federal judges failed to recuse themselves in nearly 700 cases in which they or an immediate family member held stock in a company involved in the case.
While federal judges are required to submit financial disclosure reports, current law does not provide sufficient transparency or certainty for litigants to discern if they have a conflict of interest. The current process for obtaining judicial financial disclosure forms can be cumbersome and take months or even years to obtain. By contrast, financial disclosure reports for the president, members of Congress and presidential-appointed and Senate-confirmed officials are readily available online.
Litigants need real-time access to judges’ financial disclosures and securities transactions in order to preserve the integrity of the proceedings and ensure a recusal when there’s a potential conflict of interest in their case.
Text of the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act is available here.
Oct 22 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and more than 40 other Republican senators in introducing the Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act to stop the Biden administration’s plan to give the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) access to the personal banking information of virtually every American.
“The Biden administration seems determined to insert Big Brother into every nook and cranny of Americans’ lives. The IRS’s plan to snoop into Louisianians’ bank accounts violates their privacy and scuttles due process. In its own words, Biden’s plan would create a ‘comprehensive financial account information reporting regime’ aimed at everyday Americans, and I’m proud to work with Sen. Scott and others to fight this invasion,” said Kennedy.
“The Democrats’ plan to allow the IRS to spy on the bank accounts of nearly every person in this country, even those below the poverty line, should be deeply concerning to anyone who values privacy and economic inclusion. Of the more than 7 million American households that are currently unbanked, the majority are low-income, rural, and minority Americans. Implementing the Biden reporting scheme will disproportionately harm those who need greater access to our financial institutions and people living paycheck to paycheck. My colleagues and I will not stop fighting the Democrats’ wrong-headed proposal to implement more federal government intrusion into our lives,” said Scott.
“Every American should be wary of giving the IRS more power and more tentacles into private financial transactions. The IRS bank reporting proposal is one of the biggest expansions of the agency’s authority we’ve ever seen, and is fundamentally flawed. I’m proud to support Senator Scott’s legislation to stop this proposal in its tracks and protect Americans’ personal, private financial information,” said Crapo.
“The Biden administration’s plan to allow the IRS to monitor Americans’ bank accounts is a dangerous idea that will only prove to be worse over time. Today the administration wants to know your annual account inflows and outflows. What will they demand access to tomorrow? I’m glad to join Senator Scott and Senator Crapo in working to ensure this terribly flawed proposal never sees the light of day,” said Toomey.
President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and the IRS are seeking access to every working American’s financial information by requiring financial institutions to report to the IRS withdrawals and deposits totaling at least $10,000. Nearly every American, even those living below the poverty line, would be subject to this proposed reporting regime as the average American has annual expenditures of more than $60,000 per year.
The Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act would prevent the IRS from implementing Democrats’ plan to uncover Americans’ financial records.
Kennedy had previously explained the dangers of the Biden administration’s plan. Video of his comments is available here.
Text of the Prohibiting IRS Financial Surveillance Act is available here.
Senate passes bill with Kennedy measure empowering Louisiana to channel COVID relief funds to disaster recovery, infrastructure
Oct 21 2021
Watch Kennedy’s comments here.
WASHINGTON – The Senate has passed the State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act, cosponsored by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). The bill, S. 3011, would allow state governments to use unspent pandemic relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund to provide relief for natural disaster victims and to invest in infrastructure needs.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) sponsored the legislation along with Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).
“Louisianians have gone through historic hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters over the last 18 months, and they still need help rebuilding their homes and businesses. I’m thankful to have worked with Sens. Cornyn and Padilla to give Louisiana’s state officials the power to redirect unspent coronavirus money for disaster victims and/or infrastructure. I hope the House follows suit quickly by sending this bill to the president’s desk,” said Kennedy.
“In 2020, states and cities across the country delayed or canceled transportation improvement projects totaling about $12 billion. This legislation puts decision-making power at the local level and gives these leaders more flexibility to invest in the most critical projects for their communities, whatever those might be. This will give communities in Texas and all other states the ability to use pandemic relief funding when and where it’s needed most. I want to thank Senators on both sides of the aisle who have worked with Senator Padilla and myself on this,” said Cornyn.
“Each region of the country has unique local challenges in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill will provide state, local, tribal, and territorial governments the flexibility they need to better use federal resources to care for and serve their residents. This flexibility will help strengthen our response to the continued fight against COVID,” said Padilla.
Louisiana’s state government received approximately $4.8 billion from the ARPA’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. The fund was established to replace lost revenue for state and local governments in the wake of the pandemic and its economic shutdowns and to support pandemic response efforts. Kennedy successfully worked to include a measure in the State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act that would allow the state government to redirect remaining funds.
Up to 100 percent of the remaining $4.8 billion can go to traditional disaster relief efforts, or up to 30 percent of the $4.8 billion can be invested in infrastructure, assuming the funding has not already been used.
Specifically, Kennedy’s measure would allow the state to use ARPA funding “to provide emergency relief from natural disasters or the negative economic impacts of natural disasters, including temporary emergency housing, food assistance, financial assistance for lost wages or other immediate needs.”
With this flexibility, the decision of how to invest the remaining COVID relief money rests with the Louisiana state government.
Text of the bill is available here.
Watch the video of Kennedy’s comments here.
Background on Kennedy’s response to historic natural disasters:
- On Sept. 30, Kennedy voted in support of a short-term funding bill to send disaster aid to Louisiana and to extend the National Flood Insurance Program without raising the debt limit.
- On August 2, Kennedy offered an amendment to the Senate’s infrastructure bill providing $1.1 billion in disaster relief to Louisianians recovering from Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta. The Senate blocked the amendment.
- On July 21, Kennedy joined Louisiana’s congressional delegation in urging the Office of Management and Budget to prioritize Louisiana’s request for supplemental disaster relief.
- On July 15, Kennedy introduced and asked the Senate to pass the Gulf Coast Hurricane Aid Act of 2021. The bill would provide $1.1 billion in disaster relief to Louisianians recovering from historic storms. The Senate blocked the bill’s passage.
- On May 18, Kennedy again urged President Biden to provide supplemental disaster relief for southwest Louisiana.
- On May 13, Kennedy helped introduce the Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act, which would allow rural homeowners, renters and small businesses to access disaster relief more easily in the wake of a natural disaster.
- In September 2020, Kennedy wrote to Senate leadership, Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), to request that the Senate consider emergency supplemental aid to help Louisiana residents recover from Hurricane Laura.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Exposing China’s Belt and Road Investment in America Act of 2021 to review investments that businesses controlled by the Chinese Communist Party make on U.S. soil. China routinely makes such “greenfield” investments while buying land, building factories and taking advantage of state and local tax breaks in America to expand China’s influence.
“The Chinese communist regime uses greenfield investments to gain leverage over the U.S. economy and our job market. We can’t be blind to the ways Beijing is gaming our system to take American assets, real estate and innovation away from U.S. businesses. The Exposing China’s Belt and Road Investment in America Act of 2021 is a key step forward in countering the threat China poses to America’s economy and national security,” said Kennedy.
Greenfield projects are the most common way that Chinese companies enter the American market. They are quickly becoming Beijing’s preferred method for expanding influence under its Belt and Road Initiative, the international infrastructure plan meant to increase the regime’s global power. At the same time, the Chinese government keeps its domestic markets largely insulated from foreign influence.
China’s state-operated enterprises use the greenfield model to siphon intellectual property, influence and other assets away from U.S. businesses.
The Exposing China’s Belt and Road Investment in America Act of 2021 would put Chinese greenfield initiatives under the review of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The legislation would also require greenfield investments to file a declaration with CFIUS if China’s government controls or has a substantial interest in the investment. CFIUS would review these investments for national security purposes.
Specifically, the bill would require a CFIUS review for any investment that is made by a foreign person that both:
- involves the acquisition of real estate in the U.S. and the establishment of a U.S. business on such real estate, and
- results in China’s direct or indirect control of that U.S. business.
Text of the Exposing China’s Belt and Road Investment in America Act of 2021 is available here.
Oct 20 2021
Watch Kennedy’s comments here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today honored Robert Travis Scott, who served as the president of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana for 10 years, on the Senate floor.
“We have an organization in Louisiana called the Public Affairs Research Council. It is one of our premier think tanks. It’s an independent group, not political. They do serious research, and they offer very serious suggestions about how we in Louisiana can solve some of our social and economic problems,” said Kennedy.
“To be the director or the president of PAR is quite an honor. It’s a lot of work, and it’s a big deal, and our president of PAR is retiring. He’s a friend of mine—his name is Robert Travis Scott,” explained Kennedy.
“It was no surprise to me when PAR asked Robert to take over running the Public Affairs Research Council . . . and he’s done it since 2011—10 years. Robert and PAR have contributed so much to my state. . . . We’re going to miss Robert. I hope he doesn’t go far,” concluded Kennedy.
Video of the speech is available here.
Watch Kennedy’s comments here.
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, today explained the danger of the Biden administration’s plan to require banks and other financial institutions to expand their reporting of individual, confidential taxpayer information to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
“[Sec. Yellen] says we need to do it to catch rich tax cheats. She knows better than that. Why throw the net so wide? This proposal, like a lot of proposals, in my Democratic friends' bill is not about public policy, and it's not about taxes. It's about control. There are too many people in charge right now in Washington, D.C., who just don't trust Americans to know what's best for themselves. They just don't trust Americans to make decisions for themselves. Their attitude seems to be: Do what you're told. Just do what you're told, and if you do that, we might let you eat meat occasionally,” said Kennedy.
“I don't think you can understate the risk that this data could leak. We just had an instance—some of my colleagues talked about it—where financial data of taxpayers was leaked—I think by the IRS. . . . Do you folks really want to live in a state where the government knows every one of the intimate details of your life, including finances? If you do, I hear China is beautiful this time of year,” he concluded.
Video of Kennedy’s comments is available here.
Oct 19 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $3.76 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awards for south Louisiana to address damage caused by Hurricanes Delta and Laura.
“South Louisiana is still reeling from the terrible damage caused by last year’s destructive hurricanes, and these funds will help cover the cost of preventing flooding in Lafourche and repairing damaged school campuses in southwest Louisiana,” said Kennedy.
The FEMA aid will fund the following:
- $2,047,631 to South Lafourche Levee District to fight flooding from Hurricane Delta.
- $1,716,949 for emergency measures, including remediation for multiple buildings on community college campuses in Jennings, Calcasieu and Oakdale as a result of Hurricane Laura.
Kennedy, Klobuchar, Grassley introduce American Innovation and Choice Online Act to rein in Big Tech
Oct 18 2021
WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in introducing the American Innovation and Choice Online Act to stop Big Tech from limiting consumer choice. The bill would help restore competition online by establishing commonsense rules of the road for dominant digital platforms to prevent them from abusing their market power to harm competition, online businesses and consumers and from reducing incentives to innovate.
“Big Tech has a track record of unfairly limiting consumer choices and thwarting free-market competition. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would help offer consumers more options at competitive prices from businesses online, which is what the American economy is supposed to do best,” said Kennedy.
“American prosperity was built on a foundation of open markets and fair competition, but right now our country faces a monopoly problem, and American consumers, workers, and businesses are paying the price. As dominant digital platforms—some of the biggest companies our world has ever seen—increasingly give preference to their own products and services, we must put policies in place to ensure small businesses and entrepreneurs still have the opportunity to succeed in the digital marketplace. This bill will do just that, while also providing consumers with the benefit of greater choice online. I’m proud to introduce this much-needed legislation alongside Senator Grassley, Chair Durbin, and a bipartisan group of our colleagues, and I look forward to it passing the Senate and being signed into law,” said Klobuchar.
“As Big Tech has grown and evolved over the years, our laws have not changed to keep up and ensure these companies are competing fairly. These companies have continued to become a larger part of our everyday lives and the global economy, controlling what we see and how we engage on the internet. Big Tech needs to be held accountable if they behave in a discriminatory manner. Our bill will help create a more even playing field and ensure that small businesses are able to compete with these platforms,” said Grassley.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would set clear, effective rules to protect competition and users doing business on dominant online platforms.
The bill would prohibit dominant platforms from abusing their gatekeeper power by favoring their own products or services, disadvantaging rivals or discriminating among businesses that use their platforms in a way that harms competition on the platform.
It would also prohibit specific forms of conduct that are harmful to small businesses, entrepreneurs and consumers, but that do not have any pro-competitive benefit, including:
- Preventing another business’s product or service from interoperating with the dominant platform or another business;
- Requiring a business to buy a dominant platform’s goods or services for preferred placement on its platform;
- Misusing a business’s data to compete against it; and
- Biasing search results in favor of the dominant firm.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would give antitrust enforcers strong, flexible tools to deter violations and hold dominant platforms accountable when they engage in illegal behavior.
The bill would keep the most economically significant online platforms—ones with large U.S. user bases that function as “critical trading partners” for online businesses—from self-preferencing and discriminatory conduct.
This American Innovation and Choice Online Act is cosponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.).
Text of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act is available here.