WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today issued the following statement after Senate Democrats blocked their amendment to prohibit federal funding for any institution of higher education that discriminates against Asian Americans in recruitment, applicant review or admissions: 

“In an unbelievably cynical move, Senate Democrats blocked efforts to stop discrimination against Asian Americans in higher education, where racial bias has become all too common. This amendment would bar funds from institutions that discriminate against Asian American students.

“Despite their calls to end racism, it is clear Democrats are only paying lip service to fighting discrimination against Asian Americans and will allow targeted discrimination against them to continue at America’s universities and colleges.”

Kennedy also advocated for top universities to end their discrimination against Asian Americans in this recent op ed.

Watch Kennedy’s comments here.

WASHINGTON – The Senate today passed Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) Dispose Unused Medications and Prescription Opioids (DUMP Opioids) Act, which would streamline the disposal of unused controlled substance prescription medications at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers.

Sens. John Tester (D-Mont.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) co-sponsored the legislation.

“Many opioid users rely on unused prescription medications that belong to family and friends, and Americans can help fight opioid addiction simply by clearing out their medicine cabinets. We can reduce access to addictive and dangerous substances by making it easy for every American to get rid of unused medicine at drop boxes that sit on VA medical centers. The DUMP Opioids Act is a smart way to save lives, and you don’t have to wait until Take Back Day,” said Kennedy.

Almost 50,000 Americans died from opioid-involved overdoses in 2019.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) 20th Take Back Day is scheduled for April 24, 2021. On Take Back Day, individuals can dispose of unused prescription medication at DEA drop sites. 

Beginning in 2022, certain VA medical centers will be approved to have drop boxes that veterans can use every day to drop off unused medications, and the DUMP Opioids Act would allow everyone in a community to use these drop boxes for medicine disposal.  The bill instructs the VA Secretary to designate times that the public can dispose of prescriptions at the drop boxes and allows the secretary to carry out public information campaigns to highlight those times. 

Text of the DUMP Opioids Act is available here.

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.