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WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, today demanded answers from officials on reports that federal agencies are going on spending sprees in the final month of the fiscal year to avoid future appropriation cuts.  

A report by OpenTheBooks shows that federal agencies spent $9,241 for a leather chair, $2.3 million for crab, $2.3 million for lobster tails, $308,994 for alcohol, $293,245 for steak and $11,816 for a foosball table in the final month of fiscal year 2018.  In the past three years, the federal government increased how much it spends in the last month of the fiscal year by nearly 40%.

It’s like we gave Paul Manafort the government’s credit card and told him to spend like crazy.  This is absolutely ridiculous.  No one should buy a $9,000 leather chair with taxpayer money,” said Sen. Kennedy. “The watchdog who uncovered this nonsense is absolutely correct.  This is a spend-it-or-lose-it mentality.  Agencies purposely spend whatever they have left at the end of the year so their budgets don’t get cut.  It’s reckless, runaway spending.

The report revealed:

  • Federal agencies spent $293,245 on ribeye, top sirloin and flank steak.
  • One agency spent $9,241 for a Wexford leather club chair.
  • $11,816 was spent on a foosball table.
  • $4.6 million of government funding was spent on lobster tail and crab.
  • An agency spent $53,004 on China tableware.
  • Federal agencies spent another $308,994 on alcohol.
  • The federal government spent $97 billion on contracts in the last month of fiscal year 2018.  The total for contract spending for the entire fiscal year was $544.1 billion.
  • 85.6% of the final month contracts can be traced to the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Veteran Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State.
  • Purchases included games, toys, tableware and artist’s brushes.
  • Furniture accounted for $490.6 million.  In the last month of fiscal year 2018, the federal government spent $643,833 on sofas and $40,379 on clocks.

Click here or the photo below to watch Sen. Kennedy’s questioning:

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WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) questioned Google’s senior privacy counsel Will DeVries in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today on data privacy concerns and user data protection.

 “I think we can all agree that the digital promised land has a few mines in it,” said Sen. Kennedy. “I think we can agree that social media can now influence what we believe, how we vote, what we buy, even how we feel.”  

Click here or the photo below to watch the full questioning.

Here is an excerpt from Sen. Kennedy’s questioning:

Sen. Kennedy: “You have the ability to put in let’s say ‘John Neely Kennedy’ and find everything you want about me in terms of my data: what websites I go to, what ads I read, what I buy, that sort of thing. Do you do that?”

DeVries: “Yeah, and we try to show that to you Senator. If you have a Google account, we do that, and we provide you that information you can see that and you can…”

Sen. Kennedy: “So you do that repeatedly? I could call you up and say, ‘Give me all of the information you have on Thom Tillis and I’ll give you a quarter of a million dollars.’ You can do that?”

DeVries: “Senator, we never sell our users’ personal information.”

Sen. Kennedy: “Can you do that?”

DeVries: “We would never do that. That violates…”

Sen. Kennedy: “Can you do that?”

DeVries: “Not legally. No.”

Sen. Kennedy: “Could you do it technically?”

DeVries: “Oh, yes sir.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today announced the appointment of Harlan Perez Jerro, of Baton Rouge, to the U.S. Air Force Academy.  Harlan is Sen. Kennedy’s fourth service academy nominee this year to be offered an appointment.

Sen. Kennedy nominated Harlan because of his strong academic record and impressive extracurricular activities.  Harlan is student body president at Central High School, where he also is captain of the football team and a member of JROTC.

“I’m so proud of Harlan. Receiving an appointment to a service academy is a profound honor, but we should also be honored by Harlan’s desire to serve this country,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Harlan is a leader at Central High School.  There is no limit to what he will achieve in life.”

Academies review nominations before narrowing the list and offering appointments.  To learn more about the academy nomination process, visit https://www.kennedy.senate.gov/public/academy-nominations

Harlan is the son of Dwayne and Valerie Jerro.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today applauded Dr. John C. Fleming on his U.S. Senate confirmation to be the assistant secretary of commerce for economic development.  In a show of bipartisan support, the Senate voted 67-30 in favor of the confirmation, with Sen. Kennedy casting a ‘yea’ vote.

“Dr. Fleming is a true public servant,” said Sen. Kennedy. “He’s dedicated his life to public service, both as a military veteran and as a four-term elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  And he’s just a great guy.   His qualifications speak for themselves.  He was overwhelmingly confirmed to this position by garnering support from Senators on both sides of the aisle.  I was proud to vote for him, and I’m happy to see such a deserving man be confirmed to such a distinguished position in the administration.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced the Phair Pricing Act of 2019 to lower the costs of pharmaceutical drugs covered under Medicare Part D by ensuring that pharmacy benefit managers and prescription drug plan sponsors pass the savings they negotiate along to their customers 

U.S. Representative Doug Collins (R-Ga.) introduced a version of the same bill in the U.S. House of Representatives last month.

Under the Medicare Part D program, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) act as middlemen between pharmacies and insurers, negotiating price concessions from pharmacies that they are supposed to pass on to patients to lower the cost of drugs. 

However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has noted that these price concessions are rarely used to lower patients’ costs at the point of sale. The savings usually end up in the PBM’s profits.  This legislation directs all price reductions, incentive payments and adjustments between a PBM and a pharmacy be included at the point of sale to decrease the patients’ costs.

Furthermore, this legislation directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a working group of stakeholders to create quality standards based on a pharmacy’s practice.  These standards will help PBMs prioritize patient care.  

“If pharmacy benefit managers are negotiating prices with the intent to provide greater savings for consumers, then those savings better be given to the consumers rather than padding someone else’s pockets,” said Sen Kennedy. “This legislation promotes greater transparency and oversight of taxpayer dollars by ensuring that PBMs disclose all fees, price concessions and programs to CMS.”

“For too long, we have turned a blind eye as pharmacy middlemen have manipulated drug prices to maximize their profit margin” said Rep. Doug Collins.  “The Phair Pricing Act will guarantee patients at the pharmacy counter directly benefit from lower costs allegedly negotiated on their behalf. I’m thankful for Senator Kennedy’s leadership and I look forward to partnering with him to promote transparency in drug pricing and lower the cost of prescription drugs.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced the Income Verification Act to reduce fraud in taxpayer-funded government assistance programs by requiring states to use federal tax information to verify income eligibility for these programs.  U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, M.D. (R-La.) introduced a version of the same bill in the U.S. House of Representatives today.

The Income Verification Act applies to Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 

In November, a report by Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office revealed that 82 of 100 Medicaid recipients in a random sample did not financially qualify for the program.  The Legislative Auditor’s Office estimated that the state wasted as much as $85 million on ineligible Medicaid recipients. 

“Taxpayer money should never be spent willy-nilly,” said Sen. Kennedy. “We owe it to hardworking Americans to be responsible with their taxes instead of using the funds as giveaways to people who don’t financially qualify for assistance.  Right now, income verification for taxpayer-funded government assistance programs is optional.  This legislation will make it a requirement.   Unfortunately, Louisiana is a prime example of how badly we need this legislation.  That’s why I introduced this legislation to require every state to use federal income tax data to determine eligibility for Medicaid programs, welfare and food stamps.”

“Assistance fraud robs resources from people who are truly in need and insults the generosity of taxpayers who by and large want to help those down on their luck,” said Rep. Abraham. “Sadly, Louisiana has shown the nation exactly how to fail at administering at least one such program, Medicaid, by wasting at least $85 million - maybe more - on fraudulent payments, only checking eligibility years after the benefits were paid. Sen. Kennedy and I are working to fix such failures in the future by requiring that states verify eligibility for all assistance programs on the front end. This is common sense, but since that’s lacking within the government, we’re going to pass a law to require it.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) vowed to Bloomberg News Friday that he will chase Stanford International Bank assets “like a hound from hell” until victims of the Ponzi scheme are compensated for their losses.  It’s been 10 years since the scheme was revealed.  Thousands of people – including many Louisianans – lost their retirement savings.

In February, Sens. Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) sent a letter to Stanford’s Swiss bank, Societe Generale, urging the release of $210 million in assets.

Click here or the photo below to watch Sen. Kennedy’s full interview with Bloomberg.

 

Highlights:

Allen Stanford: “This is a very sad situation. What Stanford did is unconscionable. He’s in prison. He’s got a 110-year sentence to serve. He deserves every year of it.”

Louisiana Victims: “These are not wealthy people, who were victimized here. I’m not excusing what happened in the Madoff Ponzi scheme, but these are not wealthy people these are just average Louisianans.”

Meeting with SEC Chairman: “Well they’ve got a lot of legal excuses.  I met with Jay Clayton, who is our SEC Chairman, doing a great job, met with him yesterday about this issue. He’s going to be in Louisiana over the next couple of months. We’re going to set a meeting with him and the lawyers, who are helping my people in Louisiana and many of those who were victimized by Standford. And we’re going to talk about this.”

Working with Sen. Cassidy: “Sen. Cassidy and I are just going to keep pounding them. We’re going to chase the bank like a hound from hell until we get this $210 million. They owe it. They need to pay it.

Helping Louisiana: “I’m going to talk further with the lawyers in Louisiana.  I want to help my people.  I mean this is the 10th anniversary. Yes, it was $7 billion for God’s sakes. Yes, the receivers recovered $500 or $600 million, but half of it went to the lawyers and went in fees. And you know - this is unconscionable.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced today that Southern University in Baton Rouge will receive $5.6 million to improve drainage to help protect the campus’ electrical hub and roads from erosion and flooding.  Much of the three-year project will focus on areas around F and H streets.

“Sadly, our public universities in Louisiana are suffering from tremendous neglect,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “This money from FEMA will make Southern University safer for students and faculty.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), are urging U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson to “take immediate action” on issuing specific guidance regarding the duplication of benefits fix passed by Congress and signed into law in October.

“It is unacceptable that bureaucracy is further slowing the recovery efforts of many homeowners impacted by flooding in 2016,” write Kennedy and Cassidy. “Nearly 6,000 Louisianians are waiting for HUD to issue legal guidance to unlock access to CDBG recovery assistance. … Your department must quickly issue a policy to allow individuals to use CDBG funds for the specific purpose of paying back SBA disaster loans.”

Until HUD issues guidelines on legislation passed by Congress, Louisiana flood victims are blocked from receiving assistance because they obtained U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.

Sens. Kennedy and Cassidy are withholding their approval of two HUD nominees until the guidelines are issued.

The senators’ full letter is below.


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WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced today that he is a co-sponsor of the ALS Disability Insurance Access Act to ensure ALS patients no longer have to wait five months before they can receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

 “ALS is a devastating diagnosis.   We shouldn’t ask sufferers to wait five months before receiving benefits that are rightfully theirs,” said Sen. Kennedy. “ALS is a cruel disease that robs people of the ability to do something as simple as talking.  It’s a disease that progresses quickly.  I’m proud to support a bill that provides ALS sufferers with a small bit of relief.”

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