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WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and more than 15 other senators in sending a letter to Chairman Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security to oppose the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Disinformation Governance Board and urge that any funding for this board be prohibited in the FY 2023 appropriations bill. 

“While DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified that the board will not be used for political purposes and did his best to explain away serious concerns raised, little remains known as to what the board will actually do, how it will determine what is disinformation, and the scope in which it will take to monitor disinformation from American citizens. . . .  Although recent reports indicate that the board’s operations have been ‘paused’, Ms. Jankowicz has resigned, and its dissolution is being considered by DHS, its future remains as unclear as its mission,” the senators wrote.

“The federal government already has authorities to counter foreign disinformation and propaganda through the Department of State’s Global Engagement Center. Additionally, DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is responsible for informing Americans about disinformation related to elections and critical infrastructure. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the lead agency in the Foreign Influence Task Force. There is no gap in our nation’s ability to counter disinformation threats that this board fills,” continued the senators.

“While DHS has promised the board will ‘protect privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties,’ we do not take solace in words alone. A fine line exists between tackling disinformation and government censorship. Exactly where the Disinformation Governance Board falls on this line remains unclear and the potential for abuse is so egregious that we urge any and all funding for the board be prohibited during the Homeland Security appropriations process,” they concluded. 

Sens. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), James Lankford (R-Okla), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) also signed the letter.

The letter is available here.

Watch Kennedy’s comments here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) released the following statement after voting in favor of a bill to increase aid to Ukraine, backfill U.S. arsenals, support U.S. industry and increase oversight of U.S. resources invested in defeating Russian aggression.

I am voting to provide additional aid to our friends in Ukraine, and I’d like to explain why.

“Every time I’m asked to make a decision about American money to a foreign country, I ask myself one question:  What’s in it for the United States of America? What’s in it for the people of Louisiana?

“I make decisions on helping other countries solely through the lens of national security for the American people and the people of Louisiana. So, let me try to answer that question.                                         

“We know that Vladimir Putin has a black heart. We know that Vladimir Putin has Stalin’s taste for blood, but this fight in Ukraine is not just about Putin, and it’s not just about Russia. 

“It is clear to me that Putin is working with President Xi in China and is working with the Ayatollah in Iran, and this is their goal: Their goal is to have Russia win in Ukraine, so Russia can dominate central and eastern Europe. Their goal is to have President Xi dominate the Indo-Pacific and become free to make moves in Africa and South America.

“Now, that is not a world that is safe for the American people. It’s just not. Weakness invites the wolves.

“This is not just the fight for the people of Ukraine. It’s a fight for the people of the United States of America. It’s a fight for our national security. It’s a fight for Western values and the freedom that we as Americans and Louisiana have come to cherish and love.”

Watch Kennedy’s remarks here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Inflation-Adjusted Education Investment Act to help parents defray the cost of elementary and secondary education by permanently raising the tax-free withdrawal cap for 529 plans for qualified K-12 tuition expenses.  

“When many public schools shut down during the pandemic, parents had to find other education options. Now, rampant inflation is making it harder on parents who have turned to private schooling. My bill would give parents more options for making the education that best fits their children’s needs affordable,” said Kennedy.

The bill raises the current cap on withdrawing from a 529 plan from $10,000 to $12,000 for 2022, which adjusts for inflation that has already occurred and is likely to occur by the end of the year. Additionally, the bill would make the new cap adjustable for inflation beginning in 2023. Because of high inflation, $10,000 in January 2018 would be equal to almost $11,700 today.

The specific tax advantage of a 529 plan is that distributions from this savings plan are tax-free if they are used to pay for qualified higher education expenses. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act gave parents the freedom to withdraw up to $10,000 tax-free each year for each beneficiary and to use the funds for qualifying K-12 expenses. Those expenses include private and religious schooling. 

Text of the bill is available here.

WASHINGTON – The Senate today adopted a resolution that Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and more than 80 other senators support to mark National Police Week and express support for the men and women in law enforcement.

“Police officers risk their lives every day to keep Americans safe—and many of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Crime is on the rise, and without order there can be no justice. That’s why we honor the dedication of the brave men and women in uniform,” said Kennedy.

“Putting on the badge to protect and serve our communities has always been a difficult and dangerous vocation, but last year has been one of the toughest. While the ongoing pandemic added a new risk to the job, violent crime and attacks targeting police have spiked in recent years. Now, more than ever, we owe law enforcement our gratitude and our support,” said Grassley.

The resolution honors the 576 law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in 2021, as well as the 92 lost to date in 2022. Last year marked the most intentional killings of police since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The resolution designates the week of May 15 through May 21, 2022, as “National Police Week,” and expresses unwavering support for law enforcement officers across the United States in the pursuit of preserving safe and secure communities.

Text of the resolution is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sens. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and 19 other senators in urging Robert Califf, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, to explain the FDA’s failure to mitigate the nationwide baby formula shortage.

For decades, the FDA has been the gold standard for approving and regulating medical products and food. Yet this year, the actions of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) has raised questions regarding its ability to fulfill its core oversight responsibilities. The safety of, and access to, infant formula should be among CFSAN’s highest priorities, as this food is vital for the growth and development of infants,” the senators wrote.

“We are also concerned as to why FDA leadership failed to be proactive in mitigating the shortage crisis parents are now facing. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed many vulnerabilities across all sectors of industry, and our food supply chain was woefully unprepared to handle challenges here and from foreign partners. Infant formula supplies at local grocery stores were relatively stable for the first half of 2021. The out-of-stock percentage started to climb steadily in the later half and continued to worsen throughout this year,” they continued.

The senators asked Califf several questions, including whether the FDA and White House have a strategic plan in place to mitigate formula shortages and if the FDA made any recommendations to the White House about what actions the FDA can take to handle the shortage.

“The shortage, felt by all families in need, is disproportionately impacting vulnerable populations. . . . The FDA must do everything within its statutory authority to ensure it facilitates access to safe, quality foods,” concluded the senators.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), John Barrasso, (R-Wyo.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Bill Cassidy, (R-La.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), John Thune (R-S.D.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) also signed the letter.

The letter is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) in introducing bipartisan legislation to help train law enforcement officials and first responders when responding to incidents that involve individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

“First responders answer the call for help from people in crisis situations on a daily basis—including many who are suffering from traumatic brain injuries or PTSD. By equipping law enforcement with special training, we can better support those who are suffering, including our brave veterans,” said Kennedy.

“It’s important that our police and all first responders are empowered with the resources they need to address a variety of emergencies, including incidents that involve people with traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder. Our legislation would provide departments with crisis intervention tools that can help de-escalate situations and improve outcomes for everyone involved,” Grassley said.

“Improved training for law enforcement officers to handle cases of post-traumatic stress or head trauma will improve public safety, support mental health, and reduce the devastation of severe brain injuries,” said Ossoff.

The bipartisan TBI and PTSD Law Enforcement Training Act would improve training for law enforcement by boosting resources for the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program to develop and implement the trainings. Many military veterans suffer from PTSD related to their service, and the bill would require the attorney general to develop best practices on techniques to interact with people who have traumatic brain injury or PTSD.

The bill would also require new trainings be included in the Police Mental Health Collaboration Kit, a no-cost training tool that provides resources for law enforcement agencies to effectively respond to calls for service.

Text of the bill is available here

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced a $10,593,032 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant in disaster aid for Louisiana. 

The $10.6 million will go to South Louisiana Electric Cooperative for emergency protective measures related to hurricane Ida.

“This $10.6 million grant will help cover costs to support recovery efforts in south Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Ida,” said Kennedy. 

WASHINGTON — Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Republican colleagues in introducing the Investor Democracy is Expected (INDEX) Act to address problems stemming from the consolidated corporate ownership and voting power within Wall Street’s largest investment advisers and their index funds.

With passive investing exploding in popularity over the past two decades, these firms have quietly become the largest owners in almost all U.S. public companies. As such, they are able to leverage the investments of millions of index fund investors into the dominant voting bloc at shareholder meetings.

“Mammoth investment advisors are listening more to radical activists than to their actual investors, which can sway outcomes at shareholder meetings. That’s bad for the investors who have put their savings on the line and for healthy, free markets. We need to ensure that investors actually get to vote on their investments, and that’s what the INDEX Act would do,” said Kennedy.

“The American people deserve the opportunity to vote on behalf of their investments, including those made in index funds. Massive Wall Street firms should not be able to coopt this voting power to essentially control our entire U.S. public market. Currently, the three largest investment advisers represent nearly a quarter of all votes cast at annual meetings. The INDEX Act would correct this extreme distortion by simply requiring these firms to ask index fund investors how to vote. This would democratize corporate governance and largely eliminate the influence that these firms wield at shareholder meetings to push political agendas, removing them as a pressure point for radical activists,” said Sullivan.

The INDEX Act would require investment advisors of passively-managed funds to vote proxies in accordance with the instructions of fund investors—not at the discretion of the adviser. The adviser would be responsible for passing through the proxies, collecting the instructions and dutifully voting per the investors’ wishes. Deconsolidating this voting power will neutralize the dominance of these investment advisers and foster a healthier, more competitive and more democratic corporate governance ecosystem.

Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) also co-sponsored the bill.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other Republican senators in writing to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo urging the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to stop delaying permits for offshore oil and gas companies that are performing exploration work ahead of drilling wells.

“While the Biden Administration and Members of Congress fault the domestic oil and gas industry of sitting idle on over 9,000 drilling permits and millions of acres in ‘inactive leases,’ NMFS’s permitting delays represent one example of the Administration’s de facto ban on new drilling—impeding domestic oil and gas investment, exploration, and production,” the senators wrote.

“Specifically, we are aware that NMFS has a backlog of applications for ‘Letters of Authorization’ (LOA), which federal oil and gas leasees need in order to perform the specific geological surveying necessary to develop their leases located on the federal U.S. Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). We understand some pending LOA applications have been with the agency for well over 100 days, whereas NMFS has historically approved LOA applications within 2 to 4 weeks,” they continued.

The letter notes that the permitting delay is principally due to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) inadvertently double-counting projected exposure estimates for activities on the OCS, it’s reliance on those miscalculations when developing the final rule in question. 

The letter advises the NMFS to:

  • allow officials to approve outstanding and future LOA applications consistent with the agency’s permitting activities prior to the 2021 Final Rule,
  • use NMFS’ discretion to immediately approve those LOA applications that are most likely to bring production online first,
  • issue a new proposed rule immediately and final rule within a more reasonable timeframe and
  • shift additional resources to process applications and make available to permittees any other alternative permitting processes within NMFS’s authority.

“It is unacceptable that agency miscalculations have restricted access to safe, secure, and reliable domestic oil and gas production through substantial, unnecessary, and arbitrary permitting delays,” the senators concluded.

Text of the letter is available here.



Watch Kennedy’s remarks
here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today addressed the record high Louisiana gas prices that President Biden’s policies have caused. Key excerpts from his remarks are below:

It is a serious problem for lower-middle income and poor Americans. . . . For our less fortunate Americans, it’s a choice between filling up their car or paying their rent or buying their food.

“It’s no mystery why we’re having this inflation in gasoline. When your demand remains constant or it increases, and your supply shrinks, you’re going to see price increases every single time.

“Why is supply shrinking? Well, I think the main reason—there are other reasons—but I think the main reason has to do with President Biden’s energy policy. We know now, after 14 months, that President Biden’s energy policy is wind, solar and wishful thinking. The American economy is the most powerful economy in all of human history. It can’t run without energy. Eighty percent of our energy comes from fossil fuels.”

. . .

“Markets are forward looking. The price of gasoline today, and the price of oil and natural gas, also reflects what people who produce the product and who buy the product think about the future, and there’s no question that they look ahead under the Biden administration and see that they expect the Biden administration to continue to do everything it can to bankrupt the oil and gas industry.”

. . .

“The president says: ‘I’m not against oil and gas.’ All you have to do is look at his proposed new rules for the National Environmental Policy Act, the proposed rules for NEPA. Take a good look at a pipeline because you won’t see another one in America if these rules pass.”

View Kennedy’s complete remarks here.