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17.3.06

Federal budget vote by Landrieu a calculated risk

Sen. Mary Landrieu made a bold political move in being the only Senate Democrat to support the (late again) 2006-07 federal government budget, providing almost the winning margin. She needed to make it, but whether it will pay off is another story.

Landrieu increasingly has a credibility problem with Louisiana voters. She continues to cast votes with which the majority disagree, such as with judicial nominees and on tax policy, and articulating bad policy such as emphasizing union rather than port security and encouraging fraudulent elections, and by supporting pork barrel projects at the expense of flood protection. To mask how she is out of touch with her constituents, she selectively votes for certain measures usually involving bringing home some bacon for Louisiana.

The budget deal is one such. Part of it involves boosting federal spending on coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana. Better, because she went against the grain of her party she has some ammunition to try to defend herself against the argument that, for all her symbolism, she supports a party and its policies sadly misaligned with Louisiana’s interests. Best of all, the bill has plenty of additional spending in other areas that she can use as red meat to throw to her liberal base which otherwise gets irritated when she strays off the reservation.

But it’s those latter goodies that may waste her effort. House Republicans have balked at a budget that spends beyond a certain level, and the obvious way to cut spending is to reduce these measures – including spending on Louisiana coastal restoration. She may get lucky and not have that cut, because its funding would come from auctioning of wireless frequencies, offshore oil leases, and expansion of Alaskan oil drilling (explaining her past support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, another example of a key vote to appeal to Louisiana’s majority).

If so, she gets the best of all worlds. Even if, as others point out, since the additional funding mechanism is not guaranteed even if that portion of the bill remains intact and then the funding doesn’t materialize, Landrieu still can claim she “did” something. (And if that happens, look for Gov. Kathleen Blanco to insist her resolve had something to do with it, by saying she would not approve of leases sold offshore Louisiana unless restoration money was found – but which is an entirely empty threat.)

But if the measure is removed and the bill comes back from conference, does she switch her vote? If the GOP still has enough to muscle it through, she loses the vote and the ability to appeal to the center on her subsequent, plus will have antagonized party leaders by the previous vote. As in Landrieu’s case, when your political philosophy fundamentally is at odds with your constituents’, it’s a fine line you have to tread.

1 comment:

Nick said...

Mr. Sadow:

If you have time, I would like for you to stop by my site to read my 3 latest pieces, all dealing with Louisiana fighting for its fair share of offshore O&G revenues.

Landrieu is in fact in a tough position. She had to support the administration's budget, as some of it included aid to Louisiana. If she voted against that, she would have committed political suicide, especially after voting against Bush's judicial nominees, being she represents a state that is overwelminglly pro-life. However, I think, and hope, that her current term in Washington and as a leader of Louisiana politics will be her last.