The last gasp of Democrats trying to retain power in the Louisiana for the foreseeable future came yesterday when the Senate bucked the plan preferred by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal for Congressional redistricting. Aided by a few new Senate Republicans looking for political cover that they could exploit on this issue, when that assistance no longer can be forthcoming, then comes the flatline.
Jindal prefers SB 24 by state Sen. Neil Riser, which closely tracks legislation that already has cleared the House, that creates two north-south districts. This bill lost as narrowly as possible, 19-20, while the Senate passed a rival measure, SB 3 by state Sen. Lydia Jackson, 23-15, which creates a northern and a central band preferred by Democrats because it makes for a map that is more competitive for their candidates.
Riser’s measure lost because five southern Louisiana Senators who have switched from the Democrats to Republicans in the last four years, all but one in the last few months, went against it – state Sens. John Alario, Jody Amedee, Norby Chabert, Blade Morrish, and John Smith. Most had grievances with the way in which southern Louisiana was apportioned in the bill. State Sens. Ben Nevers, a Democrat, and recent GOP convert Fred Mills voted for it. All but Smith voted for Jackson’s bill, along with newly-elected GOP state Sen. Jonathan Perry, also from south Louisiana.
SB 24 awaits reconsideration while SB 3 heads to the House for hearings. By these votes taking advantage of southern new GOP senators’ discontent, Democrats are applying one last bit of pressure to try to bluff their way to a more favorable situation. But surely they recognize that Jindal holds all the cards in this hand.
All Jindal must do is subtly remind the House and Senate that he holds veto power over any plan. In any event, the House, already having sent its version, Republican state Rep. Erich Ponti’s HB 6, to be heard today in Senate committee, will do Jindal’s dirty work for him by refusing to pass out SB 3. The Senate could do the same with HB 6, but, with a short communiqué to all, Jindal can lay out clearly what will happen.
He can say if he gets HB 6 essentially as is, he’ll sign it and the process is over. If he doesn’t, nothing will get signed, guaranteeing he’ll call a special session after the regular session that none of them will want, or, even better, maybe he’ll wait until early January of next year – after fall elections that likely will increase GOP majorities in both chambers as well as reconfigure committee memberships and leadership, choosing not to say between now and then he might find some ways to try to sabotage recalcitrant incumbents’ chances at reelection. Jindal typically governs cautiously but having gotten out in front on this issue early shows he’s probably quite willing to go to the wall on this, and thus his messages, both spoken or not, likely will be acted upon in the manners he would prefer.
Such a course probably will allow the GOP defectors to save face, particularly Amedee who will see the bill in committee tomorrow. With SB 24 he didn’t show up for that vote, nor did a backer of SB 3 state Sen. Rob Marionneaux, that it allowed it to get out on a party-line vote. A little leaning by Jindal is all it would take to have this scenario repeat. On the floor, flipping one SB 24 opponent is all it will take to get HB 6 out. Perhaps Alario will provide the margin, as his district remains basically unaffected between both plans and maybe has the safest seat of all GOP opponents so would not be blamed by constituents for going with this bill, as an angle to make a run for the Senate presidency next year by courting favor with the likely-reelected Jindal.
Democrats realize, as their power slips away from them as a whole while inside their party simultaneously blacks replace whites as powerbrokers, that they should not go quietly and must try everything no matter how long the odds of success to do things to keep as much control of state politics as possible. While Senate Republicans either misjudged or lost their nerve in allowing the plan least favorable for them regarding their own body’s composition to go forward, don’t expect the same from Jindal on this important matter of congressional remapping.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 07:20