The plot thickens as a harmonic convergence of political forces prepares to clash over the looming special session of the Louisiana Legislature, with reverberations all the way from Washington, D.C.
Many politicians and pundits continue to criticize having the session, with varying complaints about its being too broad and/or too little time available, that it rushes on matters that can wait, its matters open for discussion deserve more debate prior to a session, and it is highly uncoordinated. Some actively are trying to get the thing adjourned immediately, while others have done things to make the idea of a session less attractive, but the surest way to stop it is to get Democrat Gov. Kathleen Blanco to call it off herself.
This Blanco would be loath to do. Her fondest wish is to have the session turn into an orgy of gift-giving in various forms (tax cuts, rebates, salary increase, etc.) regardless of the long-term implications to state finances still shaky over the long run because of the hurricane disasters of 2005, in order to boost her reelection chances next year. Acceptable to her would be a session where at least some of this happens. Even having an immediate adjournment would not hurt her politically, it just wouldn’t help. But the only harm that could come to her now politically would be calling it off, an admission that she erred, compounded if the Legislature came back to the regular session in April and proceeded to do all of these things.
However, a power play possibility exists given the serendipitous timing of legislation to give Louisiana a larger share of offshore oil royalties. Rightly so, Republicans still running Congress have remained suspicious of the wasteful, free-spending Democrat regime in Louisiana, and enough of them may be looking for excuses not to approve such legislation. An impending special session of the nature Blanco has called only can confirm fears that the state lacks real responsibility and accountability in its spending choices, and may discourage support of this legislation.
The lead Republican for the state in these efforts in the House has been Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal, almost certainly a candidate against Blanco next year. Getting such legislation through only could benefit him politically in that quest. It wouldn’t be surprising to have him approach Blanco and inform her that he could be assured of getting a few more House colleagues, who at present appear to be stalling the bill, on board for passage if she calmed their fears by cancelling the session.
This puts Blanco between a rock and a hard place. She will want the legislation to pass as well, even if it helps Jindal against her, because she can try to neutralize his political benefit by arguing it was her insistence on the state suing the federal government on a related matter that got Congress moving (it actually had nothing to do with it, but the Democrat base is exceptionally gullible and uncritical when it comes to sound bites). Further, one of her Democrat comrades, Sen. Mary Landrieu who is one of many co-authors on the bill being contemplated, also would get a good political benefit out of passage in her 2008 reelection bid and no doubt will put pressure on Blanco as well to call off the session if she thinks that is what it will take to pass her bill.
So, if Jindal can set this up this way, Blanco must choose between the lesser of two evils – keep the session going which may backfire on her anyway but potentially lose the increased royalties, or improve the chances of bill passage but which is not guaranteed but suffer loss of prestige by cancelling the session. The clock is ticking: the session is supposed to start on Friday and Congress may adjourn that day, with a vote on the bill scheduled for the previous day. It might get pretty interesting.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 13:55