Voters in the 7th Congressional District may not know U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry now, but he made it clear Friday he plans to be a force to be reckoned with during next year’s national elections.
Landry, R-New Iberia, was one of three congressmen who spoke at the Chamber/Southwest Louisiana’s Legis-Gator Luncheon. It’s an annual affair where the chamber hears from national and state legislators and recognizes those who have been friendly to business interests.
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, represents the 7th District now, but it will disappear because the state lost a congressional seat. The coastal area that runs from the Texas line through Calcasieu and Cameron parishes and eastward past Lafayette will be in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District.
Landry is a freshman congressman who saw his district split three ways during the Legislature’s redistricting session earlier this year. However, he is expected to challenge Boustany next year since his residence is in the 3rd District.
The nearly 800 people at the luncheon got an early preview of what promises to be Landry’s campaign themes. He said seniority — which Boustany enjoys — is no big deal. And he attacked the recent debt ceiling compromise that Boustany supported and Landry opposed.
Tea party favorite
Landry is a darling of the tea party crowd and it thinks the compromise was a sellout. Shortly after the 269-161 House vote to approve the deal, Landry said it failed to include long-term solutions to reckless congressional spending. It passed the Senate 74-26.
“I’m sure by Washington standards, today’s deal is a great accomplishment, but by American standards, it comes up short,” Landry said. He told those at the luncheon the compromise simply “kicked the can down the road.”
Landry appears to have picked up a couple of high-powered allies — Gov. Bobby Jindal and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie.
Jindal may deny any political connection, but he doesn’t like compromises any better than Landry.
“If you want to be popular with the editorial boards, nothing will make you as popular with the intelligentsia in America as ‘compromise’,” Jindal told the Republican National Committee earlier this month. “I have found in government that it pays to be stubborn. It pays to stick to your guns.”
Vitter also opposed the debt ceiling compromise, and he and Landry are teaming up to talk about it during a couple of public forums, one of them Wednesday in Lake Charles. A spokesman for the senator told political writer John Maginnis people shouldn’t read too much into the fact Vitter and Landry will be conducting public forums on the compromise.
Maybe not, but Landry, Jindal and Vitter are all singing the same tune.
Ultra-conservatives consider compromise a dirty word, but it’s the only way things get done in Washington and anywhere else. And compromising doesn’t mean you have to sell out your political principles. We learned that from the men who wrote our U.S. Constitution.
The compromise does include a balanced-budget amendment pushed by the tea party and favored by many Americans, but Landry insists it’s a toothless tiger.
Boustany said he knows the compromise doesn’t settle long-term problems, but calls it a start. The nation’s financial solvency depended on getting the debt ceiling issue resolved, he said.
Perhaps one of the best signs the debt compromise wasn’t such a bad deal after all was the fact U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic minority leader, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., weren’t crazy about it.
Like Landry, Boustany also favors a balanced budget. However, he said he knows to get there will take workable solutions.
One of the best ways to get the country’s debt under control is to reform the tax code, Boustany told the American Press editorial board earlier Friday. He wants to broaden the base, eliminate loopholes and lower rates.
Landry said he wants to see Congress cut spending, simplify and decrease tax rates and reform entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
It’s easy for Landry to say reform those three programs, but doing it is virtually impossible. The mere mention of tampering with any of them brings immediate howls from those who receive the benefits.
It’s campaign issue
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, offered a budget plan designed to make changes in Medicare, but Democrats jumped on that idea with both feet. And party leaders said they will make it a major campaign issue against the GOP in next year’s elections.
I can hear the Democrats saying, “The Republicans are messing around with your Medicare.”
If Americans don’t want to make changes in the three programs that account for a big chunk of government spending, how can you achieve a balanced budget?
That is a question many who favor a balanced budget can’t answer, but they seldom worry about the details. If it sounds good, they just sing it from the rooftops.
You can be sure Landry will do that if he takes on Boustany.
Meanwhile, Boustany isn’t ready to start campaigning.
“Right now, I’m focused on taking care of the problems that are facing our country and district,” he said.
Boustany has done a good job for America, the 7th District and the Lake Charles area since first taking office in 2004. I hope the voters don’t forget that next year when they will be bombarded with campaign rhetoric like we heard here last week.
Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or [email protected].