Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post is spot-on in his assessment of the race between Mary Landrieu and John N. Kennedy for the U.S. Senate. Although it was announced today that Kennedy “outpaced” Landrieu in fundraising for the previous quarter (Landrieu still has $2 million more in the bank), it remains to be seen who is giving what. Detailed reports will be available in a week or two.
Louisiana: For all the talk among Republicans about how vulnerable Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is to the challenge from state Treasurer John Kennedy (R), we’ve yet to see evidence that Kennedy is making any real progress. Landrieu raised better than $1 million between Jan. 1 and March 31 and ended March with a whopping $4.5 million in the bank. She has also aggressively, and somewhat successfully, courted Republican leaders and elected officials — knowing that she’ll need significant crossover support to win in the Bayou State. The demographics of Louisiana seem certain to make this a competitive race. But Landrieu is doing everything right at the moment.
Given the way in which the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has been going after Senator Landrieu, it will be interesting to find out where Kennedy’s money is from. That said, his upcoming Bush fundraiser ($5,000 for a photo-op!) indicates just how Kennedy hopes to raise in-state cash. The President has a 30% approval rating and is incredibly unpopular here in Louisiana. (See: “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”).
Incidentally, as pointed out on The Reduct Box, although both Jindal and Vitter are the hosts of this event, the Kennedy campaign only mentioned Governor Jindal on its invitation. Something tells me this was not a simple mistake.
On another note: Thank you to Mr. Cillizza for listening to Ryan and adding CenLamar as one of the four best political blogs in the State. Kudos also to Oyster at YRHT, Chad at the Dead Pelican, and Ryan at The Daily Kingfish.
Meanwhile, as first reported on The Hill, David Vitter appears to be attempting to politically hurt Landrieu by “stalling” on some of her legislation. Quoting:
For instance, last year Vitter surprised Landrieu by opposing a bill to reconstruct subsidized housing that existed before the 2005 hurricanes in New Orleans.
The bill had generated support from the House Republicans in the Louisiana delegation, and appeared to be moving to passage until Vitter announced his objection, which has prevented the measure from advancing to the floor.
Supporters of the bill say Vitter is trying to prevent Landrieu from scoring an election-year victory. But Vitter has rejected that suggestion in the past, saying the bill would set bad policy by once again creating housing projects filled with crime and poverty.
(Please forgive this brief digression; I’ll return to The Hill article in just a second).
Louisianans should take notice of Vitter’s disingenuous objections. This proposal had bipartisan support before Vitter raised his objections.
Why would anyone want to prevent people in New Orleans from having adequate access to livable, affordable housing in master-planned, mixed-income neighborhoods? Smart growth planning is one of Senator Landrieu’s passions. She helped to create the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) and has been instrumental in facilitating recovery planning. She understands this issue.
David Vitter wants fewer lower-income/affordable housing units. Period.
This really isn’t about crime. It’s about access to affordable housing.
This is what the United Nations said just last month (bold mine):
More than two years after Hurricane Katrina caused a mass displacement of Gulf Coast residents, thousands of people, predominantly low-income Blacks, still struggle to return home.
Government policies at all levels have effectively barred low-income residents from returning to New Orleans; the city’s homeless population has doubled since the hurricane. Residents are still facing the impending demolition of low-income public housing, rent hikes, and, most recently, dangerous levels of formaldehyde in the temporary housing trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The federal response to Katrina continues to be widely criticized within the international community as a flagrant violation of international law. The most recent scrutiny comes from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) , which monitors compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
The treaty obligates state parties “to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists.” Every two years, treaty member countries are required to submit reports to CERD that chronicle their efforts to eliminate racial discrimination.
The U.S. ratified the treaty in 1994 and submitted the second of its only two periodic reports in April 2007. A delegation of high-ranking officials defended the U.S. report before the committee in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 21 and 22.
Despite undeniable evidence of the disparate impact that Hurricane Katrina continues to have on low-income Black residents, the U.S. makes only one reference to the hurricane’s aftermath in its 124-page report — to congratulate itself for its commitment to helping “all victims.” However, the U.S. government denies that race was a factor in the federal response, claiming that “the post-Katrina issues were the result of poverty…rather than racial discrimination.”
The government report highlights Operation Home Sweet Home, a 2006 fair housing initiative “inspired by victims of Katrina, who lost their homes and were seeking new places to live,.” which it called “a major new civil rights initiative.” But two years after the initiative, tens of thousands of New Orleans residents still do not have permanent or safe housing.
Immediately following the U.S. defense in Geneva, CERD called on the U.S. government “to halt the demolition of public housing” and protect the rights of Katrina victims. In its concluding observations handed down on March 7, the committee further expressed its concern “about the disparate impact that [Katrina] continues to have on low-income African American residents.” It recommended that the U.S. consult with Hurricane Katrina victims who have been displaced in order to guarantee access to adequate and affordable housing.
Other reports submitted to the committee by LCCR and other civil and human rights organizations provide a critical assessment of U.S. adherence to ICERD mandates and emphasize the minimal progress made by the U.S. toward eliminating racial discrimination.
According to LCCR, the U.S. defense that it is adequately addressing racial discrimination “effectively allows the Bush administration to exempt itself from complying with crucial provisions of the CERD treaty at a time when U.S. prestige abroad is already at an all-time low. The government’s cavalier attitude toward compliance with this critical international treaty can only be expected to further undermine U.S. standing around the world.”
LCCR’s report also offers recommendations to enhance the government’s ability to comply with ICERD. These include the enactment of legislation to end racial and ethnic profiling, a commitment to helping schools racially integrate, the elimination of predatory lending practices, and the restoration of the right to sue for pay discrimination.
We know Senator Vitter read this report because he issued a press release that was critical of the United Nations. He doesn’t deny that New Orleans’s homeless population has doubled since the hurricane, and he doesn’t dispute the claim that “tens of thousands of New Orleans residents still do not have permanent or safe housing.” Instead, he deflects.
“Once again, the U.N. has decided to inject itself into the New Orleans public housing debate, even though some of the U.N. advisors who have been critical of the recovery process have never actually been on the ground to see things firsthand,” said Vitter. “I find today’s report particularly bewildering, especially given the human rights track records of some of the committee’s member countries. Enough is enough. I intend to call for a hearing in the Foreign Relations Committee to investigate whether the U.N. is focusing on the right priorities, especially since much its funding comes from our American taxpayer dollars.”
Get that? He attempts to invalidate the entire report by claiming that “some” of his critics in the U.N. haven’t been to New Orleans and by vaguely insulting the countries represented by the committee members. Well, Mr. Vitter, many of your critics have been to New Orleans. Many of your critics live in New Orleans, and I’ll bet they can attest that yes, in fact, the homeless population has doubled. And then, he actually suggests it would be appropriate to “investigate” the U.N.’s priorities, implying that disaster recovery (after the worst hurricane in the history of our country) in his own state should not be considered a priority. Vitter’s office continues:
A study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that 86% of the residents who previously resided in New Orleans’ “Big Four” housing would prefer to live elsewhere. Vitter has been working to bring about a new, tenant-based voucher system that promotes homeownership and safe, mixed-income neighborhoods that would help bring people up from poverty, instead of reverting back to a broken housing system.
No one is proposing to rebuild the Big Four as Vitter’s office implies. The Times-Picayune tells us (bold mine):
“I can’t imagine the need is as much as the need pre-Katrina,” Vitter said.
But Landrieu said the need was unmet before the storm when about 6,000 low-income people were on a waiting list for the city’s 7,000 public housing units. With rents up 45 percent since the storm, an estimated 12,000 homeless people in the city and low-wage service-industry workers struggling to find housing, Landrieu said the demand is as great as it has ever been.
“One of big pieces of our recovery is low- and moderate-income and workforce housing. It is a struggle for middle-class families to afford rents in the city and in the region,” Landrieu said. “It gets down to Sen. Vitter and a few critics objecting to the one-to-one replacement.”
Vitter has said the bill “wants to re-create the New Orleans housing projects exactly as they were.”
Landrieu said the bill represents a dramatic departure from the isolated, boxy havens for crime and drugs that much of New Orleans public housing had become over the years.
The bill would give developers broad leeway to mix low-income units with market-rate housing or offer rental vouchers in an attempt to move away from failed public housing models of the past. She points to the colorful single-family homes erected to replace the rundown 42-year-old Fischer public housing complex as a prototype for redevelopment.
“We have to rebuild differently,” she said.
Don’t be fooled. Homelessness has doubled. Tens of thousands live in inadequate conditions. Rents are up 45%. And Senator Vitter says he’s blocking Landrieu’s bill because he “can’t imagine the need is as much as the need pre-Katrina.”
Back to The Hill:
Democratic aides said they have moved to resolve Vitter’s objections, but he has not accepted their proposed changes.
Former Democratic Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana said the sniping is unusual for a delegation that has long worked together across party lines.
“The last thing people in Louisiana want to see are people in the same delegation working against each other,” Breaux said.
On other political issues, Vitter has helped stall some of Landrieu’s efforts. Last month during the budget debate, Landrieu tried to push through an amendment to reduce the estate tax, which Republicans deride as the “death” tax because it taxes the transfer of property after a person dies.
Landrieu’s measure was identical to language previously offered by Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). But she added language to pay for the lost revenue by tightening offshore tax loopholes, which President Bush has previously supported. Kyl said the Landrieu amendment was disingenuous, suggesting it would eventually lead to a tax increase.
Republican leaders and Vitter lobbied their Republican colleagues to oppose the measure, according to aides from both parties, ensuring that the amendment failed by a whopping 23-77 vote.
Despite supporting the Kyl amendment earlier in the day, Landrieu later voted against it to protest what she said was the GOP’s decision not to work out a middle ground.
One person seems to be working for the State of Louisiana, and the other person appears to be working for the Republican Party.
By the way, Landrieu posted another video diary today:
And another H/t to Ryan for directing readers to this:
Update: As reported in The Times-Picayune today, Senator Vitter may plead the fifth in the upcoming DC Madam trial.