Washington Briefs for Jan, 21, 2013

Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum
Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum

Former Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, may have finished his time in Congress earlier this month, but he certainly isn’t showing any signs of leaving the spotlight.

Right after his term ended, he incorrectly predicted House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would lose his position, although there was a tea party conservatives-led effort to do so.

This past week, Landry penned a column in the conservative National Review publication titled, “Why We’re Losing the Messaging War.”

“The Republican Party has a serious problem and it’s not that the party isn’t conservative enough,” Landry wrote. “The problem is that Americans are having a hard time understanding what we stand for and whom we represent. Put plainly, it is an identity crisis.”

Landry argued Boehner and other Republicans are trying to force conservatives to abandon their principles. He called Boehner and his supporters “Democrat-Lite.”

Landry was defeated in a December runoff by Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, who Landry had attempted to paint as liberal.

Landry and Boustany were forced into the same race in congressional redistricting because the state lost a seat in Congress because of a lack of population growth.

Cassidy opens bayou office

Because of congressional redistricting, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, now has a district that stretches well into Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.

As such, Cassidy is opening a new district office Friday in Thibodaux in the Ferd H. Block Building on West First Street.

Cassidy will be there from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to meet with constituents and hear their concerns and to discuss legislative priorities for the Houma and Thibodaux region.

Landrieu and Vitter complain

Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., sent letters Friday to Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama urging them to finalize the adoptions of Russian children by Americans that are already in progress.

In a move largely considered political, Russia recently banned allowing Russian children to be adopted by Americans.

Landrieu criticized the decision at the time and she is now pushing for the adoptions that were in the works to go through.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., was among 70 or so Senate and House colleagues who also co-signed the letters

Landrieu, who co-chairs the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, has two adopted children and Blunt is the parent of a child adopted from Russia.

“The U.S. families matched with these children already love them like their own and have invested a great deal of time and resources in pursuit of a final adoption,” Landrieu and Blunt wrote in the letter to Putin.

“We appeal to you to look beyond politics and see the people this law most directly affects … We ask you as a father of two children and a man who cares about the well-being of children to make the finalization of these cases a priority.”

The State Department and Citizenship and Immigration Services estimate there are between 350 to 500 active adoption cases involving Russian children already matched with American families prior to Russia’s ban. Each year, American families adopt about 1,000 Russian children.

The senators said Russia’s own Ministry of Science and Education estimates that 110,000 children in Russia live in institutions, many of whom have special needs that many orphanages cannot adequately address. Long-term institutionalization has been proven to lead to neurological and emotional difficulties in children.

Vitter criticizes EPA head

Vitter also said he is pleased to see several of Obama’s top appointees resigning, but he wants the spotlight to stay on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.

The EPA head and New Orleans native came under scrutiny recently when it was learned she was using a second EPA email account under the alias, Richard Windsor.

The federal government also has redacted some names mentioned in the emails, citing personal privacy exemptions in the law.

“This strikes me as incredibly fishy and begs a number of important questions,” Vitter said in a prepared statement. “The EPA needs to honor the president’s pledge of transparency and release these documents without redaction of the administrator’s email address – a big first step toward removing the blanket of secrecy in this agency.”

The EPA has argued that there is a long-standing practice for agency administrators to use two email accounts, one for public use and one for everyday, working email.

“And if ‘Richard Windsor’ is no more than a standard work email account, why not share the unredacted versions and prove it to the American public?” Vitter added.

Compiled by Jordan Blum, chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email address is jblum@theadvocate.com.