Originally considered the underdog, Bill Cassidy was first elected to the Louisiana Senate in 2006 by outflanking Republican state Rep. William Daniel on the ideological right.
Cassidy, now Baton Rouge’s primary congressman, was then a political novice who used the support of right-wing, third-party groups and the Louisiana Family Forum to define himself as the more-conservative answer. He ended up winning convincingly over Daniel in a campaign that turned ugly.
However, Cassidy is somehow now among those being scored in the “Hall of Shame” for conservative voting records as judged by the conservative Madison Project organization that claims it is “committed to putting an end to this duplicity by exposing Republicans whose liberal voting actions speak louder than their words.”
Cassidy is joined in the supposed “Shame” category by U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, and even House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
The “Hall of Fame” includes U.S. Reps. John Fleming, R-Minden, and Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, who is running against Boustany because their districts were redrawn. Fleming and Landry both successfully rode the tea party and anti-Barack Obama waves in Louisiana into Congress.
As for the “Shame” and “Fame” ratings, they were developed by taking the voting scores measured by the Club for Growth and Heritage Action conservative groups that, in part, attempt to influence congressional members to vote certain ways.
In short, they would likely back conservative-programmed, button-pressing robots if such robots were eligible to run for office.
The Madison Project took the voting scores and measured them against the supposed “ideological bent” of each congressional member’s district. So the Madison Project is saying people like Cassidy and Boustany are shamefully too liberal relative to the people they represent. Keep in mind that Cassidy and Boustany, both doctors, are two of the most outspoken critics of Obama’s health-care law.
“It’s absolutely not true,” said University of Louisiana at Lafayette political scientist Pearson Cross of the assertion that they vote more like liberals. “You can’t determine the job a congressman is doing for his district based on exceedingly arbitrary data measures.”
While Boustany’s district is skewing more conservative, Cross said, there are still more registered Democrats than Republicans and sizable minority populations.
Such ratings and political tactics mean the death of compromise in Congress that is necessary to accomplish anything, he said.
Cross said Landry likely will point to such “Shame” scores to paint Boustany as a Republican in name only, or RINO. “But Boustany can come back and say, ‘I don’t take my marching orders from groups in Washington.’”
And that’s pretty much what Boustany did say. “These outside groups, who knows what they do to judge the votes,” he said. “I think it’s absurd to suggest I don’t have a conservative voting record.”
Cassidy agreed. “I’m not going to vote to appease some private think tank in D.C.,” Cassidy said. “I’m working with a conservative mindset primarily for Louisiana and my district.”
He called such ratings a “manipulative process” that will likely punish him for voting for spending bills that contain the RESTORE Act to send billions of dollars in BP oil spill fine money to Louisiana.
One area where Boustany, Cassidy and Alexander definitely are punished in the ratings is for siding with the House Republican leadership last year when they voted for the debt ceiling compromise to avoid a government shutdown. Although many Republicans wanted a lot more budget cuts, the compromise still included nearly $100 billion in cuts.
Landry, for instance, is repeatedly barraging Boustany with attacks for the debt ceiling vote and for backing a congressional pay raise years ago.
Another debt ceiling fight is likely coming by the end of the year and it’s pretty easy to tell where the Madison Project will stand on that one.
Jordan Blum is chief of The Advocate Washington bureau. His email
address is email@example.com.
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