Washington Briefs for March 18, 2013

By Jordan Blum

Advocate Washington bureau

After briefly “pondering” running for the U.S. Senate, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said Friday he will not challenge Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in 2014.

While he never touted himself as a serious candidate, Dardenne did acknowledge thinking about it for a few weeks after national polling data showed he could be the top Republican challenger to Landrieu, who is considered a top GOP target nationally.

“I’m not going to run for the Senate,” Dardenne said. “I just wanted to make that clear. It’s not something I sought out.”

Dardenne said his “heart” is in Louisiana and he does plan to run for office in 2015, for re-election or for governor.

“I’ve clearly indicated I’m looking at the Governor’s Office,” Dardenne said, although he added he is not yet ready to officially announce his candidacy.

Landrieu’s top potential opponents in the Senate race include Reps. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge; John Fleming, R-Minden; former Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia; and state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Chas Roemer, of Baton Rouge.

While Republicans are attacking Landrieu, the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is already taking shots at her potential opponents.

The committee released a statement this past week criticizing Cassidy, Fleming and Landry for backing the House-proposed federal budget by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which he touts as being intended to eliminate deficits in 10 years and to repeal “Obamacare.”

Democrats criticize the budget plan for hurting Medicare, federal infrastructure funding and federal college grants and loans.

“Louisianans deserve to know that under Landry, Fleming, and Cassidy’s anti-Medicare plan, seniors would pay more for health care and millions would be forced onto a voucher program when they retire,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky said. “Landry, Fleming, and Cassidy’s support for the Republican plan isn’t just dangerous for seniors, it’s devastating for all Louisianans — putting tax breaks for millionaires and special interests ahead of creating jobs and making college more affordable.”

So, let the campaigns begin.

Cassidy part of hearings

Cassidy participated in two hearings to attack the so-called Obamacare this past week hosted by the GOP-controlled House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

Cassidy, who is a physician, opposes the federal Affordable Care Act. He also has proposed legislation to revamp the federal Medicaid program.

Cassidy argued Obamacare is “unaffordable” and many low-income, working Americans will lose their health insurance and end up with weaker coverage because they will only be able to afford minimum coverage through the federal insurance exchanges.

Other Americans are and will see their insurance premiums increase, he added.

While he wants to repeal the health-care law, Cassidy also is pushing to allow individuals to have “consumer-driven” health savings accounts on the exchanges.

Cassidy argued the option would allow people to put their premium subsidies into health saving accounts and save money so they can use it when they need it. This would allow them to save their unused health dollars and allow them to accumulate, he added.

“This plan would provide much-needed relief to Americans seeing more and more of their paychecks eaten up by Obamacare,” Cassidy added.

Boustany praises waiver ban

Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, praised the House passage of legislation to ban waivers for the work requirements for federal welfare recipients.

But Boustany is going beyond the approval of the SKILLS Act legislation.

Boustany also filed new legislation to require drug-testing for welfare recipients, which critics have argued unfairly targets minorities and their privacy rights.

“Hard-working Americans are subjected to tests by employers ensuring abuses of controlled substances are minimized,” Boustany said in his announcement.

“To keep a job, employees have to stay clean. Eligibility for welfare benefits should be no different. This legislation simply requires all states to implement drug screening programs to prevent substance abuse,” he said.

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