Jordan Blum: Around Washington: President blasts Fleming quote

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- Kenneth Polite is the new U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans.
Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON-- Kenneth Polite is the new U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans.

by jordan blum

jblum@theadvocate.com

U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, once called the Affordable Care Act health care law “the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress.”

During a speech this past week, President Barack Obama took aim at that quote, albeit without mentioning Fleming by name, and called Republicans “desperate” on the issue.

“Over the last few weeks, the rhetoric has just been cranked up to a place I’ve never seen before,” Obama said. “One congressman said that Obamacare is ‘the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed.’ Ever. In the history of America, this is the most dangerous piece of legislation. Creating a marketplace so people can buy group insurance plans — the most dangerous ever.

“You had a state representative somewhere say that it’s ‘as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act,’ ” Obama continued. “Think about that. Affordable health care is worse than a law that let slave owners get their runaway slaves back.”

While Fleming had nothing to do with the slavery remark, he didn’t retreat from his “most dangerous” comment.

“I fully stand behind that statement,” Fleming said Friday, calling Obamacare a job-killing “new entitlement program that’s destructive for America.”

Obama also criticized the risk of a government shutdown on Tuesday. “Shutting down the government just because you don’t like a law that was passed and found constitutional, and because you don’t like the idea of giving people new access to affordable health care — what kind of idea is that?” the president said.

Richmond wants expanded probe

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to expand and grant further independent power to the investigation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Top prosecutors under former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten were caught making anonymous comments online about pending court cases, resulting in Letten’s resignation.

That culminated this month with the overturning of the convictions of five former New Orleans police officers found guilty of shooting six unarmed people on the Danziger Bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Now, new U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite Jr. is in office with much of the same staff from the Letten administration, and Richmond addressed the issue of the “shadow of impropriety that continues to cloak this office” in his letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

“Mr. Polite should not be tasked with investigating his staff and predecessors for these misdeeds,” Richmond wrote. “That is why it is imperative that you expand the ongoing investigation and empower it with independent prosecutorial power to make all relevant facts public and bring any breach of law to light.”

“In addition, I urge you to give Mr. Polite the flexibility to quickly staff his office with seasoned prosecutors free from the taint of this ongoing investigation,” he added.

Vitter commends Interior secretary

Sen. David Vitter, R-La, commended Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for delaying a decision to change “the Pickets” popular fishing spot off the coast of Terrebonne Parish, but Vitter also expressed concern about the pending plans.

The Interior Department has planned to remove the defunct oil rig platform Ship Shoal 26, commonly known in Louisiana as “the Pickets,” which is a popular site for local anglers.

“We in the Gulf Coast are familiar with how idle rigs can develop into fertile marine habitats, home to some of the best fishing in the world,” Vitter stated.

“These artificial reefs are incredibly important to the growth and sustainability of the economy and environment in the Gulf. With Secretary Sally Jewell’s help, my hope is to preserve ‘the Pickets’ site for current and future generations of Louisiana anglers to enjoy.”

Vitter earlier this year filed his “Artificial Reef Protection Act” bill to increase the utilization of decommissioned Gulf platforms as artificial reefs, as part of the Rigs to Reefs program, rather than have them permanently removed.

Compiled by Jordan Blum, chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau.

His email address is jblum@theadvocate.com