Jindal: Congress passes overly broad laws

The theme for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s remarks at the National Constitution Center Tuesday night was energy. After all, the governor comes from a state in which the energy industry employs thousands.

What the governor delivered were stinging words for President Barack Obama and Congress on a wide range of issues. He talked a lot about energy, zeroing in on a pipeline controversy and failed federal investments in companies, such as electric carmaker Fisker. He accused the extremist left of fighting affordable energy.

“They want the government to tell Americans to live in smaller houses, drive smaller cars, set their thermostats higher in the summer and lower in the winter,” Jindal told a sold-out audience at the National Constitution Center, which sits diagonally to Benjamin Franklin’s grave in downtown Philadelphia.

From energy, the governor zipped over to health care, Congress’ job performance and America’s obsession with pop culture.

Jindal, a Rhodes scholar who was leading Louisiana’s health department by age 24, said he is no constitutional scholar and puzzles over President Obama’s ability to suspend part of the Affordable Care Act. Jindal said Congress too often passes overly broad laws and relies on the executive branch to fill in the blanks. It’s dangerous for Congress to delegate its authority, the governor said.

“There has been a shift in constitutional power that’s not appropriate,” Jindal said.

The setting for the governor’s remarks was an auditorium with 200 seats. Free tickets to the 11th Annual Templeton Lecture for Economic Liberty and the Constitution headlined by the governor were snapped up. Retirees, college students and commuters who had just finished their work day crowded into the small auditorium on a clear night in downtown Philadelphia.

Maria Darcy, who lives in New Jersey and works on grants and contracts at the University of Pennsylvania, said she came for the conversation. Or, more particularly, for who was conducting the conversation.

The governor delivered the keynote speech. Kevin Hassett, a policy consultant to the U.S. Department of the Treasury under both Republican and Democratic White House administrations, offered the response. The Constitution Center’s president and CEO, Jeffrey Rosen, moderated.

“It’s him. I’m here to see him,” Darcy said, referring to Jindal.

Darcy said Jindal appears to be in the presidential arena and she wants to know more about him. All she knows, she said, is that he helped rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Retired Philadelphia attorney John Bannon said a neighbor told him Jindal would be speaking at the Constitution Center. Bannon said he didn’t need his neighbor to tell him who Jindal was.

“He is someone I would like to see considered for the (Republican presidential) nomination,” Bannon said, characterizing Jindal as a nuts and bolts person who gets things done. He said he disagrees with the governor’s rejection of Medicaid expansion in Louisiana but understands the political reasons that could have driven the decision.

Cynthia and Don Lara are married Democrats who retired to Philadelphia because of their love of history and the city’s cultural offerings.

“I don’t know much about him. I’m so interested to have a look at him,” Cynthia Lara said moments before Jindal stepped onto the stage.

The National Constitution Center serves as a museum and a stopping place for possible presidential contenders. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped by before Thanksgiving to talk about the book he wrote with former President George W. Bush’s speechwriter.

The center bills itself as nonpartisan, but Jindal used the venue to slice into Democrats, the president and the left.

After Jindal accused Democrats of allowing Lady Gaga to help set American energy policy, it was Hassett’s turn at the microphone. Hassett joked that he was there to defend Lady Gaga before finding common ground with the governor.

Hassett said the good news for the U.S. is that energy now can be extracted from hard-to-reach places, like the shale below north Louisiana. He said the hope for America, as it leaves the great recession, lies in energy such as natural gas.

In response to an audience question about what he would do if he were president, Jindal said he would develop an energy policy — making the swipe that one is not already in place. The governor said he would make a long-term commitment to diversifying energy supplies and stop government favoritism in the energy market.

He offered a few suggested changes to the energy policy in Washington, listing expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline and an embracement of hydraulic fracturing.

Jindal said: “The fact is the left isn’t arguing against routing the Keystone pipeline through a piece of geography. The fact is the left isn’t arguing against the process for which oil and natural gas are pulled out of the ground and used to generate power ... What the extremist left is arguing against is affordable energy.”