Stephanie Grace: Landrieu, Cassidy gloss over cooperation on flood insurance measure

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu issued a news release announcing great news for certain Louisiana property owners whose flood insurance rates were scheduled to rise: Landrieu had just shepherded legislation delaying the increase through a subcommittee that she just happens to chair. The release went on to list a litany of other ways in which the New Orleans Democrat is fighting to keep federally provided flood insurance affordable.

“These home and business owners played by the rules, purchased properties that were up to code and are now facing exorbitant rate hikes,” she wrote. “My legislation will prevent FEMA from raising the rates.”

On the same day, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy also sent out a news release lauding the Senate subcommittee for passing the “Cassidy Amendment,” which, his piece explained, would postpone certain flood insurance rate increases, and is just one of many ways the Baton Rouge Republican is guarding the interests of flood-prone Louisiana residents.

“Everyone in Louisiana shares the same goal — making flood insurance accessible and affordable. Biggert-Waters made it accessible, yet FEMA’s implementation has created affordability issues,” he wrote. “Fortunately, the House passed the Cassidy Amendment to delay flood insurance hikes from going into effect until Congress has time to address the problem. I’m glad the Senate included my amendment in the Homeland Security Appropriation subcommittee.”

Astute readers may have put two and two together and realized that, hey, Landrieu and Cassidy must be talking about the same measure.

But they wouldn’t have gotten any help with the math, because neither politician’s p.r. piece noted the overlapping authorship.

In fact, neither even deigned to mention the name of the other.

Welcome to the 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate, a world where, rather than tout their ace teamwork in support of a genuinely popular and bipartisan accomplishment, both major combatants would clearly prefer to just take the credit.

The divergent takes on the temporary protection of so-called “grandfathered” properties built before the onset of the National Flood Insurance Program and later placed into higher-risk flood zones — which Cassidy, Landrieu’s best-known and best-funded GOP challenger, passed through the House with more Democratic than Republican support and Landrieu has now ushered through the full Senate Appropriations Committee — also hint at another of the upcoming race’s likely points of debate.

The general wisdom is that, if the campaign plays out as a localized contest, Landrieu’s long and fruitful record of corralling money for her home state and passing legislation focused on hurricane recovery, flood protection and coastal restoration, gives her the edge.

If national and partisan themes dominate, though, and if Cassidy can tag Landrieu as a reliably liberal vote on matters where Louisiana tilts heavily conservative, the advantage shifts to him.

But just as Landrieu is seeking ways to neutralize some of her more controversial national votes — emphasizing her support for the arguably more popular expansion of Medicaid, for example, rather than President Barack’s Obama’s obviously unpopular overall health care law — Cassidy is looking to demonstrate that he can play on her home turf too.

She can always point out that she’s done more. He can counter that he hasn’t been there nearly as long.

He can say his success with the flood insurance measure, if it makes it all the way through the process, shows that he’s just as committed as she is to localized interests.

She can acknowledge that it’s nice to have an effective partner in the House, and suggest that that’s a perfectly good reason for him to stay there.

Or maybe Landrieu and Cassidy could take a time-out from politics, symbolically join hands, and talk about returning to the old days when Louisiana’s congressional delegation punched above its weight by blurring party lines and presenting a united front. They might even consider making the point by putting out a joint news release or two.

Nah. It would probably all break down over whose name would go first.

Stephanie Grace can be contacted at sgrace@theadvocate.com.