Gamard’s Beltway Beat

Congress is in recess this week, but plenty has happened since we went on hiatus for the Gras. As folks down in Louisiana reveled in and recovered from Carnival Season, our delegates in D.C. whirled through Russian indictments, gun policy, budget deals and border security compromise. Several immigration bills are dying in the upper chamber, but the GOP making sure constituents don’t forget their recent accomplishments — our members from home are still stalwartly celebrating the tax overhaul effects through their radio and TV interviews, social media, press releases and floor speeches.

Our Louisiana lawmakers have also been hailing the return of the coastal restoration-funding GOMESA revenue, which was erased from President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal and is back in the 2019 version. The latest proposal still makes cuts to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which some fear will stifle coastal projects.

Here’s some other congressional tidbits from up the coast:

— U.S. Sen. John Kennedy wrote to U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley about Gov. Edwards’ Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Act: “The Act is inappropriately named, in my opinion. It should be called the Louisiana Prisoner Release and Public Safety Be Damned Act.”

He keeps going: “(The governor) believes Louisiana has too many people in prison. I believe we have too many people committing crimes. He believes that many of our inmates are simply misunderstood. I believe that people must be responsible for their actions, including their crimes.” The whole letter is worth reading. In other news, the senator is still spreading the message to “stop paying dead people,” and spent some time last week praising new FEMA grants and wishing a happy 100th birthday to Bayou State-based World War II veteran Olan Wise.

— U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy proposed to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin his plan to combat cartel money laundering and using the intercepted cash to pay for the border wall. Here’s the amendment he introduced soon after, which would do just that. He’s also one of the senators urging the Social Security Administration to accept consent electronically, on top of asking the Drug Enforcement Administration for statistical information on synthetic opioids.

— Congressman Steve Scalise has been revisiting his views on gun control in the wake of the Parkland school shooting, telling Fox News’ Laura Ingraham that there is no “magic unicorn law” to stop mass shootings and that “the power of prayer is real.” For the past week, the House Majority Whip has been rallying for Republican Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte's immigration bill. The legislation is still up for a House committee vote and, according to POLITICO,“doesn't stand a chance of passing in the Senate.”

— Congressman Cedric Richmond wrote to the president demanding he “stop pitting black and brown immigrants against each other.” He called on colleagues to create a “clean DREAM Act with some border security measures attached” andnot indulge President Trump’s efforts to attack the broader legal immigration system.”

— Congressman Clay Higgins has called on Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries to create a “bounty program” for Asian Carp. He said of President Trump’s infrastructure plan, “We literally have to kick down bureaucratic walls in order to build real bridges.” His D.C. and Lafayette offices are accepting internship applications for the summer. 

— Congressman Mike Johnson, like his 1st District comrade, is defending his views on the precedent of “thoughts and prayers” after mass shootings, sharing this thinkpiece from Christianity Today. Here’s the op-ed he wrote on ensuring that “future lobbyists cannot circumvent our laws to evade public scrutiny and potentially undermine our national security,” published days before news broke that FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians for influencing the 2016 presidential election in support of the Trump campaign. Johnson is also still looking to pass his border security bill and opened up last week’s border security hearing with his reasons behind it, among them protecting wilderness areas. Here’s more of Johnson from that hearing. He's also hosting three town halls in Bossier, Union and Claiborne Parishes this week.

— Congressman Ralph Abraham has a bill to fund rural infrastructure: “No American should see brown water coming out of their faucets while the federal government is building gardens and bike trails in cities.” The newly appointed chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Oversight Subcommittee commended the potentials of blockchain at last Wednesday’s hearing.

— Congressman Garret Graves spent Valentine’s Day giving updates on his lifelong love, the coast, on Talk 107.3. He spent Friday in downtown Baton Rouge for a Lenten gumbo get-together, and took some moments on Facebook to remind teachers of the Library of Congress’ resources for Black History Month and show off one of his favorite beads this Mardi Gras season (hint: it’s political).

Speaking of Mardi Gras, we included some things you might have missed while you were on the parade route:

— Gov. Edwards criticized Kennedy’s disaster assistance proposal he drafted with Floridian U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as sub par to the similar proposal from Graves and Richmond. He also wrote the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary to “apologize” for U.S. Sen. John Kennedy’s statements on Louisiana’s criminal justice system: “As is typically the case with his criticisms, they are rooted in political posturing and can rarely be substantiated.” (The governor’s office is using that as an opportunity to remind us about its criminal justice reform video series.)

— The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee have approved three Pelican State nominees: Kurt Englehardt for the Fifth Circuit, Barry Ashe for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and Brandon Fremin as U.S. Attorney for Middle District of Louisiana. (David Joseph was nominated this week as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana.)

Graves introduced a bill that to quicken federal disaster response by letting victims to use their Congressman when seeking an agency’s help.

— Former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason gave Cassidy, Richmond and Scalise a Twitter shout-out after his namesake legislation for people with disabilities was signed into law.

Kennedy introduced a musician-friendly bill to give copyright protections to pre-1972 sound recordings: “In my opinion, music made after 1972, with the exception of Meatloaf’s work, isn’t as good as the classics anyway.”

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