By Jeremy Alford and Mitch Rabalais
Over the past few months, Capitol Hill has been plagued with rumors and innuendo regarding multiple investigations into President Donald Trump and related chatter about possible impeachment charges.
Speaking to LaPolitics recently, U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Jefferson Parish said that he believed that his Democratic counterparts in the House will attempt to remove Trump from office before the end of his term.
“Many have said publicly, some have pushed forward privately, but everything they’re doing shows that they are leading up to impeachment just to appease their radical left base,” he said.
The whip added that, in his view, the focus on impeachment is preventing Congress from moving forward with legislative priorities.
“When you look at what they’re spending all their days on right now, focusing on impeaching the president even though there’s no evidence to impeach. There was no collusion, but they don’t care,” Scalise said. “They’re still going down that rat hole instead of focusing on real problems like securing the border.”
Scalise also noted that he and fellow Republicans hope to see more investigations into intelligence agencies and what he views as political misuses of authority within the federal government.
“There’s going to be some investigation looking into the abuses of power within some of our intelligence agencies, and I feel it’s very important to do that because they’ve got to root out the bad apples to restore the full integrity of the FBI,” he said.
Lawmakers Offered Up Last-Minute Surprises
Before lawmakers vacated Baton Rouge to end their annual regular session, a couple of the members from the House dropped some last-minute surprises about their plans for re-election and party affiliations.
Rep. Terry Brown of Colfax shocked some of his colleagues by announcing he would not be seeking a third term this fall. “It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for me,” he said. “I’ve been gone from my house for about two years and seven months out of the last eight years working here in Baton Rouge and other areas,” he said.
Brown added, ”My wife and daughter finally asked me not to run for re-election again. It was a hard decision to make because I love what I do, and I hope that I have made a difference in people’s lives.”
He is currently one of four Independents, according to the House’s website, the other three being Reps. Roy Daryl Adams, Joe Marino and Dee Richard.
That number, however, should be five. Rep. Jim Morris of Oil City quietly switched from Republican to Independent last year, and many of his colleagues didn’t learn of the swap until session’s end, according to published reports.
Former Lawmaker Runs For Mayor-President
Former Rep. Simone Champagne told LaPolitics that she’ll run for Lafayette mayor-president this fall. She departed the lower chamber in 2014.
Champagne said that she will campaign on the idea of bringing fiscally conservative policies to City Hall.
“There is a growing anti-tax coalition in Lafayette Parish who find themselves at odds with a tax and spend government,” she said. “I want to be their voice and champion lower taxes [and make] much better use of the funds that are already there to improve drainage and roads.”
Champagne has hired consultants Chris Comeaux and Rachel Hammac to manage her efforts. The duo serves as Congressman Clay Higgins’ political gurus in Acadiana. Veteran fundraiser Sally Nungesser has also signed on to build Champagne’s war chest.
Champagne is joining a field that includes former mayoral aide Carlee Alm-LaBar, realtor Nancy Marcotte and attorney Josh Guillory, who unsuccessfully challenged Higgins last year. Current Mayor-President Joel Robideaux is declining to seek re-election.
Q&A With The House Speaker
LaPolitics: What are your thoughts and reflections as you face term limits and leave the lower chamber’s highest position behind?
Speaker Taylor Barras: It is bittersweet in a lot of ways. As frustrating and as tense as some of those debates got, I think it was important for Louisiana to have them. And kudos to the members who were willing to roll up their sleeves and try the reform or try the spending cuts. I mean, it takes that kind of debate, and you’ve got to throw it out there for it to be healthy.
But I think for all of us that are term-limited, when I look back to ‘08 and look forward, you know there was some significant education reform that was heavily debated. I was on the committee that did the ethics reform back in ‘08. I was also on the House Governmental Affairs (committee) that did redistricting in 2011.
I’ve had a pretty rich 12 years, I have to say. And to cap it off with four years as the speaker, as exciting and packed as it was, it’s tough to walk away from, I tell you. When you’ve been that deep in policy, it’s not that easy to walk away. That’s for sure. But you know, I’m looking forward to my next venture. We’ll see what that is between now and December.
Are you taking the gavel with you? Is that going to reside on your desk at IberiaBank?
Well, you know officially I serve until January 13 next year, so I’ll come back to hand the gavel over to someone. But I have a pretty packed summer and fall. I’m the chairman of the Southern Legislative Conference and I will host the regional conference in New Orleans in July. So we’ll have legislators from 15 states in New Orleans. I’m happy to serve as the host. I’ve got a couple of things, speakers conferences and things, that I need to attend in the fall. So not hanging up the gavel just yet. I won’t be presiding over a session then, but looking forward to coming back next January and seeing the new body of elected members and of course the new speaker.
What is the best piece of advice that you could offer up to the next speaker?
The qualities of the person, the character of the person, can play such a vital part of the success of their speakership. Some people can do that by being very flamboyant and very demanding. I chose the route of diplomacy and let’s get everybody around the table.
We had so many 11 pm and midnight meetings in here it wasn’t funny. If I couldn’t get the consensus, then I wanted to understand why, and I think it takes rolling up your sleeves and going through that process. If you walk away from any of that, to me, you’re doing the body an injustice. That takes a lot of hours, there’s no doubt about it.
But it’s been an incredible honor. We had some very frustrating moments, but I think in the end, we’ve made some good decisions. And there’s still some work to be done, but I think we’re beginning to see this ship turn a little bit finally.
Political History: The Shortest Session Ever
In the summer of 1959, every news outlet in Louisiana was filled with reports of the daily activities of then-Gov. Earl K. Long. Having just obtained a highly publicized release from a state mental hospital in Mandeville, Long made headlines for soon afterward cavorting with a Bourbon Street stripper, Blaze Starr, before embarking on a wild vacation in the western states.
According to historian Jack McGuire in his book, Win the Race or Die Trying: Uncle Earl’s Last Hurrah, Long had stayed in touch with legislators during his vacation, mailing his lawmakers everything from postcards to cases of cantaloupes. Some, like Sen. Sixty Rayburn of Bogalusa, even joined the governor for parts of his multi-week trip.
Long had been institutionalized during the regular session of the Legislature, which had become bogged down in a debate over voting rights and racial integration. Because the governor was out of pocket, many of his favored bills had been voted down or died in committee.
Returning to Louisiana refreshed, Long called a special session of the Legislature to enact a litany of bills that he wanted passed. Included in his call were routine measures such as taxes, higher ed and local districts. Then there was a section asking to review the statutes about the involuntary commitment of a person to a mental institution.
Legislators, meanwhile, were tired of the governor’s behavior and unenthusiastic about going into a special session with elections only a few months away. Gauging the mood of their members, Long’s floor leaders tried to have him call off the session, but the governor ignored their pleas.
When lawmakers gaveled in at 5 pm on Aug. 10, they made quick work of the session.
The House’s first order of business was to swear in a new member. As soon as that was done, another member, Rep. Ben Holt, moved to adjourn sine die.
The motion passed easily, and the Senate concurred within minutes, ending the shortest special session — about 10 minutes total — in Louisiana’s history.
They Said It
“It’s not necessarily what’s best for the state of Louisiana; a lot of times it’s best for the lobbyists who are lobbying.”
— State Rep. Terry Brown, I-Colfax, commenting on government relations
“It’s alive … I wouldn’t say it’s well. But it’s alive.”
— State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, on a sports betting bill that ultimately stalled.
“For the record, he likes real rice in his gumbo.”
— Gov. John Bel Edwards’ spokeswoman Christina Stephens, on the chief executive’s preferences, to the AP
“Some rules are made to be broken. I refuse to silence my pager. That is an actual current sign on a committee door.”
— Rep. Joe Marino, on outdated technology, on Twitter
For more Louisiana political news, visit LaPolitics.com or follow Alford and Rabalais on Twitter via @LaPoliticsNow.