Catholic Bishops, including New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, say a federal ruling that will require religious-affiliated employers — hospitals and colleges but not places of worship — to provide employee insurance that includes contraception is “an unprecedented attack on our religious liberty, which is a founding principle of our nation.” (Interestingly, here in New Orleans, the Catholic Loyola University now offers contraceptive coverage in its employee health insurance plan, according to the benefits handbook posted on its human resources web page.)
Their parishioners, however, feel differently, at least according to survey results released today by the Public Religion Research Institute. 55 percent of total respondents — and 58 percent of Catholic respondents — told PRRI they believed that employers should provide contraception coverage. When it comes to religiously affiliated hospitals and schools, only 49 percent of total respondents felt the same way. Among Catholics, however, 52 percent again said they felt those institutions should be required to cover birth control as part of their employee insurance.
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (a Catholic) has signed on as a cosponsor of a bill, filed by (Catholic) Florida Republican Marco Rubio, that would extend conscience based exemptions to the requirement to any employer, not just religious institutions. Vitter didn't respond to Gambit's request for comment on the issue.
But here's what (Catholic) Sen. Mary Landrieu had to say:
“According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 87 percent of Louisiana women of all faiths have used preventive birth control methods — including preventive birth control medication — at some point in their child-bearing years. It is important that these women continue to have access to affordable, preventive birth control under a doctor’s supervision. Equally important, I am sensitive to the position and beliefs of the Catholic Church on this issue. I am taking this issue under advisement, and will be open to views from a wide variety of organizations and individuals.”
Following a weekend at the Monster Jam and a live-tweet sesh (both the Grave Digger's paint job and the Robosaurus were "awesome"), Sen. David Vitter appeared on this morning's edition of CNN's Early Start. Host Ashleigh Banfield diverted from discussing the Republican primaries and brought up Vitter's issues with prostitution in 2007.
Banfield had a long wind-up pitch: "I know coming on TV with me today, you had to know that this question was coming, so, and it's awkward for me to even ask it, but I gotta, and I think you know where I'm going with this..." To which a mildly confused Vitter replied, "I don't, but go ahead."
Banfield asked Vitter to compare his prostitution scandal to Republican presidential nominee Newt Gingrich's infidelities, and "what it is like to be a politician who has some serious baggage trying to be elected."
"The good news is, in America, it's not up to CNN," Vitter said. "It's up to voters." Vitter said what voters will focus their attention on is a tanking economy.
Banfield asked again if Vitter can compare his past "serious sin" to Gingrich's in their respective election cycles. "No I can't," he said, and awkward pauses follow.
Lieutenant governor hopeful Billy Nungesser and his Senate champion, David Vitter, are planning a seven-city blitz of the state that will take them from Shreveport and Monroe all the way down to New Orleans in 10 1/2 hours. The duo (along with entertainer and former lieutenant governor candidate Sammy Kershaw) will begin at 8 a.m. in Shreveport ("Corner of Bert Kouns and Youree Dr. [look for the giant elephant with Nungesser signs on it]") before hitting Monroe, Alexandria, Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge and finally "New Orleans" (actually, Metairie).
(Interestingly, both the Monroe and Baton Rouge stops have the instruction: "Look for the statue of Drew Brees." Huh? There's a statue of #9 in Monroe??? A quick call to the campaign cleared it up: Nungesser, Vitter, Kershaw, et al. will be traveling with a Drew Brees statue. No word on whether the "statue" is an inflatable, or one of those car-dealership giant stick figures that flails around due to a fan at the bottom. Also no word as to what the steadfastly non-political Mr. Brees thinks of all this; to my knowledge, he hasn't endorsed anything more controversial than NyQuil.)
It's an ambitious schedule, particularly in regards to Baton Rouge, where the meet-and-greet is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m., meaning they'll hit Red Stick rush hour traffic on their way to Metairie.
Full schedule and details under the jump.
When Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, was denied last month from meeting with officials from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), he said the agency was acting "like the CIA and the Gestapo." He later defended his choice of words, and today, Landry, along with U.S. Sen. David Vitter, got that meeting — an almost two-hour long discussion at the agency's office in Elmwood.
Following the morning meeting with BOEMRE officials (including director Michael Bromwich), Landry and Vitter set up a press announcement outside the building, with a podium and placards dramatically illustrating the economic impact of denied oil drilling permits. Landry and Vitter both agree that getting those permits (and the hundreds of jobs they'll create) is pivotal for creating more jobs and alleviating a federal deficit.
"The purpose of this meeting is to make sure the information given to us in Washington is the same going on here as well," Landry said. "And how we as legislators can help to address the lack of permitting going on in the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon incident. We hope it’s a step in the right direction to getting the Gulf back up and running and people back to work."
Vitter, a regular Landry supporter and political partner, said the meeting was an attempt to "bridge a huge gap in terms of the reality we live in and feel every day along the Gulf coast in terms of our energy industry, and what our administration led by first the president of course and Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, and Michael Bromwich, who was in the meeting today, keep talking about." Vitter pointed to a chart that referenced the election of President Barack Obama and hiring of Salazar — a red arrow dropped from nearly $20 billion in federal revenue in 2008 to zero by 2011. Another chart showed oil lease sale revenue collapse from nearly $10 billion in 2008 to zero by 2011. A map showed oil leases fleeing the Gulf to a dozen other countries. "These are great American jobs we need to preserve and build here," Vitter said. "As these two charts illustrate, it’s major revenue for the federal government to help with lessening deficit and debt. (It's the) second biggest source of revenue (for) the federal government after only federal income tax."
But the meeting wasn't that productive. Vitter said Bromwich wasn't ready to respond to a list of questions about permitting, and the pair did not address securing environmental protection and fishing jobs in the Gulf. (Landry later told Gambit, when asked how to ensure both a speedy permitting process and environmental health, "The first thing I want to ensure is everybody has a job.")
In July, a bipartisan group of Gulf Coast senators introduced the RESTORE Act, which, they promised, would ensure 80 percent of the fines BP incurs from Clean Water Act violations for the Gulf oil disaster would be divvied among states on the Gulf Coast — rather than the feds.
The act passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and now makes its way to the Senate floor.
"This is the most important step Congress can take to ensure that the Gulf Coast recovers from the economic and ecological destruction caused by the oil spill,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu in a statement. “By directing BP penalty money back to the states that are dealing with the clean-up and restoration from this devastating spill, we help ensure that the Gulf Coast continues to thrive for decades to come." Landrieu also thanked Sen. David Vitter, who co-sponsored the bill.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, defended his statement that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) is "like the CIA and the Gestapo" when he wasn't able to meet with BOEMRE staff to discuss stalled drilling permits. He defended his choice of words to Politico:
I mean at the end of the day it's a term referencing how the actions are being out there. ... I mean I'm not going to get into this political niceness. You know, it's a fact. The man is not allowing U.S. congressmen to visit their offices. There's something wrong with that. ... The people in my district are suffering down there. I've got no apologies, if anything (BOEMRE director Michael Bromwich) owes me and the people in my district an apology. ...It is what's wrong with Washington in the federal bureaucracy. We — the people of my district along with every other United States citizen — pays their check. It isn't the other way around. No apologies."
In a letter to Landry, Bromwich was none too pleased with being compared to a Nazi: "Your comparison of the minor inconvenience you experienced to the tactics and methods of the Nazi secret police is simply unacceptable from anyone, but especially from a public official.”
Godwin's law states that any discussion or argument ultimately will reduce itself to "Well, you're a Nazi," or, "Well, that makes you Hitler." Apparently we've reached that point in the drilling debate.
Last October, after he placed third in the primary race for lieutenant governor, entertainer Sammy Kershaw threw his support behind Jay Dardenne, the first-place finisher, rather than Caroline Fayard, the Democrat who placed a close second.
That was last year. Today, Billy Nungesser — Dardenne's primary challenger in the lieutenant governor's race — announced he received Kershaw's support this time around. Check the video:
Last week, another 2010 LG candidate, St. Tammany Parish president Kevin Davis, endorsed Nungesser, and earlier this month Nungesser earned the support of Sen. David Vitter.
Sen. David Vitter's political reinvention from Family Values Crusader (d. 2007) to The Anti-Obama (2007-current) has served him well with his voting base: conservative Louisianans and Tea Party types. It hasn't always played well with the public at large (not that he particularly cares), but this week's anti-Obama stunt — proclaiming his intention to skip the president's jobs speech in favor of the Saints season opener, then being publicly truculent when Sen. Harry Reid pulled the rug out from under him — has earned him some unfavorable headlines far beyond the usual sphere of progressive and Democratic websites. Let's review:
Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson blasted Vitter for his remarks on Thursday, calling it "a sad commentary on the state of the Republican Party when a Republican senator whines about having to show a modicum of respect to the President of the United States, and do the job his constituents hired him - and are paying him - to do."
Jentleson argued that, in light of the sacrifices Americans are being forced to make in the face of a bad economy, "it's not too much to ask Senator Vitter to sacrifice a few hours on his couch at home to vote on a bill that will create jobs and spur small-business entrepreneur ship by streamlining our patent system."
"I'm sure he has a television in his office as well," he added.
Shame on you, Harry Reid, forcing David Vitter to act like a senator when it's clearly against his nature.
Philadelphia magazine: "ASS**** OF THE DAY: SENATOR DAVID VITTER"
I don't think the missing asterisks spell "ASSET," so that one will have to go below the jump. Plus: Jeff Crouere of BayouBuzz jumps to Vitter's defense ...
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