by Kevin Allman
Though the leaked draft of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address made no mention of the Gulf oil disaster (which Obama himself had called "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced" last June), neither Sen. Mary Landrieu and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu were impolite enough to point out that rather glaring omission.
Sen. Landrieu's statement began with a complaint about the foot-dragging on Gulf drilling, while Mayor Landrieu focused on education and social issues. Below the jump: both their statements in toto.
“In Louisiana, one of the most decisive steps we can take to put people back to work is to start again issuing permits for deepwater oil and gas drilling. Since the administration imposed the moratorium in May, five of the 33 deepwater platforms then operating in the Gulf have left for other parts of the world, putting the squeeze on supply and service providers and costing Louisiana and the Gulf Coast nearly 5,000 jobs. Since the administration lifted the moratorium in November, not a single new deepwater permit has been issued, leaving a large and significant segment of the oil and gas industry idle, even as gasoline prices continue to soar above three dollars a gallon as demand outpaces supply. If the president is serious about jumpstarting the economy and putting America back to work, taking immediate action to revive deepwater oil and gas drilling is an excellent place to start.
“I applaud the commitment the president made to fiscal responsibility tonight. When hard-working Louisianians everywhere from Lake Providence to Lake Charles and from Shreveport to Port Sulphur sit down and plan out their budget, they have to find a way to make ends meet. The federal government needs to do the same. We can’t continue to heap trillions of dollars of debt onto our children and grandchildren, without suffering severe consequences. It is up to all of us who have been sent to Washington to work together in a bipartisan fashion to get the Federal Government’s fiscal house in order. To do that, we must take a hard look at our tax code and our spending priorities and make government smarter, smaller and more entrepreneurial.
“I also applaud the commitment the president made tonight on education reform. We have outstanding opportunities in the 112th Congress to make further progress raising academic achievement and making schools the proud centerpiece of community activity. Those opportunities include reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, which President George W. Bush first signed into law nine years ago. New Orleans and many parts of Louisiana are leading the nation with extraordinary new charter schools that challenge kids to reach higher levels of success in the classroom. In Education Week’s just-released “Quality Counts” report, Louisiana ranks 21st out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia for education performance and policymaking. That’s an impressive jump from 2009, when it ranked 35th in the country. Louisiana scored an “A” for Standards, Assess, and Accountability, a “B” for teaching, and, for the first time in four years, Louisiana’s overall grade improved from “C” to “C+”, outperforming the national average of C. I’m proud to say that kind of improvement can serve as a model for the rest of the nation as we work across the aisle to improve our schools.
“Tonight, the president reiterated the need to stay the course on health care reform. I strongly agree with the president that repealing the entirety of the health care reform law is not an option. While the health care reform law is not perfect, it does provide critical protections for Louisiana residents. Thanks to the law: two-million Louisianians with pre-existing conditions will no longer be subject to abrupt termination of their health insurance coverage when they need it the most; more than 25,000 young adults in Louisiana between the ages of 18 and 26 are now able to stay on their parents’ health insurance policies as they struggle to start a career in this tough job market; and up to 59,700 small businesses in Louisiana now have access to tax credits helping them afford health insurance for their employees. Repealing health care would increase the federal deficit by $230 billion over the next ten years, a price tag that we can ill-afford as we work to bring spending under control. I am always open to better ideas. In fact, I intend to co-sponsor a measure being proposed by Senator Ron Wyden to allow states to innovate. That bill would move up a provision in the new law from 2017 to 2014 that allows states to waive the requirements of the health care reform law if their own proposal could cover the same number of people, ensure the same consumer protections and keep costs within budget. I was also the first in the Senate to hold a hearing about the problems that the 1099 reporting provisions would cause small businesses. Working together, we can preserve the necessary components of health care reform while looking for ways to improve it. Now is the time to solve problems, not stage political theater.
“President Obama set forth a challenge tonight for all of us, and we must be prepared to rise up and meet it. We cannot afford to let 2011 fall victim to the same petty, partisan squabbles that plagued us much of the past two years. The challenges facing our country are too big and the consequences of failure too great to allow these deep divisions to stand in our way.”
“Last week, when I met with President Obama, he committed to create jobs by making smart investments in infrastructure, education, and innovation. Tonight, President Obama demonstrated that he clearly understands the needs of the American people and specifically those of us in cities across our country. President Obama understands like I do that a leaner, more efficient government doesn’t mean cutting at any cost. We cannot cut our way to excellence. We must cut smart, reorganize, and invest for the future.
“This is not only about creating better communities today but also for future generations. Tonight, President Obama laid out a plan to win by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world. No where is the battle for the future of America more evident than here in New Orleans—the most immediate laboratory for change and innovation in our country. With President Obama as a key partner, we are transforming our infrastructure, schools, housing and health care system, and in the process, we are creating a more robust economy.
“I look forward to working with the President as we rebuild New Orleans and create a blue print for urban renewal across America.”