U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., describes her recent disagreements with the White House and President Barack Obama as "a rough patch in our relationship ... but not a break." Landrieu was highly critical of Obama during several stages of the president's budget and tax-break negotiations with Republican leaders, though she voted last week to keep the package alive.
Landrieu says she ultimately supported the tax-cutting compromise because some provisions extend tax relief to middle-class families and small businesses and otherwise "really help low- and middle-income families." Her vote for the measure came after she criticized "the nonsensicalness and ... moral corruptness" of provisions extending Bush-era tax cuts for those making more than $1 million a year.
"This is beyond politics. This is about justice and doing what's right," Landrieu said at the time. She later said the plan amounts to "borrowing $46 billion from the poor, from the middle class, from businesses of all sizes basically to give a tax cut to families in America today that, despite the recession, are making over a million dollars."
Those comments came after strained relations between Landrieu and the White House over the president's Gulf drilling moratorium. In October, Landrieu held up Senate confirmation of Jacob "Jack" Lew as Obama's nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a key administration post, in an effort to leverage an early end to the moratorium. She withdrew her hold on Nov. 18 after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar promised her that drilling permits in the Gulf would be renewed in earnest. The moratorium was set to continue at least until Nov. 30, and many industry observers anticipated long delays in processing permits even after the moratorium was lifted.
Some observers say the White House double-crossed Landrieu when it announced drilling would not be allowed in other parts of the Gulf — a move that some saw as retaliation for Landrieu's hold on Lew's appointment. The White House also has not moved on Landrieu's suggested nominees for the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, leading those same observers to speculate about a "break" in relations between the senator and the president. — Clancy DuBos