CREATIVE COMMONS/TAMMY ANTHONY BAKER
Sen. John Neely Kennedy.
Shortly after taking office in January, U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy told The New York Times
, “There’s this feeling among many in America that it’s harder than ever to get ahead in our country, that it’s easier than ever to do nothing. There’s a feeling that the people in Washington don’t listen and they don’t care. ... And they want something done about it. They’re entitled to be listened to and heard.”
We agree, which is why we’re puzzled that it’s so difficult for constituents to catch Kennedy’s ear these days. Consider this:
During Senate recesses in February and April, Kennedy held no town hall meetings in Louisiana — unlike Sen. Bill Cassidy, who met constituents (and braved some fury) in Metairie in February. Unhappy with Kennedy’s seeming unwillingness to meet the public, constituents held a protest on the steps of the Hale Boggs Federal Building in March (with Kennedy’s face on a “missing” milk carton) and another in April at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, where voters asked questions of an effigy of the senator. A similar gathering was held in Baton Rouge on the LSU campus that month.
Kennedy finally held what was called a “radio town hall”
with WWL-AM’s Garland Robinette in early May, but he has yet to meet in person with constituents and has no planned meetings on his calendar.
Unlike Cassidy (and previous Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter), Kennedy has yet to open an office in southeast Louisiana or in Baton Rouge. The closest Kennedy office to New Orleans is in Lafayette (others are in Monroe and Alexandria). Repeated inquiries to his Washington D.C. office as to when he will have a presence in southeast Louisiana have not gotten a firm response.
Kennedy’s official Senate website has no email directory of staffers — just a generic contact form.
On May 10, 11, 12, 15 and 17, Gambit
called each of Kennedy’s in-state offices during business hours — and got an answering machine in all cases.
Louisianans deserve better communication from Sen. Kennedy — and southeast Louisianans in particular deserve a better way of reaching him. After all, Kennedy received 64 percent of the vote in Jefferson Parish, 68 percent of the vote in St. Bernard Parish and 79 percent of the vote in St. Tammany Parish. Yet, voters in those parishes have to drive more than two hours to reach their senator’s nearest district office.
Yesterday, President Donald Trump unveiled his first budget (which White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney called “Trumponomics”), which proposed slashing Medicaid by more than $800 billion over the next 10 years and drastic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps). It shifts more fiscal responsibility to the states and would make it harder for workers to get disability benefits under Social Security. In other words, it would adversely affect many Louisianans.
Kennedy found time to go on Fox Business Network to praise the plan
(and say “God bless Director Mulvaney!”). We’ll see if he manages to find time in the coming months to meet constituents whose lives would be directly affected by those cuts. So far, he’s stayed away.