The commissioner of internal revenue has ordered his agency to delay collecting back taxes from Hurricane Katrina victims until after the Nov. 7 elections and the holiday season, saying he did so in part to avoid negative publicity...Who might be the powerful members of Congress that rate such kid-glove treatment? Certainly not Charlie Boustany.
“We are very sensitive to political perceptions,” Mr. Everson said Wednesday, adding that he regularly discussed with his senior staff members when to take actions and make announcements in light of whether they would annoy a powerful member of Congress or get lost in the flow of news.
...four former I.R.S. commissioners, who served under presidents of both parties, said that doing so because of an election was improper and indefensible.
This fits a pattern. You might remember the issues of hurricane cleanup and the Medicare drug program. In those cases as well, people who lived in areas hit by Katrina received noticeably more sympathy and help than those hit by the more powerful Rita. In those cases as well, Congressman Boustany's response to a public outcry was to call a press conference to complain about unfair treatment and then to follow up with "strong letters" to the federal bureaucrats involved. After weeks of complaints about Katrina clean-up being 100% funded by federal dollars but Rita-hit areas being charged a co-pay that would have bankrupted Cameron and Vermilion Parishes, the state stepped up to help out. I'm not sure what makes St. Bernard better than Cameron, and high-profile complaining by our incumbent led to exactly nothing.
The Medicare drug plan for seniors deadline is following a similar trajectory. Seniors in Katrina-hit areas are being given an extension to the deadline for sign-up for the program until after the election. Seniors from Rita-hit areas are not. There is no rationale. And Boustany's response has consisted of press releases and letters to bureaucrats.
Boustany wants us to believe that he is ineffectual because he is a first-term Congressman. But freshman Charlie Melancon's district has done better. There are two differences between Melancon and Boustany and only one of them is Katrina's higher profile. The other is that Melancon is a fighter: under intense pressure to "go along" with Republican initiatives that offered half a loaf to Louisiana on issues like offshore oil revenues in trade for federal resources for his beleaguered district, Melancon fought for the full loaf. By not going along, he made his vote uncertain and the interests of his district important.
Boustany, as one of the best "rubber stamps" in a yes-man federal delegation, was a safe vote for whatever the feds suggested. (He supported the Bush agenda 94% of the time.) That "loyalty" bought him and his district little respect. Loyalty to his district, and less to his party, would have brought the needs of the 7th more attention.
Imagine what coastal Louisana could have gotten if her two freshman representatives had stood together and, in a bipartisan way, slammed FEMA, slammed the federal response and raised holy hell over the needs of the folks who were run over by the storms. They could have together refused to vote for the Bush agenda until the Bush agenda made sense for South Lousiana. That would have made news. That could have made a difference. But it would have cost Boustany with his party, so he laid low. The Republicans know he is a safe vote -- and that they don't have to respect him.
And the lack of respect shows.
We need a fighter. We need a change.