Despite the highly charged partisan atmosphere in the nation’s capital, the only Democratic member of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation suggests the current political divide is worse in Baton Rouge than in Washington D.C.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, said he has worked closely with his GOP colleagues from Baton Rouge and New Orleans to pass legislation that has benefited the state.
In a lunchtime address to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, Richmond touched on a range of issues and struck a moderate tone with his generally conservative audience.
Right off the bat, he noted that he and Baton Rouge Congressman Garret Graves worked together to get flood recovery dollars for Louisiana. Richmond, head of the Legislative Black Caucus, also touted his close relationship with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a conservative lawmaker from Metairie and the third-ranking member of the House.
But Richmond questioned how so many of his colleagues can vote against their own self-interest. Citing President Trump’s vow to make Mexico pay for a border wall, which many in the GOP-led Congress have applauded, Richmond noted that Louisiana alone does about $5 billion worth of trade per year with Mexico and that thousands of Louisiana jobs are directly tied to Mexican trade. “We have to make sure we respect that relationship,” he said.
Among the other topics Richmond covered:
- The Louisiana Legislature, he said, is a far more partisan body than it was when he served in the state House from 2000-2010. “It’s worse today than in Washington. Ideology is really hampering progress.”
- The state’s Congressional districts will look significantly different following redistricting after the 2020 census. Richmond predicts the redistricting process to be far more contentious than in the past.
- The midterm elections, which Richmond believes could go in the Democrats’ favor, could legitimately result in his party taking control of at least one chamber of Congress. As for the presidential election in 2020, he believes there are dozens of potentially viable candidates. “Anyone living and breathing,” he said, eliciting laughs. “It’s a wide open field. But my gut tells me if (Joe) Biden decides to go then he will be a tough one to beat.”
- A compromise is possible on the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—which covers immigrant children who came to the country illegally with their parents and have grown up here—but only, said Richmond, if Republicans and Democrats stay narrowly focused on the issue of the Dreamers, as the children are known. If other immigration reform issues like chain migration cloud the debate, all bets are off.
- The Affordable Care Act, which Richmond says Democrats are unwilling to repeal. “It just makes too much sense,” he said. “But we are willing to work on it. We know it’s not perfect. But we aren’t willing to repeal.”