Landrieu Patriarch Talks About Family’s Political Prospects

In an interview with Moon Landrieu, the former New Orleans mayor, for Friday’s article about the fortunes of his political family business in Louisiana, the family’s patriarch weighed in on the family’s prospects. His son, Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, has a Democratic primary on Saturday and his daughter, Senator Mary Landireu, also a Democrat, is facing a grueling re-election effort later this year in increasingly Republican Louisiana.

“The fact that they are running within a year of one another is not entirely new to us, what is a little different is the nature of the opposition in Mary’s campaign at this time, which is the totally negative PAC money that has started so early to mischaracterize her,” he said, referring to a deluge of ads underwritten by the billionaire conservative activists Charles and David Koch. “Because they keep feasting on one aspect of her voting record and that is the Obamacare act.”

He acknowledged Mr. Obama’s unpopularity across the state, saying the president “has had a couple of bad moments” and fretted that it increased the degree of difficulty of his daughter’s re-election. He expressed less worry about any spillover from a rumored Republican plot to stir up anti-Landrieu sentiment among blacks in the mayor’s race into his daughter’s contest down the road.

“If you know our history on race going back to the 1960s, we have always had a very solid good relationship with the African American community,” he said. After pausing to accept a kiss from another daughter, Melanie, named after a character in Gone With the Wind, Moon shook his head. “I have at times said ‘Mary, come on home girl, there’s another life out here.’”

There is a reason politics is the life Mary and Mitch know. A half century ago, Moon stood in Ella Brennan’s kitchen and made the case to her then-husband, a political consultant, as to why he was uniquely suited to run for mayor.

“Back then the city was like a Pousse-café,” said Ms. Brennan, referring to a layered cocktail of rainbow colored alcohols. Now the 88-year-old grand dame of New Orleans restaurants and matriarch of another of the city’s great – and at times feuding – families, she added, “We felt Moon was the man who could really mix it.”

Since then, Ms. Brennan has seen the Landrieu family rise and has thrown countless parties for them at her stately Garden District home next to her famed Commander’s Palace restaurant. She has lent Mary her house for functions and seen Mitch serenade George W. Bush at a post-Katrina party and sing the Ave Maria at the funeral of Representative Lindy Boggs, her frequent Sazerac drinking buddy. (“I saw them lunching at Commander’s one day,” James Carville said of the women, “and told my daughter to go to the table and genuflect.”)

Mr. Carville has played a significant role in launching the career of the similarly bald mayor, who is a former lieutenant governor with big ambitions and possible designs on the governorship — or something more. Mitch’s father served as President Carter’s onetime housing secretary, and his supporters see a potential role in Washington for Mitch, too.

Asked if he would serve out his term if re-elected, Mitch said, “Let me answer your question for a minute.” He then spoke for 2 minutes 47 seconds about having the best job on earth, knowing who he is, catching the city from falling off a cliff, what went wrong in 1960, his “run to the fire” governing style, the new airport he was building, “the younger generation of New Orleaneans,” and “multidimensional” goals. “At the end of the day I think the future is going to win out,” Mitch concluded.

Asked again if he would serve out his term he said: “The answer is I will. Now, in politics you can never say never” and added “To speculate what could happen in Washington or not, who the heck knows! It would have to be something really really dramatic for me to interrupt.”

“Like something really good?” he was interrupted.

“Really really good,” he said. “Really good.”

That healthy sense of self also allows the mayor to say such things as “I am the symbol of New Orleans catching herself turning herself around and going in the right direction.”

But while there are indeed clear signs of progress in a city devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the mayor also still struggles with high crime rates, blight and blatant inequality. The pousse-café Ella Brennan spoke of his father stirring is still not entirely mixed. In the Tremé neighborhood just outside the French Quarter, a pink graffiti scrawl reads “School’s Out Forever” across a dilapidated junior high school’s “Have A Happy Sum er” sign. Downtown, drivers pass under yellow billboards reading “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Attendees of a mayoral forum Wednesday night in the Katrina devastated Lower Ninth Ward swerved around potholes as deep as ditches.

But electorally speaking at least, one of the kids is probably all right. At the forum, Mitch, the middle child of the Landrieu clan, sat next to a candidate who pleaded with the crowd to “Google me.” The mayor instead made his pitch for continuing to move forward as one city and noted all the federal assistance New Orleans had received during his tenure. All at once, he was campaigning for his older sister.

“We have to give credit to Senator Landrieu for this,” he said.

No Help for Farm Bill From Miffed Kansans in the House

Few states are as identified with farming as Kansas. Among its nicknames are the “The Wheat State” and “American’s Bread Basket.” And Kansas’s lawmakers are quick to point out the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy.

But when a new five-year farm bill, which authorizes nearly $1 trillion in spending on farm and nutrition programs, came up for a vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, the entire Kansas congressional delegation voted against it.

It was the first time that all members of the state’s delegation has voted against a farm bill, according to a review of congressional votes by The New York Times dating from the 1950s.

For many farmers in Kansas, which is heavily dependent on agriculture — it ranks seventh in farm production — the vote was a surprise.

‘We were really disappointed that they didn’t vote with us,” said Steve Baccus, president of the Kansas Farm Bureau, which represents the state’s farmers. “There were lots of things that we didn’t like in the bill, but after suffering through the worst drought in 50 years in 2012 and with the 2008 farm bill expired, we supported getting something done.”

Mr. Baccus, a fourth-generation farmer from Minneapolis, Kan., who grows wheat, corn and soybeans, said his group tried to lobby the state’s congressional delegation in support of the bill, even if they were opposed to some of the provisions contained in it.

“We felt like this was the best shot of getting something passed in this political environment,” he said. “But I guess for many of them the cons outweighed the pros.”

In statements issued after the farm bill vote, members of the Kansas delegation, all Republicans, said that they supported farming and realized the importance of agriculture to the state, but that they could not get past the bill’s flaws.

For Representative Tim Huelskamp, a fifth-generation farmer who represents the state’s First Congressional District, which is top in the nation for agriculture products sold, it was spending on the food stamp program that was first on his lists of concerns.

“This program is in desperate need of reform, and yet this bill makes only nominal changes,” he said. “Instead of status quo in this, the fastest-growing welfare program in the entire government, we should have taken the opportunity to provide meaningful work reform requirements, especially for able-bodied adults, as we passed in the U.S. House.”

Representative Lynn Jenkins, who represents the Second District, said she voted against the bill because it cost too much and failed to achieve regulatory reform for farmers.

One of her main concerns: a new $20 million catfish inspection office at the Agriculture Department that has been the source of criticism by a number of lawmakers because it duplicates a cheaper existing inspection office at the Food and Drug Administration. Critics said the office, created in the 2008 farm bill at the request of Southern lawmakers from catfish-producing states, was created to keep out catfish from countries such as Vietnam, a potential violation of international trade laws.

Representative Mike Pompeo, from the state’s Fourth District, said his no vote was a result of his opposition to provisions in the new farm bill that would create trade and regulatory burdens for the state’s livestock producers. Meat and poultry producers are opposed to language that requires retailers to list the country of origin of meat.

“Last year I voted in favor of a farm bill that was not perfect, but a step forward,” Mr. Pompeo said. “Voting against this bill was not a easy decision, but I believe it reflects a step backwards to the old Washington of pet projects, reckless spending and harmful regulation.”

Representative Kevin Yoder, from the Third District, did not say why he opposed the bill.

In the end, the Kansas delegation vote did little to affect the outcome of the farm bill’s passage. It passed comfortably, 251 to 166.

Mr. Baccus said farmers held no ill will toward the delegation.

“It was a difference of opinion on this one piece of legislation,” he said. “We will still work with them to promote the interest of the state’s farmers.”

Applaud, Tweet and Repeat at the State of the Union

Immediately after a president’s State of the Union address is delivered, news organizations frequently seek to answer a question: How many times did members of Congress stand and applaud? In this era when social media has become an important arena for politics, and in some ways eclipses the statements and interviews representatives and senators issue after an address like the State of the Union, another question may be more important: How many tweets did members of Congress send during the speech?

During Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, representatives and senators – or members of their staffs – were busy responding to every word coming out of President Obama’s mouth. Members of Congress sent just under 1,500 tweets during the president’s address. While only drops in the bucket compared with the millions of tweets sent about the address by viewers all over the world, the level of activity illustrates how Mr. Obama’s immediate audience was reacting to what he said in real time.

The number of tweets sent by members of Congress in five-minute increments during the 2014 State of the Union address. Seen.coThe number of tweets sent by members of Congress in five-minute increments during the 2014 State of the Union address, starting at 9 p.m. ET.

The New York Times worked with Seen, a company that produces social summaries of live events, to collect tweets sent from official House and Senate member accounts starting from around the time Mr. Obama entered the House chamber until just after he finished speaking. The collections of members’ Twitter accounts were taken from the lists maintained by the official Twitter accounts of the House Democrats, House Republicans, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans.

As would be expected, more tweets were sent by the hundreds of members of the House of Representatives than came from the much smaller number of senators. But perhaps reflecting the Senate’s traditions of decorum, the volume of tweets was skewed well in favor of the House’s members, with only about 120 tweets being written by senators of either party.

And even among representatives, there was a skew toward the Republican majority of the chamber. Over 900 of the total tweets were written by members of the House.

Of course if members of Congress and their staffs couldn’t give their fingers a rest as they listened to President Obama, they weren’t the only branch of government working on overdrive during the speech. The White House Twitter account sent about 150 tweets during the speech from start to finish, to say nothing of all the White House’s related Twitter accounts. Considering the deluge from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the flood from the legislative branch was just one stream of political communication converging with another. And if everyone walked and talked in the capital city of Aaron Sorkin’s TV fantasy, the Washington of 2014 may be a place where everyone is sitting and tweeting.

So what were members of Congress tweeting about? In some cases, they were very forthright in acknowledging that members of their staffs would be writing the tweets:

Excited for the #SOTU! My staff will begin live-tweeting once it begins, so stay tuned

— Rep. Mike Honda (@RepMikeHonda) 29 Jan 14

But in other cases, abbreviation of language created the impression it really was the members tweeting themselves, and not their staffs from another location:

Small biz shouldn’t face lawsuits 4 using products simply bought off the shelf. Let’s help manuf protct customers #stoppatenttrolls #SOTU  

— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) 29 Jan 14

House Republicans tweeted at a high volume starting at approximately 9:20 p.m. Eastern, contesting President Obama’s pledges to enact his economic agenda without Congress’s approval:

It’s time the President started working with Congress and not around us. #SOTU

— Ann Wagner (@RepAnnWagner) 29 Jan 14

Obama: “I will take steps without legislation.”

Your oath of office says no.


— Rep. Steve Stockman (@SteveWorks4You) 29 Jan 14

And House Democrats began responding approvingly to President Obama in large numbers around the time he discussed equal pay for women:

Women make only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong @BarackObama, and in 2014, you are right, it’s an embarrassment. #SOTU

— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) 29 Jan 14

We must #RaiseTheWage for: #women, who make up a disproportionate share of #minimumwage workers #TimeFor1010 #SOTU

— Rep.George Miller (@askgeorge) 29 Jan 14

But when all the political chatter was finished, maybe some members of Congress just wanted to send their constituents a selfie:

Joining my Republican colleague & friend @LisaMurkowski & @RonWyden to #SitTogether at #SOTU. #Bipartisanship

— Mark Udall (@MarkUdall) 29 Jan 14

Live Coverage of Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address

President Obama delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday night, and Times reporters and editors are providing analysis during the speech.

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5:26 P.M. Obama to Press Past Congress on Minimum Wage

President Obama plans to sign an executive order requiring that janitors, construction workers and others working for federal contractors be paid at least $10.10 an hour in the future, using his own power to enact a more limited version of a policy that he has yet to push through Congress.

The order, which Mr. Obama will highlight in his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday night, is meant to underscore an increased willingness by the president to bypass Congress if lawmakers continue to resist his agenda, aides said. After a year in which most of his legislative priorities went nowhere, Mr. Obama is seeking ways to make progress despite a lack of cooperation on Capitol Hill.

The minimum wage plan provides an example of what he has in mind. Mr. Obama called on Congress during last year’s State of the Union address to raise the minimum wage for workers across the board, only to watch the proposal languish on Capitol Hill, where opponents argued that it would hurt businesses and stifle job creation. With prospects for congressional action still slim, Mr. Obama is using the executive order covering federal contractors to go as far as he can on his own.

Read more

— Peter Baker

How Would You Describe the State of the Union?

President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address to members of Congress and the American people Tuesday night. Times reporters and editors will provide analysis of the speech as it is delivered, but before the president speaks, we’d like to hear from you.

Peter Baker previewed the speech this weekend, noting that the president is likely to outline a modest agenda for 2014. We would like to know if you think the country’s current circumstances match Mr. Obama’s scaled-back ambitions.

How would you describe the current state of our union? Please share your opinion with us on Twitter by adding the hashtag #TellNYT to your tweet. We’ll collect some of the best responses and feature them ahead of our live coverage of the speech.

Lawmakers Go on the Record for Clinton

On Monday, Hillary Rodham Clinton again said she had not yet decided whether she would run for president in 2016. That has not stopped the Democratic Party from coalescing around her.

A new survey conducted by The Hill found that 56 Democratic lawmakers said they would support Mrs. Clinton in 2016. The list, released early Tuesday, included 22 congressional Democrats who had already publicly endorsed the former first lady, and 34 other Democrats who told The Hill that they, too, would support her.

The wave of early enthusiasm not only signals an interest in electing Mrs. Clinton as the party’s nominee, but also reinforces the somewhat limited landscape on the Democratic side should she choose not to run.

Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, said he would back Mrs. Clinton, even though the governor of his state, Martin O’Malley, is a potential opponent of hers. In November, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York endorsed Mrs. Clinton in a speech in Iowa; Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York has also been floated as a potential 2016 candidate.

Also on the list of supporters is Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has gained popularity among some Democrats who would like her to represent the more progressive side of the party in 2016.

The early endorsements could come as a mixed blessing to the Clinton operation, which will need to tamp down the image of inevitability that impeded Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008. Eleven of the lawmakers surveyed by The Hill, including Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, endorsed Barack Obama over Mrs. Clinton that year.

The Hill spoke to each lawmaker twice to ask whether they would support Mrs. Clinton. A majority of those questioned did not respond or declined to comment. Below is the complete list of Clinton supporters surveyed:

Senators who back Clinton (18):

Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin
Barbara Boxer, California
Maria Cantwell, Washington
Dianne Feinstein, California
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York
Kay Hagan, North Carolina
Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota
Mazie K. Hirono, Hawaii
Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota
Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana
Claire McCaskill, Missouri
Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland
Patty Murray, Washington
Charles E. Schumer, New York
Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire
Debbie Stabenow, Michigan
Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts
Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island

House members who back Mrs. Clinton (38):
Robert E. Andrews, New Jersey
Timothy H. Bishop, New York
David Cicilline, Rhode Island
Joaquin Castro, Texas
Danny K. Davis, Illinois
John Delaney, Maryland
Lois Frankel, Florida
Gene Green, Texas
Raul M. Grijalva, Arizona
Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois
Janice Hahn, California
Colleen Hanabusa, Hawaii
Alcee L. Hastings, Florida
Brian Higgins, New York
Michael M. Honda, California
Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland
Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas
Hank Johnson, Georgia
Jim Langevin, Rhode Island
Sander M. Levin, Michigan
John Lewis, Georgia
Stephen F. Lynch, Massachusetts
Carolyn B. Maloney, New York
Doris Matsui, California
Gregory W. Meeks, New York
Grace Meng, New York
James P. Moran, Virginia
Richard E. Neal, Massachusetts
Chellie Pingree, Maine
Cedric L. Richmond, Louisiana
Tim Ryan, Ohio
Jan Schakowsky, Illinois
Allyson Y. Schwartz, Pennsylvania
David Scott, Georgia
Terri A. Sewell, Alabama
Louise M. Slaughter, New York
Dina Titus, Nevada
Frederica S. Wilson, Florida

Sunday Breakfast Menu, Jan. 26

Sunday's Breakfast MenuStephen Crowley/The New York Times

President Obama will deliver his sixth State of the Union address on Tuesday, most likely tackling agenda-setting topics for 2014, like income inequality and immigration. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican of Washington, will give the official Republican response following the president’s speech. Senators Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, and Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, will each give their own rebuttals.

Mr. Obama’s surrogates will be making the rounds on the Sunday news shows to give a preview of his comments. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, will go on ABC’s “This Week” and Univision’s “Al Punto” to give insights on the speech.

Dan Pfeiffer, a senior White House adviser, will appear on both CNN’s “State of the Union” and “Fox News Sunday.” Even the White House Instagram feed got a State of the Union makeover, courtesy of Valerie B. Jarrett, another senior adviser.

Republicans will also be giving the rundown on their likely take Sunday. Mr. Paul will preview his response on CNN, while Senator Ted Cruz of Texas will appear on CBS’s “Face the Nation” to discuss the State of the Union. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who spoke this week about outmaneuvering the Tea Party, will also appear on the program. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Paul will appear again, joined by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois.

In two weeks, the Winter Olympics kick off in Sochi, Russia, but two terrorists attacks in Russia last December have sparked concerns about security. The Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak, will speak with CNN about how American and other athletes will be kept safe at the Games. On NBC, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will also talk about safety at the Olympics.

Representative Michael T. McCaul, Republican of Texas and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, has just returned from a trip to Sochi and will discuss his impressions on CBS. Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, will also talk about security threats at the Olympics on ABC.

In looking ahead to 2014, the House minority whip, Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, and the deputy majority whip, Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, will debate what Congress can get done this year on CNN.

Back on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, will discuss the Republican strategy for the midterm elections. Mr. McConnell is also up for re-election this year.

On CSPAN’s “Newsmakers,”  Tony Perkins, the head of the conservative Family Research Council, will discuss the anti-abortion rally, March for Life, in Washington this week and the Republican National Committee annual winter meeting.

The Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates will share his opinions on the National Security Agency’s spying programs and on immigration policy on Univision’s “Al Punto.” The show airs at 10 a.m. Eastern.

On Bloomberg’s “Political Capital,” former Senator Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota, and former Representative Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia, also discussed likely topics for the State of the Union address and the upcoming midterm elections. The show aired on Friday, and repeats through the weekend.

Hispanic Groups Start $5 Million Voter Registration Drive

WASHINGTON — The nation’s largest Hispanic group kicked off an effort on Thursday to register a quarter of a million new Hispanic voters by the midterm elections in November.

Officials at the group, the National Council of La Raza, said they planned to spend $5 million in tangent with Mi Familia Vota, a nonpartisan voter education organization, to target eligible voters.

The announcement comes shortly before House Republicans are to reopen discussions about an overhaul of immigration laws at their annual retreat next week. Gary Segura, a co-founder of the polling firm Latino Decisions, said that if Republicans eased their opposition to immigration changes, the decision could improve their electoral chances.

“The Republicans have a great deal to gain in terms of brand improvement and in terms of essentially demobilizing virulent opposition built around the supposition that they are the impediment to immigration reform,” Mr. Segura said.

Clarissa Martínez de Castro, La Raza’s director of immigration and civic engagement, said Democrats needed to hone their message, too. “I think it’s clear that Democrats need to demonstrate that they can actually deliver on promises made, and that it’s clear that voters need something to vote for, not just something to vote against,” she said.

About 39 percent of Hispanics said that Republicans care “some” or “a lot” about their community’s concerns, according to a recent Pew Research study. About 72 percent of Hispanics said the same of Democrats.

To reach their voter registration goal, La Raza and Mi Familia Vota will mail voter registration materials to more than 2.5 million Latinos in seven states — Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah — and will make follow-up calls.

The groups will also expand existing registration efforts in California and Florida, although officials did not detail that plan on Thursday.

La Raza has already raised $3 million from private foundations toward the $5 million effort, which Janet Murguía, the group’s president, said was a sign that donors recognize the importance of getting an early start on voter registration drives.

Last year, the Senate passed a bipartisan measure to overhaul immigration laws, and Ben Monterosso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, said he hoped the new campaign would spur the House to act.

“We expect that the House of Representatives also gets the message and do their jobs, or else our community in November is going to go out to vote con más ganas — with more effort — to make sure that our interests are being taken care of,” he said.

McMorris Rodgers to Deliver Republican Response to State of the Union

Republicans have selected their official responder to President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night: Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a member of the party leadership from Washington State.

The choice of Ms. McMorris Rodgers — who even as the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress is not well known nationally — gives Republicans a fresh face to deliver the party’s rebuttal to the president at a time when the G.O.P. has struggled with its perception among female voters.

In years past, both parties have alternated between governors and members of Congress to deliver the official response. This is the second year in a row Republicans have chosen someone from Capitol Hill, leaving out rising party stars like Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin or Susana Martinez of New Mexico. Last year Senator Marco Rubio of Florida delivered the response.

John A. Boehner, the House speaker, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, made the announcement jointly on Thursday.

“Cathy will share our vision for a better America built on a thriving middle class, guided by a fierce belief in life and liberty, and grounded in greater trust between citizens and their government,” Mr. Boehner said.

Administration Is Finalizing Budget

President Obama will send his annual budget to Congress on March 4, about a month late because of lawmakers’ tardy agreement on the current fiscal year’s federal spending.

“Now that Congress has finished its work on this year’s appropriations, the administration is able to finalize next year’s budget,” Steve Posner, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, said on Thursday. “We are moving to complete the budget as quickly as possible to help Congress return to regular order in the annual budget process.”

Congress reached a bipartisan budget deal in late December, nearly three months after the 2014 fiscal year began on Oct. 1. Only then was it able to agree to specific spending levels for domestic and military programs, which it did last week. Without final figures, the president’s budget office could not complete his multivolume submission for the 2015 fiscal year.

Last year, Mr. Obama’s budget arrived even later, in early April, because a fiscal fight between him and Congress delayed final action into January. Presidents are supposed to submit budgets in early February, but are often late.

In March, Congress begins its own budget-writing process, taking some of a president’s proposals into consideration and ignoring many of them, regardless of party.