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The Times-Picayune: On the Hill: The week in Washington reviewed

By Bruce Alpert

February 15, 2013

Kenneth Polite, Sen. Mary Landrieu's choice to replace Jim Letten as U.S. Attorney in New Orleans, is a "great guy," and a very good prosecutor, says his former supervisor at the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York City. Glen McGorty, who oversaw the narcotics division when Polite was prosecuting drug cases there, said Polite, 37, is ready to oversee the New Orleans U.S. Attorney's office - one known, like New York, for a high profile cases, most notably in the public corruption venue.

"He's really a great guy and talented lawyer who was one of the best we had in front of a jury," said McGorty, now a partner at a New York City law firm. "He left the office sooner than we had hoped because he really wanted to get back to New Orleans," McGorty said.

Landrieu, a Democrat and the state's senior senator, recommended Polite for the U.S. Attorney's job, though there's no word when President Barack Obama will announce whether he's going along with her recommendation. The process can be a long one, though Polite, a Harvard University graduate and cum laude graduate of Georgetown University Law center, has one advantage. He went through an FBI background check for his post as a New York federal prosecutor, which could shorten the process somewhat.

So far, there's been no word from Sen. David Vitter, R-La., on whether he'd support Polite's nomination.

Sequester coming, Congress gone

On March 1, the federal government is facing a sequester, automatic budget cuts in defense and domestic program that can lead to the furlough of federal employees, a disruption of services from processing income tax returns to port security, and curtailment of key defense functions. Not to mention that some economists believe it would create a huge hit on the national economy.

But any potential resolution of the upcoming crisis won't happen in the next week. Congress is off for 10 days in observance of Monday's President's Day Holiday. Of course, there are phones for potential deals to be discussed, though few are optimistic resolution of the ongoing budget dispute can be reached while Congress is away.

There's some thinking on Capitol Hill that the time away from Washington might be a good thing - after a jarring filibuster fight over the president's nomination of Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary and continued Democratic-Republican battles in the House.

It's not everyday that a member of Congress asks a government agency to slow down resolution of an issue. But that's what Sen. David Vitter, R-La., did last week in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

In the letter, Vitter expressed concern that a settlement with BP over Clean Water Act civil fines for the massive 2010 Gulf oil spill before Natural Resources Damage Assessment penalties are determined might be counterproductive.

"If BP is allowed to settle the Clean Water Act penalties prior to NRDA, the states may rush to use those long-awaited funds to commence the clean-up projects that BP has a responsibility under NRDA to restore," Vitter said in his letter. "I am concerned that BP may take advantage of the overlap of those two laws to continue intentionally slow-walked restoration efforts under NRDA."

There was no immediate comment from the Justice Department or BP.

Morial wants historic park for Harriet Tubman

National Urban League President Marc Morial joined members of Congress and other civil rights leaders Wednesday in pushing for enactment of legislation that would establish a National Historical Park for Harriet Tubman at her former home in Central New York.

The request comes on the 100th anniversary of the anti-slavery pioneer's death. Tubman was the leader of the anti-slavery resistance network known as the Underground Railroad.

"This is an idea whose time is long overdue," said Morial, the former New Orleans mayor."

"We want a vote, we want it soon and we want it be unanimous."

Landrieu presses Keystone XL Pipeline

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., joined with some of her Senate colleagues on Thursday to push President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. The president rejected the pipeline during his first term in office, but said he is willing to give it renewed consideration once a final route for the massive pipeline is worked out and officials in Nebraska, who raised objections to the original route, are on board. Nebraska officials recently announced they've worked out their conflicts with the path of the pipeline through Nebraska. It's supposed to carry natural gas obtained from the tar sands of the Canadian province of Alberta. "This pipeline is important so we can get a reliable, steady steam of oil and gas as we move to cleaner fuels in the future for our country," Landrieu said.

Landrieu said though some object to the fracking technique used to obtain the natural gas from Canada, it's not like the fuel wouldn't be collected if the United States doesn't build the pipeline."

Landrieu recounted her recent conversation with the Canadian Minister of Natural Resources. "He said, senator, Canada is going to develop this resource. It is just a question of whom we send it to or with whom we share these benefits." Landrieu said a lot of Louisiana workers would rather work on the Canadian project, rather than some of the other nations that produce oil and gas. "The people of Louisiana wish to work in Canada where there are environmental protections, where the wages are good, where there are not a lot of pirates floating around, and where workers are much less likely to be kidnapped,. I mean, these are serious issues for the oil and gas industry."

 

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