Washington — Set up nicely by the morning announcement by Republican U.S. House Speaker John Boehner that he’s stepping down, Gov. Bobby Jindal ramped up his intraparty attacks on Republicans in Congress in a speech Friday to Christian right activists.
“That’s one down. That’s 434 more to go,” Jindal, a long-shot candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, said, including all House members, Republican and Democratic, in his calculation.
“Folks, it is time to fire everybody in D.C.,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got a choice between honest socialists on one side and lying conservatives on the other.”
Turning his fire on the Republican majority leader of the Senate, Jindal said, “Mitch McConnell, it is now your turn.”
That line drew heavy applause from the hundreds in Jindal’s audience at a conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. The conference, called the Values Voter Summit, is sponsored by the Family Research Council, a Christian right organization headed by former Louisiana state legislator Tony Perkins. Registrants numbered 2,500.
Jindal is one of several candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination scheduled to address the group Friday or Saturday, including billionaire developer Donald Trump, the leader in the polls; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, of Texas, Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Marco Rubio, of Florida; former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania; and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Jindal consistently ranks near the back of the field in opinion polls. With anti-establishment sentiment running strong in the Republican electorate, lifting Trump and Carson, both political newcomers, to the top of the polls, Jindal recently has ratcheted up his long-running criticism of Republicans in Congress, whom he calls “the surrender caucus” for their failure to buck Democratic President Barack Obama on issues such as the Iran nuclear deal, defunding Planned Parenthood and overturning Obama’s executive orders waiving deportation for certain undocumented immigrants.
“The surrender caucus needs to surrender their gavels,” Jindal said. “It is time to fire these clowns and get them out of the way.”
In a reinforcement of another of his recent points of emphasis in his campaign, Jindal opened his 18-minute speech with a joke about Donald Trump, claiming to find Trump’s family Bible backstage and then holding up a copy of Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal.”
“You know he hasn’t read the Bible because his name’s not in the Bible,” he said of Trump later in his presentation, repeating a line from his Sept. 10 speech in Washington in which he called Trump a narcissist and an egomaniac. He has kept it up since, going so far as to call Trump “a madman who must be stopped” in an opinion piece on the CNN website.
Near the end of his speech Friday, Jindal repeated one of his favorite lines, to an audience tailor-made for it: “The United States of America did not create religious liberty; religious liberty created the United States of America.”
U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, of Jefferson, was scheduled to speak to the conference in person Friday morning, but the upheaval tied to Boehner’s surprise announcement led him to cancel. He did address the group on video in the afternoon.
Scalise touted his record of upholding traditional marriage as a state legislator in Louisiana and pushing anti-abortion legislation as majority whip, the No. 3 post in House leadership.
“My faith is critically important to the things that I bring to my leadership in Congress,” Scalise, a Catholic, said.
Scalise is a likely candidate for the No. 2 position in the hierarchy, majority leader, if, as expected. it opens up as a result of Boehner’s departure.
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