The political timing of U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, couldn’t have been better last week.

Scalise set up an event to pump gas to constituents to highlight the high cost of fuel and the need for the Obama administration to push for more oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Scalise’s stunt came on the same day Exxon Mobil announced it had discovered an estimated 700 million barrels of oil at a deepwater well whose operation had been delayed during the Obama administration drilling ban this past year.

The moratorium was put in place after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 men and resulted in a three-month discharge of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf.

Scalise and Republican members of the Louisiana House delegation have criticized the administration for issuing permits too slowly since the ban was lifted and pointed to the discovery as evidence that domestic resources are abundant.

Melancon leaves lobbying firm

Former Rep. Charles “Charlie” Melancon, D-Napoleonville, has left his job as a Washington lobbyist four months after taking the post.

Melancon, who lost a bid to unseat Sen. David Vitter, R-La., in November, took a job with the International Franchise Association as its top lobbyist.

IFA officials said this past week that Melancon left to pursue business opportunities in Washington and Louisiana, and the departure was a mutual decision.

“We are extremely grateful for Charlie’s service, counsel and leadership,” IFA President and CEO Steve Caldiera said in a statement.

Group wants BP money

The Women of the Storm stormed the email world this past week, urging 75,000 people from Gulf Coast states to contact their senators and governors to work together to devote 80 percent of BP fine money to Gulf restoration.

“We need your support!” the group formed after Hurricane Katrina said in an e-blast. “Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate and conversations about the Deepwater Horizon spill penalty dollars are going on with congressional and state leaders daily.”

“These negotiations can determine the future of the Gulf Coast,” the message said.

The Be The One! e-petition campaign has gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures since it was launched in July, group organizers said.

VA clinic updates in Louisiana

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs announced updates last week to VA clinics in Lafayette, Jennings and Lake Charles.

In Lafayette, a technical evaluation board was established to review proposals to expand the clinic.

In Jennings, a new three-year lease was awarded to the Jennings American Legion Hospital.

In Lake Charles, purchasing and contracting negotiations continue to add a new clinic.

Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, hailed the new action.

“I will continue working closely with veterans groups to ensure their needs are met,” Boustany said in a statement. “As a former heart surgeon, I understand the necessity of accessible health care.”

Disaster systems need more

In the wake of recent severe storms, including tornadoes and flooding in the South and Midwest, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., held a hearing this past week to examine the U.S. Department of Homeland Security emergency response capabilities.

Landrieu, chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has made strides in ensuring the needs of children are met.

The former chairwoman of the Senate disaster recovery subcommittee said FEMA has not completed a National Disaster Recovery Framework.

“An effective risk and preparedness assessment system is not in place and FEMA information systems remain woefully inadequate, Landrieu said.

“Despite the progress, we still have a lot to do,” Landrieu said. “FEMA has not fully institutionalized the changes mandated by the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006.”

Compiled by Gerard Shields, chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email address is GerardShields@aol.com.