U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., recently visited the border fence between Mexico and the United States, coming away convinced that more resources are necessary to boost enforcement against illegal immigration.

Landrieu chairs the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, giving her a significant voice in the debate.

Though she was impressed with the 20-foot high fence, supporting resources such as lights, cameras and more people are needed, Landrieu said, terming her proposal “fence plus.”

“It was really quite an eye-opening experience,” Landrieu said. “The bottom line is the billions of dollars that we have invested to curtail illegal immigration is working. We’ve cut the number of illegal immigrants coming into our country by 60 percent.”

“It takes more than a fence. As impressive as the fence is, it can be scaled and cut through in a matter of seconds, so the combination of lights, stepped-up patrols, National Guard backup and equipment, and investment in new technologies are all critical to our southern borders,” Landrieu added. “The fence alone will not do it.”

Landrieu has criticized the House plan to cut $1.1 billion from its Homeland Security budget as detrimental to the goal. Landrieu can be expected to add what she considers necessary funding for the effort.

“We can’t scrimp on our homeland security,” she said.

Full-time Congress

U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, is trying to block President Barack Obama’s ability to make executive appointments during recess and is asking U.S. House leaders to stay in session during the breaks.

Landry has 77 freshman co-sponsors and 11 other Republican legislators petitioning House Speaker John Boehner to support the move, which would require the Senate, which confirms nominees, to be in session at least once every three days.

The “pro forma” sessions do not include votes and are held with minimum staffing and members to meet the three-day constitutional mandate. The House could force the Senate to remain in session by refusing to approve a joint resolution required for both chambers to recess.

As president, Obama is permitted to make recess appointments. Currently, dozens of Obama nominees are stalled in the Senate as Republicans try to restrain Obama policies on everything from trade to offshore drilling.

Landry has received no word from Boehner’s office on the move.

Vitter’s czar measure

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., received a vote on his measure that would have cut off funding to Obama appointed advisers, known as “czars.”

Critics such as Vitter have claimed that the appointments on key issues such as climate change skirt the Senate nomination process. “These czars have a great deal of power and authority, and I’m pleased that we got a vote to prohibit the funding so that Americans can see who in Congress shares their view that czars are outside traditional constitutional authority,” Vitter said in a statement.

Obama backers contend that former President George W. Bush had an equal number of czars. The Vitter amendment failed to get the necessary 60 votes, falling 47-51. Vitter pledged to continue to revisit the issue.

War powers debate

Debate over the nation’s involvement in Libya was hot and heavy last week in the U.S. House, where President Barack Obama’s opponents accused him of violating the War Powers Act by getting involved in military strikes in Libya without getting congressional consent.

U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, concurred that Obama was wrong in the engagement but added that the nation may not be doing enough in the effort.

“He needs to have a clear-cut mission and shouldn’t rule out boots on the ground,” Fleming said. “If you’re going to go in, go in with a full effort.”

Vitter sits on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and said the constitutional debate and vote on the matter is long overdue.

“In terms of my vote, I haven’t been convinced that we have either a compelling national interest at stake or a clear, realistic plan to replace (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi with something better and without committing boots on the ground,” Vitter said in a statement.

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