Friday, September 09, 2005

Unexpected Backbone

    "How can it be," she asked, "that Mr. Bill was better informed than Mr. Bush?" (US Senator Mary Landrieu on the floor of the Senate Thursday)
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    Congressional Democratic leaders said Thursday that they would not appoint members to a new House-Senate committee to investigate failures in the government response to Hurricane Katrina.

    Back From Her Vanquished City, Lawmaker Takes Senate Floor to Denounce the President"

    Ms. Landrieu, a Democrat who was nearly put out of office in 2002 after Mr. Bush campaigned intensely for her Republican opponent, had mostly held her fire against the president in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But her tone changed markedly on Thursday, with a 20-minute speech that was at turns poignant and defiant.

    "We know the president said, quote, 'I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees,' " Ms. Landrieu said. "Everybody anticipated the breach of the levee, Mr. President, including computer simulations in which this administration participated."

    The senator went on to describe how the creator of Mr. Bill, the clay figurine whose cry of "Ohh noooo!" was long a staple of "Saturday Night Live," had used the character in public service announcements to warn southern Louisianians of the dangers they would face in an extraordinary storm.

    "How can it be," she asked, "that Mr. Bill was better informed than Mr. Bush?"

    Democratic Leaders Reject G.O.P. Storm Inquiry Plan

    Congressional Democratic leaders said Thursday that they would not appoint members to a new House-Senate committee to investigate failures in the government response to Hurricane Katrina, calling instead for an independent inquiry.

    Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, her counterpart in the Senate, said they would not cooperate because the committee would be controlled by Republicans, would have uncertain authority and was created without consultation with Democrats.

    "Despite all the talk of bipartisanship," Ms. Pelosi said, "they have just on their own, unilaterally, put forth a proposal that will result in a whitewash of what is going on here." She added, "If we are ever going to truly protect the American people, now it is clear to me that we must have an outside independent commission, as we finally arrived at on 9/11."

    Mr. Reid said he would not place any Senate Democrats on the panel "as it is currently described," adding: "The only way to ensure that all levels of our government are held accountable to the people is to take this process out of the hands of politicians with a vested interest in the outcome."

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