September 09, 2005

Democrats Reject Joint Congressional Inquiry on Hurricane Katrina

Reuters reports that the Democrats, who have pushed for hearings on Hurricane Katrina and the government's response to the disaster, have declined to participate in a Joint Congressional Inquiry into Hurricane Katrina:
WASHINGTON, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Democratic leaders pushing for an independent commission to investigate the government's response to Hurricane Katrina spurned on Thursday a plan by majority Republicans for a joint congressional inquiry.

House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, called the House-Senate investigation announced by Republican leaders on Wednesday a "sham" and said it would not produce an objective assessment of what went wrong in the hours and days following the storm.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada also said he would not participate in the Republican-led inquiry.
Evidently, the Democrats are concerned that the Republicans, who control Congress, would therefore control any Congressional inquiries into the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

The Democrats wanted an inquiry that would show the federal government (i.e., President Bush's administration) failed miserably in its response to Hurricane Katrina. Early on, it appeared that the federal government's slow response could easily be considered to be the culprit for the anarchy and suffering in the aftermath of Katrina. However, as more was learned of the state and local government's dismal planning and response, it is likely that any inquiry would certainly mete out blame in all directions - federal, state and local. The Republicans would likely broaden the inquiry to include the state and local government response as it was the source of the largest governmental failure. More likely than not, the Democrats are now concerned that the Republicans will highlight the failures of their fellow Democrats - Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco.

Maybe, just maybe, they actually thought through the implications of hearings. As I wrote earlier today:
More importantly, however, the two local officials, who failed most miserably in managing the evacuation and local relief operations, are Democrats. If I am a Democrat, do I really want to draw the public's attention to Governor Blanco's and Mayor Nagin's performance?? Anyone, who has any experience in politics, would tell you that the first thing that the Republicans will do in defending President Bush is to draw attention to their utter failure to evacuate New Orleans in time, conduct local relief operations and keep order. The Republicans will focus on the Governor's failure to mobilize the Louisiana National Guard, the Mayor's failure to follow the existing emergency plans, the Mayor's failure to utilize public transportation to evacuate citizens, the state representatives diversion of funds earmarked for the levies, etc.
This could easily explain the Democrat's sudden change of heart.

I am certainly not looking forward to any hearings on the issue, though I will admit that, if done right and not merely as an opportunity for politicians to grandstand, it might not be a bad idea. After all, Hurricane Katrina highlighted a major weakness in our government's ability to handle such a disaster.
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