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House Katrina Probe to 'Move Ahead' Without Democrats

Thursday, 22 September 2005 12:00 AM

An investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives into the government's response to Hurricane Katrina will "move ahead" even if Democrats choose not to participate, the head of the probe said Wednesday.

"This is not some partisan cover-up," Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Select Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, told reporters. "We're working for the American people, and we want the hard questions to be asked and answered."

Davis added that the probe "can't wait" for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House minority leader, who refuses to name any Democratic members to the select committee, which she has called a partisan "whitewash" and a "sham." Late Thursday afternoon, Davis released the list of 11 members of the select committee, including himself, all of whom are Republican.

"I don't want to spend a lot of time debating and arguing," said Davis, who also chairs the chamber's Government Reform Committee and its investigation of Katrina relief efforts. "At the end of the day, we must come together for good, hard fact-finding."

While noting that he hopes Pelosi "comes around," Davis stated House Democrats "could tie up the process forever, and losing time is losing information."

The Virginia Republican said he would invite Democrats from the areas affected by Katrina to the hearings. "If my neighborhood was knocked down by a hurricane, I'd want to have the opportunity to ask the right questions."

Davis, whose committee will begin hearings on the Katrina disaster Thursday, said he expects at least some congressional Democrats to attend the session on Sept. 27, when former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is slated to testify.

"I don't think the Democrats will pass up an opportunity to cross-examine" Brown, who resigned on September 12 after being removed from his Hurricane Katrina relief duties.

Discussing the work of the committee, Davis said that a "smorgasbord of things need to be ferreted out. We'll start by seeking the chronology of events."

After noting that "mistakes get made, and we're not out to demonize anybody," he added: "I don't think it is going to be pretty for anyone involved in this situation."

Davis made the remarks at a news conference held by the House Republican Conference "to address the needs and victims of Hurricane Katrina."

The main speaker at the event was Mississippi Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who said his state "bore the brunt of the worst natural disaster ever to hit the United States.

"Television does not capture the scale, the breadth, the intensity of the destruction," Barbour stated. "There are communities literally without any inhabitable structures. The size of this devastation is genuinely unprecedented in American history.

"Let me say right here that the federal government has been a good partner to us," he added. "Have they done everything perfectly? No, but neither have I. Neither has any mayor or any supervisor or any local government - but they have done so much more right than wrong."

The Republican governor was also positive about the future of his state.

"We're focused less now on relief," Barbour said. "We're deep into recovery and ready to start rebuilding. Progress is being made every day.

"Our people are upbeat and optimistic," he added. "They're not into moping or whining or into victimhood. They're self-reliant, they're resilient, and they're already rebuilding."

Barbour's attitude was echoed by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who recently toured the area devastated by Katrina.

Along with citing the "incredible job the military has done" keeping the situation under control in New Orleans, King said he was impressed by "the absolute spirit of the people" in Mississippi. "There's no one there with their head down. They're a tremendous example of the American spirit."

To help maintain that spirit, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) promised: "The House of Representatives is ready to do whatever is necessary to help people in the Gulf Coast lift themselves out of this tragedy.

"That said, we all know that we have a fiscal responsibility throughout this process," the speaker noted. "We want to make sure that taxpayer dollars are being used for their intended purposes and not being misspent."

GOP leaders in the House are "looking at all options" regarding ways to offset spending for hurricane relief, Hastert said. He also repeated a comment made by President Bush during a visit to the disaster-ravaged areas last week: "The Gulf Coast is not alone."

Copyright 2005


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An investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives into the government's response to Hurricane Katrina will "move ahead" even if Democrats choose not to participate, the head of the probe said Wednesday. "This is not some partisan cover-up," Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.),...
Thursday, 22 September 2005 12:00 AM
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