September 14, 2005


Bush Takes Responsibility For Failures Of Response (Jim VandeHei and Jonathan Weisman, 9/13/05, Washington Post)

Bush already has dispatched his top strategist, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and other aides to assemble ideas from agencies, conservative think tanks, GOP lawmakers and state officials to guide the rebuilding of New Orleans and relocation of flood victims. The idea, aides said, is twofold: provide a quick federal response that comports with Bush's governing philosophy, and prevent Katrina from swamping his second-term ambitions on Social Security, taxes and Middle East democracy-building.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a Bush ally, said the recovery effort provides conservatives with an unusual opportunity to test ideas that have been hard to sell on a national scope, including vouchers to cover education for dislocated students and tax incentives for business investment. "There are a whole host of ideas being looked at," Kyl said.

In what may become the next major post-Katrina policy, the White House was working yesterday to suspend wage supports for service workers in the hurricane zone as it did for construction workers on federal contracts last week, administration and congressional officials said. This possible move, described by administration officials as being under debate, already provoked preemptive Democratic protests. [...]

Behind the scenes, the president's inner circle is working with more than a dozen new task forces, run through the domestic policy counsel, to solicit ideas from federal agencies and outside groups such as the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute. Several aides said agency officials are under pressure to provide estimates of what money their agencies need, as well as ideas for solving the myriad problems the relief effort presents. Advisers have studied housing issues, for instance, trying to determine the best way to build temporary accommodations for relief workers and construction workers and avoid unintentionally encouraging people to never return.

Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua B. Bolten is overseeing the largest-ever federal expenditure on a natural disaster, but officials said he is relying on a beefed-up inspector general's office at the Department of Homeland Security to monitor how the money is spent. At a private House Republican leadership meeting yesterday, several lawmakers expressed concern about a repeat of the waste and fraud that many believe took place with the budget for rebuilding Iraq, according to a participant.

Republicans are lining up behind plans to use vouchers to help displaced students find new schools, including private ones, and a mix of vouchers and tax breaks to help flood victims pay for health care expenses, from insurance to immunization. A draft Senate GOP plan for post-Katrina policy includes both ideas, according to Republicans who have read the document.

So might an ill wind blow much good...

Chertoff delayed federal response, memo shows (Jonathan S. Landay, Alison Young and Shannon McCaffrey, 9/14/05, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

The federal official with the power to mobilize a massive federal response to Hurricane Katrina was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, not the former FEMA chief who was relieved of his duties and resigned earlier this week, federal documents reviewed by Knight Ridder show.

Even before the storm struck the Gulf Coast, Chertoff could have ordered federal agencies into action without any request from state or local officials. Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown had only limited authority to do so until about 36 hours after the storm hit, when Chertoff designated him as the "principal federal official" in charge of the storm.

As thousands of hurricane victims went without food, water and shelter in the days after Katrina's early morning Aug. 29 landfall, critics assailed Brown for being responsible for delays that might have cost hundreds of lives.

But Chertoff - not Brown - was in charge of managing the national response to a catastrophic disaster, according to the National Response Plan, the federal government's blueprint for how agencies will handle major natural disasters or terrorist incidents. An order issued by President Bush in 2003 also assigned that responsibility to the homeland security director.

But according to a memo obtained by Knight Ridder, Chertoff didn't shift that power to Brown until late afternoon or evening on Aug. 30, about 36 hours after Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Hurricane gives the President a golden opportunity to keep the Civil Service reforms he won when this bureaucratic monstrosity was created but get rid of the Department of Homeland Security

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 14, 2005 10:07 AM

The President's agenda is stalled I tell you, dead in the water, as it were. The large brained cadre can't be wrong about our being on the cusp of reanimating the uber-state. Can they? If so, I blame Kansas.

Posted by: Luciferous at September 14, 2005 11:21 AM

Hmmm. I think I read that somewhere else recently.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 14, 2005 4:02 PM

here is the question about the second article. What federal response did FEMA slow down? It seems to me that what fema does is subcontract and pass out money. They do not have a corps of search and rescue people. The coast guard, that does, were there pronto. The National Guard is under the control of the Governor.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2005 8:26 PM

Advisers have studied housing issues, for instance, trying to determine the best way to [...] avoid unintentionally encouraging people to never return.

Good idea.

Instead, let's INTENTIONALLY encourage people not to return to The City Below The Sea™.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2005 11:59 PM