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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Have Democrats Forgotten About Katrina Victims?

Now that they're no longer useful as a political football?

Obama used the phrase "Hurricane Katrina" so often during the presidential campaign that some of his followers may be excused for thinking that was his pet name for his wife Michelle.

Even the first pages of his newly unveiled White House web site declared his commitment to Katrina victims in this partisan parting shot at President Bush:

"President Obama will keep the broken promises made by President Bush to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast."
So when the "stimulus" bill was passed with new spending for everything from the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse in Nancy Pelosi's district to a high speed rail line linking Harry Reid's Las Vegas and Disneyland victims of Hurricane Katrina, used to having their hands out, might be asking: where's my pork?


Democrats strike different tone on Katrina
By BEN EVANS
Associated Press
February 19, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — The economic stimulus signed by President Barack Obama will spread billions of dollars across the country to spruce up aging roads and bridges. But there's not a dime specifically dedicated to fixing leftover damage from Hurricane Katrina.

And there's no outrage about it.

Democrats who routinely criticized President George W. Bush for not sending more money to the Gulf Coast appear to be giving Obama the benefit of the doubt in his first major spending initiative. Even the Gulf's fiercest advocates say they're happy with the stimulus package, and their states have enough money for now to address their needs.

"I'm not saying there won't be a need in the future, but right now the focus is not on more money, it's on using what we have," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who has criticized Democrats and Republicans alike over Katrina funding.

It's a significant change in tone from the Bush years, when any perceived slight of Katrina victims was met with charges that the Republican president who bungled the initial response to the disaster continued to callously ignore the Gulf's needs years later.

Just last summer, Democrats accused Bush of putting Iraq before New Orleans when he sought to block Gulf Coast reconstruction money from a $162 billion war spending bill. Bush was pilloried for not mentioning the disaster in back-to-back State of the Union addresses.
...
There was hardly a complaint as Obama and other Democratic leaders pieced together the package. Members of the all-Democratic Congressional Black Caucus, who have called Bush's Katrina funding a moral failure, said they were thrilled with the stimulus. Landrieu won several provisions that do not allocate new money but are aimed at cutting through red tape to free up existing funds.

"I think people looked at how generous Congress has been in the past," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee. "(The states) have to demonstrate that they can be good custodians of the money."

Thompson and others say new funding wasn't necessary in the stimulus largely because billions of federal dollars remain bogged down in bureaucracy or tied up in planning. As a result, they said, Katrina funding doesn't fit with the quick-spending purpose of the stimulus bill, which is aimed at kick-starting the economy.

Ironically, Bush made similar arguments in recent years as Gulf advocates latched on to nearly any legislation they could find to pursue reconstruction money. For example, he routinely argued that Katrina funding didn't belong in war spending bills and that new funding wasn't urgent because unspent billions were already in the pipeline.
So, either Democrats don't care about black people and the other victims of Hurricane Katrina or President Bush was right in insisting on a more sensible approach to funding reconstruction projects.

Which is it?

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