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Transcript: La. Sen. David Vitter on 'FNS'

The following is a transcribed excerpt of "FOX News Sunday," Sept. 25, 2005.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: For more on Louisiana, let's turn to that state's senator, David Vitter.

And, Senator, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday." Give us an update.

SEN. DAVID VITTER, R-LA.: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: We just saw Lake Charles on the western part of the state. How badly were you hit and what are your biggest concerns?

VITTER: Right. Well, we were hit very bad in southwest Louisiana in particular. But the real story of this storm in Louisiana is coastal flooding all along our coast.

Chris, when you look at the path of the storm, you know, it didn't come in straight from the south. It, in a sense, skirted near our coast and then came in at the Louisiana-Texas border.

So we have major and significant coastal flooding literally from the Texas border on east, virtually through to Plaquemines Parish (search) near Mississippi, significant, significant coastal flooding. That's the big story from the Louisiana perspective. And of course, a big, big hit in southwest Louisiana in particular.

WALLACE: Now, did people heed the evacuation warnings, or did some of them try to ride out the storm along the coast? And are you going to have a significant and serious rescue effort?

VITTER: I think people did heed the evacuation warnings where they were concentrated in southwest Louisiana. I don't think anyone expected the extent of coastal flooding as far east as it developed.

So you have areas not only south of Lafayette but even to the east of there with significant coastal flooding — Lafitte, which is in Jefferson Parish (search) south of New Orleans. And so those areas were not fully evacuated because, again, I don't think anyone foresaw the coastal impact as far east of that.

So there are significant evacuation efforts going on right now. People aren't exactly trapped on rooftops, but there are people being brought out of areas with significant flooding.

WALLACE: In those hardest-hit areas, Senator, are we talking about days or weeks before people will be able to come back home?

VITTER: Well, in the hardest-hit area, with five feet of water or more in houses, it's probably going to be a few weeks in some of those areas. A lot of other areas that we'll drain out — and it could be days.

WALLACE: You were very critical of the federal response after Katrina. You gave FEMA an F and said that the agency had been completely dysfunctional, completely overwhelmed.

Did the federal government do a better job during Rita?

VITTER: Well, I was critical of the whole response of government, local, state and federal. I think everyone did better after Rita because of the experience of Katrina. I think everyone learned a lot.

But I think it's also a better result, quite frankly, because it's a very different storm. It's less powerful, though it was certainly a very serious hurricane nonetheless, and it didn't hit the city of New Orleans, which is a very poor city under sea level.

WALLACE: Let's talk about the other aspect of that, which is this building behind me here on Capitol Hill. How are we going to pay this very steep price tag which just got even steeper?

VITTER: Yes. Well, last week Senator Landrieu and I, with the rest of the Louisiana congressional delegation, introduced a major Katrina reconstruction package to really cover all of the major aspects of reconstruction.

Chris, I think the bottom line answer is we're not going to pay for it immediately. We're never going to find offsets to pay for all of this $200 billion, $250 billion immediately.

But we can find some immediate offsets, and certainly medium, long-term we can pay for it with those sorts of offsets, and that's what we need to do. But at the end of the day, we cannot afford not to recover and reconstruct and rebuild, because this is not some narrow parochial Louisiana matter.

This is a national priority in light of the energy situation, 20 percent of our energy needs coming from or through Louisiana, in light of commerce, maritime commerce, 85 percent of our Midwestern farmers' crops going through the ports of south Louisiana. This is a national priority.

WALLACE: Senator, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for spending time with us on a very difficult Sunday.

VITTER: Thank you, Chris.

WALLACE: And please know we're all thinking about you folks.

VITTER: Thank you very much.