CHARLESTON, S.C. – The nation's governors are closing ranks in opposition to a proposal in Congress that would let the president take control of the National Guard in emergencies without consent of governors.
The idea, spurred by the destruction and chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina's landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi, is part of a House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act. It has not yet been agreed to by the Senate.
The measure would remove the currently required consent of governors for the federalization of the Guard, which is shared between the individual states and the federal government.
"Federalization just for the sake of federalization makes no sense," said Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, a Democrat who had rough relations with the Bush administration after the disaster last year. "You don't need federalization to get federal troops. ... Just making quick decisions can make things happen."
Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, a Republican, said "a whole bunch of governors" were opposed to the idea after the proposed change was brought up in a private lunch meeting.
Some two dozen governors met in Charleston for three days of discussions at the annual summer gathering of the National Governors Association. The association's leaders sent a formal letter of opposition to House leaders last week.
The language in the House measure would let the president take control in case of "a serious natural or manmade disaster, accident, or catastrophe," according to the NGA.
"The idea of federalizing yet another function of government in America is a, the wrong direction, and b, counterproductive," Sanford said. "The system has worked quite well, notwithstanding what went wrong with Katrina."