BATON ROUGE, La. – Gov. Kathleen Blanco is calling for a congressional investigation into the federal response to Hurricane Katrina in light of last week's remarks by a former federal official who said party politics influenced White House decisions on the storm.
Former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Mike Brown, speaking at the Metropolitan College of New York on Friday, said he had recommended to President Bush that all 90,000 square miles along the Gulf Coast affected by Katrina be federalized — a term Brown explained as placing the federal government in charge of all agencies responding to the disaster.
Brown said some at the White House wanted to federalize Louisiana because it had a female Democratic governor, but not Mississippi, where Republican Haley Barbour is governor.
The White House denied Brown's accusations.
Blanco on Friday had reacted by calling the partisanship Brown described "disgusting." She went further on Monday, saying Congress should create a bipartisan Commission to, among other things, fully investigate the immediate and long-term federal response Katrina, which hit southeast Louisiana and Mississippi on Aug. 29, 2005, as well as Hurricane Rita, which hit southwest Louisiana almost a month later. The commission also should seek parity in distribution of federal recovery dollars "through standard criteria based on actual damage and need."
State officials have said a recent example of unfair distribution of federal aid is last week's announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that the state would receive $86.6 million or 49 percent of the money available for hospital and health care grants. Neighboring Mississippi received 38 percent. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., noted that Louisiana suffered 70 percent of the damage.