WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed R. David Paulison as FEMA's chief on Friday, hours after a senator ended his stall on the nomination over problems with the agency's flood insurance program.
Paulison's confirmation was part of an unanimous consent agreement as the Senate headed out of town on a one-week recess for Memorial Day.
Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., had held up action on Paulison's nomination as a protest against the Federal Emergency Management Agency's failure to develop an appeals process for property owners whose flood insurance claims are rejected. FEMA administers the flood insurance program.
But with a morning call and a letter from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who promised to get an appeals process in place, Bunning agreed to end his stall, his spokesman said. Chertoff's department oversees FEMA.
"The secretary told us he will do what the senator asked they do — and what they have been dragging their feet on for two years," said Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard. He said FEMA was supposed to establish an appeals process by December 2004.
FEMA "didn't really seem to get interested in establishing the appeals process until the senator put the hold on," Reynard said.
Bunning's delaying tactic had been the last issue holding up Paulison's nomination.
On Thursday, Paulison pledged to refile three years of tax returns to correct travel deductions that were questioned by the Senate Homeland Security Governmental Affairs Committee that was considering his nomination. The panel, which oversees FEMA, approved his nomination by a voice vote Thursday afternoon with hopes of seeing him confirmed by next week's start of the 2006 hurricane season on June 1.
Paulison has served as acting FEMA director since September, taking over the beleaguered agency two weeks after Hurricane Katrina. He has had a three-decade-long firefighting career, including a stint as chief of the Miami-Dade County fire department and head of the U.S. Fire Administration.