Transcript: Cost of Hurricane Recovery

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," September 21, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Joining us right now is Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, former Senate majority leader, of course.

No stranger, Senator, you, to costly, devastating storms. And now we're looking at Hurricane Rita. What's going through your mind now?

SEN. TRENT LOTT, R-MISS.: I'm just horrified at the thought that this would hit people in Texas, and maybe hit the people in Louisiana or my state again.

It is a nightmare scenario. And it's one we have got to take very seriously. You know, the people have got to evacuate. We learned in Louisiana and Mississippi, when people don't evacuate, disaster sets in. You know, we got right at 1,000 people that were killed.

So, this is very serious. And it's going to complicate, I'm sure, the recovery efforts under way now in Mississippi and Louisiana, especially if we get hit by part of this. And, of course, also they, you know, may have to move some people temporarily at least into Texas to cope with what may happen there.

CAVUTO: You know what is amazing about this, Senator? And you are well-schooled, growing up in the Mississippi area. Of course, your boyhood home was destroyed in all of this.

LOTT: Right.

CAVUTO: Do you think people appreciate that, even if the hurricane didn't hit them directly, that, in this case, since it's a such huge hurricane, more than 300 miles across, that if nothing more than the eastern spur of it causes six, eight, 10 inches of rain, possibly even for Mississippi, that people are not prepared for that?

LOTT: Well, we are experienced hands in Mississippi. We know that that eastern quadrant, the east side of the hurricane, is the most damaging side.

But people that have been there for years, you know, ordinarily, it might reach, you know, 70 miles on either side of the eye.

CAVUTO: Right.

LOTT: Katrina was more like 120 miles on either side. And I think this one looks like it's going to be the same thing. So, you could be 150, 200 miles away on the east side and get lashed pretty good.

And, you know, we had people that stayed in my home community and other communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and said, look, I, you know, was here for Hurricane Camille. We have never had water. We're high. We're good. We're not in a flood-prone area.

And their houses are gone or gutted. And so, when you have a storm of this magnitude and when the pressure drops, the barometric pressure to the low that it did, and it brings in surges of 20 to 30 feet, nothing can withstand that. And it goes, you know, miles inland. So, this is a very dangerous thing. And people have got to take action and be prepared. But board up and leave. That's my advice.

CAVUTO: Yes. But, you know, the worry, Senator, as well, is, everyone wants to help and do something here. But the costs are getting to be prohibitive, Katrina, now Rita. And we are dealing with a government that has limited resources, right? What happens?

LOTT: Well, the cost is never prohibitive in America when you are helping people that are desperate in the immediate aftermath of recovery and search and rescue, and the reconstruction, the cleanup that has to go on. Now, how do you pay for that?

CAVUTO: Well, Senator, are you in the camp — I had a couple of Democrats over the last week who were saying maybe we postpone, rescind or just take out the extension of the president's tax cuts?

LOTT: Well, they better take a look at what they are. I mean, a lot of those tax cuts, if we don't extend them, it means that taxes will go up for low-income families with children. Are they advocating that? So, you better take a look at it.

CAVUTO: So, would you be looking for spending cuts to at least address this potential?

LOTT: No, actually, here is where I'm a little different than some of my colleagues maybe in either party.

I think we ought to look at doing it all. We need to look at doing a better job in delivering relief. Some of the cost that we're experiencing right now is caused by bureaucratic bungling and not quickly waiving rules that are ridiculous that are not letting the trucks clean up the debris because they haven't measured the trucks. But we also need to look at the spending side. And, yes, we have to say, can we afford some of these tax cuts that we had been considering?


LOTT: So, we have to look at them.

CAVUTO: Senator, thank you. Be well, all right?

LOTT: OK. Thanks a lot, Neil.

CAVUTO: Senator Trent Lott.

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