07 September 2005

DeLay cancels hearings on Katrina Response from CNN

The House majority leader late Tuesday tried to deflect criticism of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina by saying "the emergency response system was set up to work from the bottom up," then announced a short time later that House hearings examining that response had been canceled.

Tempers flared Tuesday during a contentious closed-door meeting between House members and Cabinet secretaries in charge of directing Katrina relief efforts. A Republican representative stood up and said, "All of you deserve failing grades. The response was a disaster,"

But DeLay countered that assessment later in a news conference by saying that the onus for responding to emergencies fell to local officials.

Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has come under intense criticism for the federal response to Katrina. The hurricane and subsequent flooding have devastated the city of New Orleans.

Chertoff, who is heading the federal response to the storm, argued for days after the disaster that no one foresaw such a combination of events -- even though, in fact, lawmakers, scientists, and reporters had long warned if a major hurricane hit the city it would be a disaster of this magnitude.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California told media afterward that she was upset with the Katrina rescue effort and felt that Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), should shoulder much of the blame, and lacked the credentials to do his job.

"Michael Brown, the head of FEMA, brings nothing to the table for the level of competence and accountability," Pelosi said. "He should not continue in that job unless we want a continuation of the shortcomings that we have had in the response."

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