Original at DailyKos

From the NYT:

The Bush administration, citing the confidentiality of executive branch communications, said Tuesday that it did not plan to turn over certain documents about Hurricane Katrina or make senior White House officials available for sworn testimony before two Congressional committees investigating the storm response.

As Rep. Henry Waxman put it yesterday:

Our fears are turning out to be accurate […] The Bush administration is stonewalling the Congress.”

And he should know.  Waxman came in immediately after Nixon’s resignation and the dismay and anger against Republicans nationwide.

At the same time, the White House also refused to support fellow Rep. Richard Baker’s bill that would create a Federally-financed reconstruction program for that would provide relief homeowners and mortgage lenders.  This bill was considered crucial to the recovery effort, but despite intense lobbying on both sides of the aisle on behalf of the measure, administration officials announced that the state would have to use funds from community development appropriations.

Of course, it will not be enough.

The Times-Picayune said:

Donald Powell, President Bush’s choice to oversee the Gulf Coast’s recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said grant money already appropriated by Congress would be “sufficient” to take care of homeowners who suffered the most in the storm. As much as $6.2 billion of that money is slated for Louisiana.

Powell said the administration prefers the specifically defined financing of the grant program over an open-ended proposal by U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, to set up a governmental agency to buy flood-damaged homes and pay off the mortgages for possible resale and redevelopment.

The administration has been coy about its position on the Baker bill since late last year, when it stalled in the final days of the congressional session. Public opposition by the White House now dramatically handicaps the bill’s prospects.

This is the bill, however, that would award homeowners 60% of the equity on their homes.  I agree with others who have said that this plan is insupportable as well.  The homes, if not the property, are worth more than this, especially in the forseeable future.  But the Bushistas have no other ideas, at least not those that they are willing to show publicly.  And they are unwilling to compromise or even suggest alternative strategies, except to say that someone else’s–Haley Barbour’s plan for Mississippi–seems the right one.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has proposed using the bulk of his state’s block grants — expected to be about $5.3 billion — to help about 35,000 uninsured homeowners who were outside the flood plain. His plan could translate into about $115,000 per household.

Louisiana officials have said Mississippi’s solution wouldn’t work here, where flooding damage was more severe, including thousands of homes destroyed when federally built levees gave way in the storm. According to the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the state suffered exponentially more damage to housing, schools, hospitals, businesses and infrastructure than Mississippi.

Most of all, the Administration’s decision has ramifications for both Mayor Nagin and the Bring New Orleans Back Commission.  Recently, Nagin has come out on record against a moratorium on issuing building permits in flooded neighborhoods to galvanize rebuilding and uphold property owners’ rights.

However, the public showing of the lack of ideas and leadership coming from the White House goes back to the secrecy and stonewalling around the issue of presenting witnesses and documents to Congress in their investigation:

The White House’s stance on storm-related documents, along with slow or incomplete responses by other agencies, threatens to undermine efforts to identify what went wrong, Democrats on the committees said Tuesday.

“There has been a near total lack of cooperation that has made it impossible, in my opinion, for us to do the thorough investigation that we have a responsibility to do,” Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, said at Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate committee investigating the response. His spokeswoman said he would ask for a subpoena for documents and testimony if the White House did not comply.

This, when it was revealed earlier this week that the Administration did know the extent of the damage and havoc Katrina would wreck on the Gulf Coast, despite Bush and other officials consistently playing dumb on that issue, saying that they had never envisioned such a scenario.

White House spokesperson Trent Duffy said that the White House is refusing requests to allow officials like Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff; his deputy, Joe Hagin;  Frances Fragos Townsend, the domestic security adviser; and her deputy, Ken Rapuano to testify on Capitol Hill about their responses to the catastrophe.  Moreover,  the White House also refused to provide e-mail correspondence and other communications made by Administration officials for examination, all the while claiming to be cooperating with the Congressional committee.

But the big enchilada remains testimony from:

[…] the Pentagon and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who is the subject of the sole subpoena issued so far.

Of course, they are stonewalling.  

The investigating committees are under the gun: the House has to wrap up its inquiry by mid-February; the Senate by mid-March.

Like Iraq, there is a method to this madness.

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