The White House went on the offensive today against a Republican senator who is blocking the president’s nominee to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was engaging in "political posturing" at a critical time, with the start of the hurricane season just three weeks away.
Vitter is stalling the vote on the nomination of Craig Fugate to head up the government’s emergency response agency because he said he has not received information from FEMA about high-risk flood zones.
Gibbs said Fugate has a "stellar bipartisan record" and is supported by Democrats and Republicans.
"He is somebody that deserves immediate Senate confirmation, not political posturing, from a senator from Louisiana who should understand as well as anybody what's at stake in responding to a hurricane. And we expect that he'll be confirmed quickly," he said.
Gibbs said Vitter should know that "the best way to get moving on any concerns that he has with FEMA is to get somebody of the utmost regard at the helm of FEMA to make progress."
Vitter said this short delay in the nomination vote is nothing compared to the delays residents of Louisiana and Texas have had waiting for support from FEMA.
"Almost four years after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, communities like Cameron Parish and Grand Isle are still waiting on an answer from FEMA so that fire stations and other key facilities can be rebuilt. And FEMA is complaining about a short delay of this nomination vote? It seems like they have their priorities mixed up. I'm eager to end all of this delay; I hope FEMA is," Vitter said in a statement through a spokesman.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee jumped in the fray to slam the Republican senator, who is up for re-election in 2010.
"Out of all the Senators to hold up the FEMA Nominee, leave it to Louisiana’s own David Vitter to be the one," said DSCC Communications Director Eric Schultz. "Every time Senator Vitter makes a move he proves he’s an out of the mainstream extremist, out of touch with Louisianans. As we approach hurricane season, Senator Vitter ought to put politics aside for a moment and let the Senate confirm a nominee who has an impeccable record."
-- Karen Travers