When the president vetoed the WRDA bill on Nov. 2, both legislative chambers vowed to push through the domestic spending bill for water projects. The first veto override of Bush's presidency was passed by a comfortable margin. Contained in a $459.3 billion defense bill that cleared both the House and Senate was $2 billion in defense spending for Louisiana, and with a late insert by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, $3 billion to bail out the state's floundering Road Home.
"This is a great victory for Louisiana's recovery," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said after the House but before the Senate passed the legislation. "Today's House vote sends a message to homeowners still struggling to rebuild after hurricanes Katrina and Rita that Congress is committed to fulfilling the federal promise to Gulf Coast residents. But this is only one step towards filling the Road Home shortfall ' the Senate will consider the matter next, and I urge them and President Bush to support this critical funding to prevent the Road Home from running short."
Gov.-elect and U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal was in Washington for both votes. "This is a huge step," he told The Advocate. "The government has made promises to these families, and they need to keep these promises." ... VITTER'S HUSTLER NIGHTMARE No one is happier right now about the TV writers' strike than U.S. Sen. David Vitter. With late-night comics like Jay Leno and David Letterman shutting down production and airing reruns until the strike is resolved, Louisiana's junior senator is getting a temporary reprieve from being the butt of jokes for his latest return to the headlines. Hustler magazine's new issue features an explicit pictorial of Wendy Ellis, the former New Orleans prostitute who alleges Vitter regularly visited her for services in 1999. Ellis also recounts graphic details of the encounters, down to the smallest of details.
The Hustler issue hit newsstands a week after the news that Vitter could be subpoenaed by the D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey to testify at a Nov. 28 hearing about his involvement with one of the madam's "escorts." Vitter's phone number appeared five times in the D.C. Madam's phone records between 1999 and 2001. ... LANDRIEU VOWS TO REFORM FEMA Nearly 50,000 residents in Louisiana and Texas are still living in temporary FEMA trailers that have formaldehyde, a carcinogen, in the flooring, cabinetry and wallboard. Last week, CBS News discovered, through internal e-mails, that the federal agency that still won't fully acknowledge its trailers pose a threat to residents' health has been warning its employees to stay out of the trailers.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu took the agency to task for the double-standard in a letter and chastised it for halting the CDC's testing. "Storm victims are suffering from the health effects of formaldehyde exposure while the agency, fully aware of the danger reflected in its own employee policy, is blocking public scrutiny of the extent of the carcinogen in these trailers," Landrieu wrote. "It turns out the agency has no idea what it would do with the information once it's compiled."
She continued, "These are more sad examples of the ineptitude by the broken agency. As Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Disaster Recovery Subcommittee, I will use my jurisdiction over FEMA to press forward with the agency's reform. We need a swift, effective and smart agency with flexibility in its response ' not an agency that knowingly leaves American disaster victims exposed to a whole new nightmare from the walls of their FEMA-built temporary homes."
Contributors: Scott Jordan, Leslie Turk and Mary Tutwiler
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