NY Times omitted reasons for House Dems' refusal to join Katrina probe


In a September 23 article, The New York Times reported that two Democratic members of Congress joined a select committee investigating the flawed government response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, after the "House Democratic leadership refused to appoint any members" to the committee. But, similar to other media outlets previously identified by Media Matters for America, the Times article, by reporter Carl Hulse, omitted any mention of why Democratic leaders have refused to participate: Democrats would be outnumbered by Republicans on the panel and would not have subpoena power.

The text of the legislation calling for the Republican-proposed bicameral investigation, which passed the House but will not likely be considered by the Senate, states that "[t]he select committee shall be composed of 20 members appointed by the Speaker, of whom 9 shall be appointed after consultation with the Minority Leader." Congressional Republicans have since abandoned the bicameral proposal, instead creating separate House and Senate investigations. The 11 House Republicans called for in the bill have already been appointed to the House select committee. Under the rules proposed in the bill, subpoena power for the committee will be governed by the Rules of the House of Representatives, which state that subpoenas may be issued only when approved by a majority vote or authorized by the committee chairman.

From the September 23 New York Times report:

As lawmakers braced for the landfall of Hurricane Rita, they worried that it could deliver another devastating and costly blow to the nation.

''We are hoping and praying today that this does not become the Select Committee on Katrina and Rita,'' said Representative Thomas M. Davis III, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the special House panel examining the Katrina relief effort.

The House Democratic leadership refused to appoint any members to the select committee, though two Democrats from the region -- Representatives Gene Taylor of Mississippi and Charlie Melancon of Louisiana -- took part at the invitation of Mr. Davis.

Posted In
Government, The House of Representatives
Hurricane Katrina, Natural Disasters
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