Louisisana Senator Mary Landrieu said yesterday that she is giving some thought to blocking the U.S. Senate's holiday recess until the government has agreed to pay for flood protection improvements along Louisiana's coast. There has already been considerable talk of a Louisiana citizen march on Washington, which might get more attention if Landrieu prevents the Senate from going home for Christmas.
Some of the levees in New Orleans were never constructed properly, it is now clear, nor have they been inspected properly. There is also suspicion of corruption in the construction of the levees. There needs to be both a re-design of the levees and a strengthening of the levee system so that the city can withstand a Category 4 or 5 storm. Today, White House hurricane relief advisor Donald Powell announced that he has yet to decide whether New Orleans' levees should be strengthened, and he would not say when a decision will be made.
As badly as the Corps of Engineers and the engineering firms involved botched the levees, the city has also had to deal a with a federal government that has shown no interest in protecting the city from hurricanes. Louisiana's budget cannot handle a job of this size, especially since the state has been denied a share of royalties from its considerable oil and gas production, and the Bush administration has opposed making any changes in this unjust system. The Bush administration has also opposed giving the state money to rescue its eroding coastline, though Bush has relented somewhat on this matter.
As for Senator Landrieu, a conservative Democrat--she is at her best when angry. Her filibuster speeches against some of Bush's court nominees were some real pieces of work, especially her "I will not yield" excoriation of Orrin Hatch. If she decides to obstruct the Senate recess, I highly recommend you get a good seat in front of your favorite C-Span screen.