Wash. Post , USA Today omitted reasons for Democratic boycott of "bipartisan" Katrina commission


In covering the September 22 launch of the House inquiry into the flawed government response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, The Washington Post and USA Today reported that House Democrats are boycotting the "bipartisan" investigation but failed to provide the reasons Democrats have given for the boycott: They would be outnumbered by Republicans on the panel and would not have subpoena power.

As Media Matters for America has noted (here and here), the Republican-proposed bicameral investigation would not be truly bipartisan. The text of the legislation calling for the commission -- which passed in the House on September 15 but apparently will not 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." The bill also establishes that subpoena power for the commission 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.

In a September 22 Washington Post article, staff writer Amy Goldstein reported that House Democrats are "boycotting the probe" and quoted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) referring to the commission as "a sham" that will result in "a partisan whitewash of what went wrong in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina." Goldstein failed to explain, however, why Democrats object to the current makeup of the inquiry. She instead reported that Democrats are "saying that a GOP-led Congress could not be trusted to carry out a thorough investigation of mistakes by a Republican administration," and that Pelosi "renewed the Democrats' calls for an independent commission, similar to the one that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- a proposal that polls suggest most of the public supports."

A September 22 USA Today article briefly mentioned the scheduled launch of the congressional inquiry. The article simply noted that "the session will include neither Democrats, who want an independent probe, nor senators, who have yet to vote on creating the panel."

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