Congressional delegation reacts to Obama visit, flood aid effort

Congressional delegation reacts to Obama visit and flood aid effort

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - The president's speech Tuesday in flooded South Louisiana met with mixed reaction from members of the congressional delegation, many of whom opposed relief for areas affected by Hurricane Sandy and now are asking for help here.

A dozen days after the flooding began, the president acknowledged harsh realities.

"Federal assistance won't be I'm asking Americans to do what they can," said President Obama in Zachary.

By his side was a congressional delegation eager for relief for flood-weary constituents who will have a tough time rebuilding since most have no flood insurance.

"You got people getting $2,000 to $3,000, but they are tens of thousands in the hole," said Rep. Garret Graves, R-LA.

That could mean thousands of foreclosures.

"If we don't do something, many will go on poverty programs and become burdens to the government," Graves said.

Sen. Bill Cassidy and Rep. Steve Scalise, both Republicans, were among several Louisiana congressman who four years ago voted against a portion of a $50 billion aid package for the Eastern Seaboard.

"What I didn't vote for was the tens of billions of pork," said Cassidy. "I voted for the aid, hen they put the pork on there, and I didn't vote for the pork."

But some worry Louisiana flood relief could suffer.

"I supported that and built good relationships with those senators affected and others, so I'm not concerned with it," said Sen. David Vitter.

"I would like to say no, but we may see a partisan divide with people saying they might need as much aid as we think they need," said Silas Lee, Xavier political analyst.

FEMA's average aid package is around $7,000, far short of the more than $100,000 it will take to rebuild tens of thousands of Louisiana homes. Graves wants a task force to bypass bureaucracy. He is also calling for a rapid sheet rock replacement program and access to a disaster recovery fund for a tailored response.

"Right now, the fund has over $2 billion, and the immediate need is getting these houses back in shape," said Graves.

Obama said FEMA has already distributed $127 million, mostly in temporary housing assistance, but rebuilding will cost billions, and the president said Louisiana's congressional delegation will need to lead the charge.

"The good news is you've got four congressmen right here, and a number of them are in the majority," said Obama.

When asked if he thought Obama was passing the ball, Graves answered, "It did seem that way."

President Obama also urged citizens to volunteer to help flood victims.

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