Gov. Edwards gets harsh criticism at D.C. flood hearing

Gov. Edwards gets harsh criticism at D.C. flood hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WVUE) - Members of the House Oversight Committee unleashed on Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards during a hearing to discuss the state's response after the historic 2016 floods.

The state is in line for $1.6 billion in federal disaster recovery money, but before the feds finalize those dollars, committee members got the chance to question Edwards and representatives from FEMA and CB&I, the contractor in charge of the temporary housing program.

During the hearing, North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows had a heated exchange with Edwards after he said he did not know the exact number of people still displaced by the floods.

"I mean we are talking about real people's lives here governor, and if you have a compassionate bone in your body wouldn't you think you would know the number of people that have been affected by this?" Meadows questioned.

Edwards said he knew the number of people affected by the floods, but because some victims might be living with relatives or friends, it's hard to calculate the exact number of people still in need.

Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves, whose district was left underwater in August, didn't pull punches either, criticizing the state's response as a whole.

"Unfortunately, as a flood disaster, it's going to have repercussions on many folks if we allow this type of incompetence to continue. This is not the first flood we've had, and in many instances, it appears the reactions make it look like it's the first disaster we've ever seen as a country and it's awful," Graves said.

FOX 8 Political Analyst Mike Sherman said while the rhetoric may have been sharp at times, it likely won't affect the funding to help with recovery.

"These committee hearings vary in importance. Sometimes the stakes are very high. Today I'd file it in the category of political theater," Sherman said.

Throughout the hearing, Republican congressmen levied harsh criticism, but even Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummins from Maryland, the ranking member of the committee, said he was disappointed in the contractor who provided temporary housing.

Cummins pointed out the case of 84-year-old Everett Wilson, who died in a temporary housing unit when calls for repair went unanswered.

"It turned into an oven due to a broken thermostat that blew heat non-stop. What we don't know is why Mr. Wilson's thermostat was never fixed," Cummins said.

That lead Utah Congressman Jason Chafetz, the committee chair, to unleash on the governor and the contractor.

"Come on guys, get aware! The governor doesn't know how many people are displaced, you don't know how many maintenance calls are missed, you think you're highly successful, the governor gives himself a B-plus, and maybe the reason you're not getting the maintenance calls answered is because you put the wrong number on the trailer," Rep. Chafetz said.

Still, Sherman thinks while it may seem like disaster recovery shouldn't be blue or red, this wouldn't be the first time party politics got involved.

"Disaster response was one of those few remaining territories in D.C. that were considered non-partisan, but that hasn't been the case for the last several years. Remember super-storm Sandy, some of our own members of the Louisiana delegation did not rush to fund that response until they could get some of their own budget priorities accounted for," Sherman said.

Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond said he was disappointed in the committee hearing writing his colleagues used flood victims as political pawns instead of focusing on improving the disaster recovery process.

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