Katrina’s Cost May Test GOP Harmony
Congressional Republicans from across the ideological spectrum yesterday rejected the White House’s open-wallet approach to rebuilding the Gulf Coast, a sign that the lockstep GOP discipline that George W. Bush has enjoyed for most of his presidency is eroding on Capitol Hill.
Trying to allay mounting concerns, White House budget director Joshua B. Bolten met with Republican senators for an hour after their regular Tuesday lunch. Senators emerged to say they were annoyed by the lack of concrete ideas for paying the Hurricane Katrina bill.
“Very entertaining,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said sarcastically as he left the session. “I haven’t heard any specifics from the administration.”
“At least give us some idea” of how to cover the cost, said Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who is facing reelection in 2006. “We owe that to the American taxpayer.”
The pushback on Katrina aid, which the White House is also confronting among House Republicans, represents the loudest and most widespread dissent Bush has faced from his own party since it took full control of Congress in 2002. As polls show the president’s approval numbers falling, there is growing concern among lawmakers that GOP margins in Congress could shrink next year, and even rank-and-file Republicans are complaining that Bush is shirking the difficult budget decisions that must accompany the rebuilding bonanza.