Dems Complain About Bush's Hurricane Recovery Plan

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - The Democrat Party has taken a close look at the Bush administration's recovery plan for the Gulf Coast, and it doesn't like what it sees.

The Democratic National Committee complains that President Bush is using the natural disaster to push his conservative political agenda on the region.

Bush is not standing up for hurricane victims, the Democratic National Committee said in a press release -- he's catering to "cronies and right-wing ideologues in his own party" by suspending labor and environmental protections, pushing for tax breaks, and promoting school vouchers.

The DNC also complained about Republican lawmakers who are continuing their effort to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent -- despite the enormous costs of hurricane rebuilding and the war in Iraq.

"This is a critical moment in Bush's presidency," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. "The president must decide whether or not he will stand up to the right wing in his party and do what's right for America and the Gulf Coast.

"America needs leadership that focuses on the needy, not the greedy," Dean said, adding that it's time for Republicans to join Democrats in supporting a Marshall Plan to invest in the Gulf Coast and invest in rebuilding our American community, not weakening it with a partisan agenda."

The DNC offered the following examples of the "right-wing policies" President Bush is pushing in the aftermath of Katrina.

At the top of the list is Bush's suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act -- a move that will allow federal contractors to hire employees at less than the prevailing wage in parts of the hurricane-devastated states.

President Bush said the suspension of Davis-Bacon will save money and encourage the employment of more people. The Washington Post recently mentioned that the suspension of Davis-Bacon will make it harder for union contractors to win bids.

The way Democrats frame the issue, President Bush is trashing labor laws and allowing contractors to hire local workers at "depressed" wages. "Bush's suspension of Davis-Bacon will drive already low wages in New Orleans even lower," the DNC press release said.

Democrats complain that Republicans are trying to suspend environmental protections in the aftermath of Katrina by considering legislation that would lift restrictions on the construction of new oil refineries.

They complain that Republicans are working on proposals to waive the estate tax for "super-rich" people (such as business owners) killed in the hurricane.

Democrats also complain that the president has suspended the requirement for federal contractors involved in the rebuilding effort to have written affirmative action plans covering veterans, minorities, women, and disabled persons.

And last on the list, Democrats complain that President Bush is "pushing vouchers on displaced school children." Under Bush's plan to cover most of the cost of educating students displaced by Hurricane Katrina, parents could enroll their children in a private or religious school this year at federal expense, even if they had gone to public schools back home.

Democrats have proposed a rebuilding plan modeled after the rebuilding of Europe following World War II.

Their "Marshall Plan" would have the government "build new housing, revive farmland, repair infrastructure, construct schools," as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described it.

Sen. Harry Reid said the Democrats' rebuilding plan should combine "the resources and know-how of the government with the vision and leadership of the people who live there."

Said Reid, "We Democrats want to be certain that money goes to help the victims, not to enrich the contractors. And we want to make sure that the well-connected get treated no better than the carpenters, plumbers and electricians who do the work.."

Democrats also are calling for an "independent ethics watchdog" -- someone with the investigative power to police the billions of dollars in spending -- and to make sure everyone plays by the rules.

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