Governor Tom Vilsack says President Bush needs to fire the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency because of what didn’t happen in the days following the hurricane. “I don’t think there’s any question that the response was inadequate and inappropriate,” Vilsack says. “When you’re talking about hundreds of lives or thousands of lives and you’re talking about billions of dollars of property, somebody’s got to be held accountable and it seems to me the guy at the top has got to bear that responsibility. If he was working for me, he wouldn’t be working long.” However, Vilsack says the Homeland Security Secretary, the FEMA director’s boss, is “impressive” and will likely steer the agency in the right direction. Mid-afternoon on Monday, Vilsack received word that “some” hurricane victims will be shuttled from Texas to Iowa. “I can’t tell you the number, which is one of the frustrations of this,” Vilsack says. He says 50 people have been worked at the state level to devise a plan for processing the folks who may come, evaluating their health and lining up any assistance that may be needed. “And then begin the process of dispersing people throughout communities that have indicated a willingness to take folks in,” Vilsack says. “The frustration has been that there just seems to be a lack of coordination coming from FEMA. Some of those problems have been resolved, but we still have problems.” Vilsack says he talked with the governors of other Midwestern states, like Oklahoma and Arkansas, who also couldn’t get through to FEMA, so Vilsack called Andy Card, President Bush’s chief of staff. Vilsack says Card “got things moving” and now it’s just a matter of working out logistics. “It’s important that it be organized because some people are coming in without identification. Some people have children that we need to know where they are,” Vilsack says. “Some people need to be checked out from a health standpoint.” Vilsack also faults Congress for failing to spend more money on crucial infrastructure, like rebuilding the Gulf Coast as well as other flood control and disaster preparedness projects around the country. “As folks go back to the Senate and House and the President returns from his vacation, my hope is they sort of refocus their attention from tax relief for wealthy folks to rebuilding this country to create opportunity for all of us,” Vilsack says. Senate leaders had planned to take up legislation that would erase the estate tax when lawmakers return to Washington today.
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