After a week of bipartisan criticism from the White House, some fellow GOP senators, and withering editorials in several national newspapers, Sen. David Vitter has formally dropped his hold on the nomination of Craig Fugate as the new director of FEMA. As The Washington Post reports:
"Louisianans have gotten way too many easy spoken assurances from FEMA over the last four years that didn't mean anything," Vitter said in a statement this morning. "Now that I've secured a specific written commitment from them on the V-Zone issue, we can move forward." He said he is "very confident" the issue will be resolved soon.
Last week the White House and Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) called on Vitter to lift his objections to Fugate -- especially since the 2009 hurricane season begins June 1 -- suggesting his delay tactics were inspired more by politics than home state concerns. The criticism grew last week when the senator sent an e-mail to supporters explaining that his continued opposition "isn't about politics." Opponents noted however that a link in the e-mail led to a financial donation page on Vitter's 2010 reelection campaign Web site. In response, Senate Democrats yesterday released a Web-only video slamming Vitter's continued opposition.
The New York Times, in a Sunday editorial, had opined "But we suspect that Senator Vitter is more preoccupied with the approach of re-election season than any weather events. He is clearly relishing doing battle with the administration, issuing broadsides styling himself as a populist standing up to strong arm tactics of the White House." Gambit's own commentary this week concluded: "Sen. Vitter needs to stop posturing and do what's right for his constituents, the Gulf Coast and the country. Craig Fugate's record of accomplishment is beyond reproach, and he has support from leaders across the political spectrum. Hurricane season is less than one month away. Louisiana needs a FEMA director in place, and we need one now."