Republicans in Congress thoroughly investigated Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but they've done almost nothing about Hurricane Maria.
Almost 3,000 people died as a result of the storm, yet Congress has responded with apathy and disorganization, refusing to launch the same type of intentional investigation that has followed other major disasters in America.
Politico spent months looking into how the Republican-led Congress responded to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, compared to how the Republican-led Congress responded to 2017's Hurricane Maria.
Following Katrina, the House of Representatives formed a bipartisan select committee to investigate Bush's failed response. Although it was headed by Republicans, the committee nevertheless held nine public hearings, looked at half a million documents, and produced a 582-page report, titled "A Failure of Initiative," which was released six months after Katrina ripped through New Orleans.
Following Maria, however, there was no select committee. The House Oversight Committee didn't hold a single full committee hearing about how the administration failed Puerto Ricans, instead delegating the matter to subcommittee-level hearings. A few other committees held hearings on various topics related to Hurricane Maria.
"In the House, the disparate nature of the oversight meant no single committee has been looking comprehensively at the response," Politico reports. "The piecemeal approach, they [disaster recovery experts] said, reduces attention toward the government’s response, lessening the pressure on the Trump administration and resulting in important issues falling through the cracks."
On the Senate side, the Republican-led oversight committee hasn't even requested a single document from FEMA to look into how the agency bungled the response.
But there's plenty to investigate about the Trump administration's inadequate and haphazard response to Puerto Rico, and plenty of lessons to learn.
The island territory was without power for months on end. Requests for funeral assistance were regularly denied.
Throughout the recovery effort, Trump repeatedly attacked San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and insulted the residents of Puerto Rico. In his one trip to the island, Trump made light of the situation by tossing out paper towels like the disaster was some kind of game.
And to add insult to injury, Trump recently disputed the new official estimated death toll of 2,975 from the storm, spinning a bizarre conspiracy theory that the number was somehow an effort by Democrats to make him look bad.
"A lot of times, there’s a lot of lessons learned that can come out of those hearings," Michael Coen, chief of staff at FEMA during the Obama administration, told Politico. "They aren't going to find anything if they didn't look."
But Republicans in Congress are determined not to look.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.