Jon Stewart, start your Tivo: On Tuesday, Michael "Heck Of A Job" Brown, who resigned Sept. 12 as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will testify before the House select committee looking into the government's Katrina response. The chair, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), said Brown agreed to appear voluntarily. The former director can be expected to elaborate on an interview he gave the New York Times two days after he quit, in which he blamed Louisiana state officials but also made it clear that the administration responded sluggishly after he told top officials that "things were going to Hell in a handbasket" in Louisiana. David Marin, the select committee's staff director, said members will begin with "the most obvious" questions, including: "Looking back now, what would you do differently? Given the amount of planning in place, what on earth went wrong?"
The President began his week in Washington, and the first event on his public schedule was a field trip to the Energy Department, where he was to be briefed on the hurricane's possible effect on the supply and price of gasoline and heating oil, then go before cameras to discuss the outlook. The White House is trying to make it clear that Bush is getting into the nitty gritty of post-Katrina operations. "The president asked a lot of questions about how they're going about getting rid of that debris," press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters Sunday after a briefing in Baton Rouge. "The president asked more about the 9th Ward, and the searches that had gone on there; where they were in terms of the progress of doing the searches of all the homes in that area."
The two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue will continue quarreling about how to pay for Katrina. The conservative Republican Study Committee published a 23-page "Operation Offset" proposing such drastic measures as delaying the Medicare prescription drug program for one year. The White House points to cuts Congress didn't make that Bush proposed back in February, including eliminating or streamlining 150 non-security programs like exchanges with historic whaling and trading partners, which was restored at the behest of the Senate. A House leadership aide said the plan is to make spending cuts down the road, but probably not to do anything dramatic this month. "We're preparing our microscopes," the aide said.
The biggest non-Katrina event this week will be the Senate floor vote on the confirmation of John Roberts as Chief Justice. Both sides say the vote will be at least in the high sixties. Unless there is a filibuster, which Democrats say will not occur, he needs only a simple majority. "This was the president's first time at bat for the Supreme Court, and he hit a homer," said Sean Rushton, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice. Republican sources say that if the floor vote occurs Thursday, as scheduled, Bush might announce his nominee to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as soon as Friday or Monday. However briefly, the misery of New Orleans will be upstaged and Bush will be able to go before cameras in a jacket and tie.