Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Every cloud has a silver lining (for someone)

From today's Washington Post:

[A relatively budget-conscious Republican Congressman], lunching with reporters at Charlie Palmer Steak, accepted that Congress would not find cuts to pay for the $62 billion spent so far on Katrina -- much less the $250 billion more that Louisiana wants from the feds. If "we find $20 billion in offsets, we'll probably declare victory," said the congressman, who spoke on the condition that he not be named.

As fiscal hawks surrendered, would-be government contractors were meeting in the Hart Senate Office Building to figure out how to get a share of the money. A "Katrina Reconstruction Summit," hosted by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and sponsored by Halliburton, among others, brought some 200 lobbyists, corporate representatives and government staffers to a room overlooking the Capitol for a five-hour conference that included time for a "networking break" and advice on "opportunities for private sector involvement."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) sent his budget director, Bill Hoagland, who cautioned that federal Katrina spending might not exceed $100 billion. But John Clerici, from a law firm that helped sponsor the event, told the group that spending would "probably be larger" than $200 billion. "It's going to be spent in a fast and furious way," Clerici said.

Sipping coffee from china cups and munching on doughnuts, the corporate crowd heard Joe McInerney, president of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, predict: "I think we'll see Mardi Gras in New Orleans to some extent this year."

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