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WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans on Wednesday scuttled an attempt by Sen. Hillary Clinton to establish an independent, bipartisan panel patterned after the 9/11 Commission to investigate what went wrong with federal, state and local governments' response to Hurricane Katrina.
The New York Democrat's bid to establish the panel — which would have also made recommendations on how to improve the government's disaster response apparatus — failed to win the two-thirds majority needed to overcome procedural hurdles. Clinton got only 44 votes, all from Democrats and independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont. Fifty-four Republicans all voted no.
"Just as with 9/11, we did not get to the point where we believed we understood what happened until an independent investigation was conducted," Clinton said.
The Senate vote is hardly likely to be the last word on whether to create an independent commission or as an alternative a special congressional committee to investigate Katrina. The 9/11 Commission was established in 2002 after resistance from Republicans and the White House, and opinion polls show the public strongly supports the idea. In a CNN/USA Today Gallup poll taken Sept. 8-11, 70 percent of those surveyed supported an independent panel to investigate the government's response to Katrina. Only 29 percent were opposed.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has rebuffed a bid by House and Senate GOP leaders to create a committee patterned after the 1987 Iran-Contra panel that would have a GOP majority — reflecting their dominance of Congress.
Reid has instead vowed that any bid by Republican leaders to establish a special bipartisan committee involving lawmakers from both House and Senate will go forward only if Democrats have equal representation.