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The Situation: Tuesday, September 6

Editor's Note: The Situation Report is a running log of dispatches, quotes, links and behind-the-scenes notes filed by the correspondents and producers of CNN's Washington Bureau. Watch "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 3 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

International aid continues to pour in for hurricane victims






State Department
Hurricane Katrina

Posted: 1:55 p.m. ET
From Andrea Koppel, CNN State Department correspondent and Elise Labott, State Department producer

Offers of aid and assistance from countries around the world continued to pour into the State Department on Tuesday. So far 94 countries and international organizations have offered aid, according to a State Department spokesman.

A State Department task force has been working since last week to coordinate offers of foreign aid with U.S. agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Some of the aid is already being put to use. MREs (meals ready-to-eat) from Germany and Italy are being distributed and medical assistance from Italy is being accepted. Planes and helicopters from Canada and Singapore are being used to transport evacuees.

Emergency supplies from Britain, Japan and Mexico also are being delivered. The United States is also awaiting the arrival of two Greek cruise ships to house evacuees Much of the money being donated by foreign governments is expected to be used for recovery efforts. Eventually, the United States will need help with forensics once bodies are recovered, the official said.

A State Department official said there are "absolutely no political considerations" being taken into account, and that the U.S. government "is not turning anything down." But he acknowledged getting the aid through entails "a tedious process of matching offers with specific needs."

Joe Johns speaks to chief justice nominee Roberts

Posted: 12:46 p.m. ET
From Joe Johns, Congressional Correspondent, inside the Supreme Court building

I spoke with Chief Justice nominee John Roberts and asked him whether he would be one of the former clerks to stand vigil beside the casket of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist. As one of the pallbearers, Roberts said he would not stand vigil, since they are "trying to divide up the duties" of all those participating in the funeral ceremonies.

Roberts also added that the following weeks will be very busy for him, but for the next few days he will focus his attention to remembering Rehnquist's memory.

Shower, hot food for New Orleans' mayor

Posted: 12:39 p.m. ET
From Barbara Starr, Pentagon correspondent

The head of Task Force Katrina, Lt. General Russel Honore, brought New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin aboard the USS Iwo Jima Monday night for a shower, some hot food and ice cream and a a good night's rest, military officials said.

Mayor Nagin has been living in the damaged Hyatt hotel. Military officials also told CNN's Barbara Starr that Gen. Honore also took Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to see conditions inside the Superdome, now under military control.

Senate to investigate Katrina response

Posted: 12:18 p.m. ET
From Evan Glass, Capitol Hill producer

A senate committee will begin hearings as early as next week to find out why better preventative measures were not employed and faster assistance not delivered to the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

The Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs committee's leading Democrat, Joseph Lieberman (Conn), said the committee has an "unflinching commitment to find the truth" behind the inadequate measures.

The committee, which was responsible for writing much of the governmental reforms in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, will examine the "failures at all levels of government, especially Louisiana," said Chairwoman Susan Collins (Maine).

The Morning Grind

Posted: 8:45 a.m. ET
From John Mercurio, CNN Political Unit

Mourning in America

The capital mourns today. Officially, for William Rehnquist, whose body lies in repose at the Supreme Court. Unofficially, for the victims of Katrina, whose deaths, while individually recognized on a smaller scale, occupy far more time and space in the hearts, minds and calendars around town. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin says he's bracing for 10,000 deaths.

Amid the heartbreak, a sign of stability in the oil industry: Oil prices are plunging this morning, following an overseas decline yesterday, as countries around the world prepare to begin releasing 60 million barrels of crude from their reserves. In the electronic trading session for NYMEX crude, a barrel of oil is down $2.22 to $67.25. That decline is expected to give the stock market a boost at the open as trading resumes after the Labor Day weekend.

The AAA national average today for self-serve unleaded gasoline is $3.041 a gallon, down 1.6 cents from yesterday's record high. In the last year, the price has risen a whopping 64 percent or $1.19 a gallon.

Two hurricane-shuttered facilities in the Gulf Coast restarted yesterday, and flows of crude oil improved enough to allow refineries to ramp up production. But four damaged Gulf Coast refineries look likely to remain shut for weeks or even months, taking with them more than 5 percent of U.S. capacity, according to the AP.

A day after President Bush's second trip to the Gulf Coast region, the White House today continues efforts to deal with the aftermath of Katrina as well as damage control on the federal response.

At 10 a.m., Bush meets with his cabinet. At 11:45 a.m., he meets with representatives from volunteer and charity groups in the Roosevelt Room. At 2:10 p.m., he speaks from the Rose Garden on efforts to help students and school districts displaced by the storm. And at 2:35 p.m., he meets with Congressional leaders from both parties in the Oval Office.

A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll releases at 9:45 p.m. EDT on the public's view on the handling of the storm, and what they think of the role Bush, FEMA, and state and local officials played in it.

Also today, two moderate senators, Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Joe Lieberman, hold an 11:15 a.m. presser on Cap Hill to call for investigations and hearings into the government's handling of the disaster. Democratic Rep. John Dingell will also introduce a bill to remove FEMA from the control of the Department of Homeland Security and make it a separate cabinet-level agency. Sen. Hillary Clinton said she'll introduce a similar bill in the Senate. At 6 p.m., Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and other cabinet members will brief the full Senate behind closed doors.

Also today, the Senate Energy and Resources Committee holds a 2:30 p.m. EDT hearing on Katrina's effect on gas prices and supply, as well as other factors on the soaring prices at the pump.

And this final Katrina nugget, a t-shirt campaign designed by antiwar activists. The slogan, "Make Levees, Not War."external link

* The other side of Bush's brain is, of course, thinking about the Supreme Court and his new opportunity, following Rehnquist's death Saturday, to choose a second justice. As the White House is well aware, however, today's political climate is far less favorable for Bush to select a politically polarizing nominee than it was when he chose Roberts in July.

Bush said yesterday that he would select a successor to Sandra Day O'Connor "in a timely manner." But White House officials said there would likely be no announcement this week and that they saw no real prospect of having O'Connor's successor confirmed by the first Monday in October.

Rehnquist's body will arrive at the Supreme Court at 10 a.m. today to lie in repose through tomorrow at 1 p.m. Ceremonies will conclude with the private burial of Rehnquist, a World War II veteran, at Arlington National Cemetery tomorrow afternoon. A Lutheran funeral, also private, will be held at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington at 2 p.m. tomorrow.

Also, a day after Bush chose Roberts as his nominee to succeed Rehnquist as chief justice, Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter will announce today how long the hearings on his confirmation will be delayed. Some aides expect the hearings to begin next Monday. Majority Leader Bill Frist said yesterday that the Senate "still plan to complete floor action on the Roberts nomination by the start of the new Supreme Court session [on] October 3."

Also today, Judge Robert Bork is speaking at the National Press Club luncheon today about the Roberts nom. Bork will comment on the Bush administration's new opportunity as well as the pitfalls it faces in nominating Roberts to the chief justice post.

Political Hot Topics

Posted: 8:30 a.m. ET
From Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau

ROBERTS HEARINGS DELAYED: Senate leaders yesterday postponed the confirmation hearings for federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr., but Republicans said he still should be seated when the Supreme Court convenes Oct. 3. Originally slated to begin today, the four-day hearings are scheduled to begin either Thursday or Monday of next week to allow for tomorrow's funeral of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he still expects Mr. Roberts -- nominated yesterday to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist -- to be confirmed before the start of next month's Supreme Court session. Washington Times: Senate delays hearings for Roberts nominationexternal link

GOP MAY HAVE TOUGH FALL AHEAD: As Congress returns from its August recess today, Republicans face a far more troubling political landscape than the one they left a month ago, according to lawmakers in both parties. Gasoline prices have skyrocketed, the Bush administration is being widely criticized for its handling of Hurricane Katrina, and as the war in Iraq grows increasingly unpopular, the president's approval ratings have sunk to an all-time low. Further complicating the picture is a rare double vacancy on the Supreme Court, which could trigger sniping between the GOP's center and right wing if not deftly handled.Washington Post: GOP Agenda Shifts as Political Trials Growexternal link

SENATORS WANT ANSWERS: Hurricane Katrina has become the Homeland Security Department's first big test. It should have been ready for just about anything. But it wasn't ready for the power of Katrina. Tuesday, as workers struggle to provide better relief for survivors, Congress will begin investigating why the government's response was so slow. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., leaders of the Senate Homeland Security committee, will discuss their committee's plan for an inquiry into the response by FEMA. USA Today: Senators 'to demand answers' on slow actionexternal link

HOMELESS REP ROLLS UP HIS SLEEVES: Rep. Gene Taylor's home, which he shared with his wife, Margaret, and son, Gary, was on the coast in Gulfport and stood next to his childhood home, which belonged to his father. Both were washed away. The congressman's Gulfport district office was also flooded and destroyed. "I don't know where he has been sleeping," said Taylor spokeswoman Courtney Littig. "I don't think he has gone to sleep anywhere the past couple of nights." Littig said Taylor has been delivering meals and water to people scattered on the roads of Hancock County. She said the lawmaker is not focused on his own problems: "I mentioned something [about his home] and he said, 'You know, I have a job when this is said and done. There are people who don't have houses, they don't have jobs, they have nothing to come back to.'" The Hill: ... members picking up the piecesexternal link

FIRST ANTI-WAR '08 CANDIDATE? By issuing an early call for a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, Sen. Russ Feingold could emerge as the Democrats' anti-war candidate of 2008, in the tradition of Eugene McCarthy and Howard Dean. Although Democrats have been critical of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, they have been reluctant to call for a timetable to leave, fearing it could reinforce stereotypes that their party is weak on national security. Right now, that sets him apart from other likely Democratic presidential candidates. AP via Yahoo! News: Feingold Could Be First Anti-War Candidateexternal link

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