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Landrieu threatens to block appointments over levees

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Louisiana
Mary L. Landrieu
Senate

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Frustrated by a lack of progress in rebuilding the state's levees, a Louisiana Democrat threatened Wednesday to block President Bush's appointments requiring Senate confirmation until "significant progress" is made toward restoring the flood protection damaged by Hurricane Katrina in August.

Saying coastal residents "cannot wait much longer," Sen. Mary Landrieu blamed the loss of 1,200 lives in her home state "to the loss of wetlands as a protection and a lack of levees that held."

She is demanding that the Bush administration develop a comprehensive levee, flood control and coastal restoration program, and dole out the funds to pay for it.

"For me, this used to be a major policy issue," she said. "Now, it's an issue of life and death." (Watch Landrieu outline her demand -- 1:46)

The senator said she sent a letter to Bush on Tuesday and "urged him specifically to request of Congress $6 billion that his administration says that we need in order for our region to be safe."

If the White House fails to meet her demands, "I will be compelled to use the power of my office as a senator to hold all executive nominations until we can get a response from the administration."

There was no immediate response from the White House.

Blocking or failing to act on executive appointments may not be the only pressure she applies, she warned. "I have other leverage, and I'm prepared to use it if I have to."

In her Tuesday letter, Landrieu writes, "Mr. President, the piecemeal approach that has marked your administration's response to providing adequate levee and flood protection for Louisiana has not worked. It needs to be replaced by a comprehensive approach that is both more effective and cost-efficient."

She added that money spent on levees and flood control would ultimately save the government money "by eliminating the need for costly post-storm recovery and rebuilding in areas that were not adequately protected. That is a major lesson learned from last year's horrifying experience."

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