(Updated 8:59 p.m.) U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s vacation in Italy when Tropical Storm Irene hit was well-publicized and criticized by Republicans, but it seemed no one missed U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
While his junior colleague, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, buzzed around the state meeting with local officials and grabbing the attention of the news media, Lieberman held one conference call on Aug. 31, three days after the storm passed through the state. Lieberman’s staff said he was in Hartford on Aug. 31 and Sept. 5, in addition to being in constant contact with FEMA.
While he didn’t announce public appearances in Connecticut last week, Lieberman, who is not seeking re-election, didn’t miss his chance to be seen Monday with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. He toured damaged shoreline properties in East Haven and participated in a briefing at the Emergency Operations Center in Hartford.
About halfway through the press conference following the briefing, Lieberman side-stepped his way to the microphone to thank President Barack Obama and Napolitano for their help.
“Governor, if I could just say a quick word of thank you to Secretary Napolitano for coming here. Also, thank you to President Obama, who throughout Irene was sympathetically interested in what’s happening here and anxious to make sure the federal government came to our help,” Lieberman said.
“I was just thinking as you were talking about Hurricane Katrina in which FEMA did not handle itself so well, I remember an official down in the Gulf Coast saying that FEMA has just become another four letter word. But here in Connecticut I gotta tell you we love FEMA. That’s another four letter word. We love FEMA,” Lieberman added.
Lieberman pointed out that there has been controversy in Washington regarding the federal government’s ability to find the money to support FEMA.
“That to me is nonsense,“ Lieberman said. “Once the declaration was made that we qualified, individuals in Connecticut and elsewhere and governmental bodies have a statutory right to assistance.”
“Just as we said during the debt ceiling debate, America doesn’t default on its bond holding obligations. We don’t, and will not default on our statutory obligation to individuals who have been hurt by Irene here in Connecticut,” he added.
DeLauro and Lieberman chose to be as close to the podium as they could get, while U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal were in the second row behind the podium. DeLauro chose not to speak at the brief, 15-minute press conference.
DeLauro’s staff said she left for Italy on Aug. 21, long before the storm was even an issue for the state. She made the decision to come back last Tuesday, but because of flight cancellations was only able to get back to the state on Friday. On Saturday, her first full day back, DeLauro toured her district from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
“The Congresswoman should never have been abroad to begin with, rather in the district or at work addressing the ongoing unemployment crisis,’’ Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said in a statement provided to Dennis House of WSFB-TV. “On the other hand, given her continued endorsement of President Obama’s failed economic policies, perhaps our state would be better served if DeLauro chose to take a permanent vacation.”
The last Republican to take a shot at unseating DeLauro was Labriola in 2010.
DeLauro fired back at her former opponent.
“This is a partisan attack and inappropriate. Let’s focus on continuing to address the problems people are facing,” DeLauro said. “The last thing people need is this kind of partisan attack by the Chairman of the Republican Party.”
Mark Pazniokas at the CT Mirror reported that once DeLauro returned to her district, so did the electricity. Coincidence?