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Coast Chamber Meeting Perfect Setting for Lott's Comments on Recovery, Washington Politics
By Keith Burton   12/21/06

One thing was certain about Thursday morning's Gulf Coast Chamber morning call meeting, it was the perfect setting for Senator Trent Lott to feel at ease talking about Katrina recovery and events in Washington. The who's who of the Coast's businesses attend this meeting, the last of the year, and Lott is annually the group's guest, but missed last year's meeting due to trying to get Katrina funding passed through the Congress. Here, the crowd is friendly and Lott is well-respected. But for someone as powerful in Washington as Lott, his words carry farther than the Coast.

This year Lott spoke of the progress the Coast has made since Hurricane Katrina, but noted that much more needs to be done, and more help will be required. His praised Biloxi's Mayor A.J. Holloway for his care of the City in the light of the Hurricane and for his determination to rebuild. He also thanked the business community for their contributions to the recovery, including Bell South, and Mississippi Power, as well as the meeting's host site, the Beau Rivage Casino and Resort, for their commitment to see the Coast recover.

But like past Chamber meetings, Lott spoke freely on some major national issues such as the Iraq war and immigration, as well as the recent elections where Republicans had lost control of the House and Senate. GCN has link at the bottom of this story to hear most all of Lott's comments.

"Because I come and go, I see the slow, difficult, grudging progress that is being made, but you should know we have come a long way since last year," Lott said. "We all underestimated of what we had experienced and the sheer volume of the stuff we had to remove, ...but we have gotten through the cleanup." Lott's own home in Pascagoula was leveled by Katrina's storm surge and Lott has filed suit against his own insurance carrier.

Lott went on to explain that he understands that much of the federal money has yet to actually make it through the federal bureaucracy, but the money will eventually reach where it is going and improvements are coming.

Lott says that the way residents and Mississippi has acted after the hurricane has changed favorably the way all America sees Mississippi.

Lott says the area must continue to push forward, "To get the businesses back in, to get the construction underway."

Lott says the insurance company's response is still a problem and that high insurance coverage costs and unavailability remain serious obstacles to the rebuilding. He believes there needs to be reform of the insurance business.

"I am not advocating a national catastrophic disaster program yet," said Lott. "But it is something we need to start working on at the national level."

"The insurance companies don't cover floods...They don't cover tornados,..they don't cover earthquakes...Just what in the hell do they cover?" Lott said.

On the war in Iraq, Lott said that the nation has committed too many lives and resources to withdraw without a favorable outcome. Lott has been critical of how the war has developed and of the previous Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield's war effort.

Lott said the U.S. must keep stability in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And in Iraq, oil does play a role. A big issue, Lott says, is how the oil profits are distributed among the various sects in that country.

On leaving Iraq, Lott said, "You can debate all you want how we got there, but we got to figure out what we are going to do to get the best result."

Regarding the recent Republican losses, Lott says the public finally saw that the Republican-controlled Congress was stalled and couldn't pass legislation on major issues such as health care, illegal immigration and more.

Lott brought up Hillary Clinton and how she voted on the effort to move the Coast's railroad tracks. He said that Clinton had voted to move the tracks. The effort to relocate the tracks was eventually removed from the Katrina recovery bill after groups called it a pork project. But the tracks, which were repaired by the CSX railroad at the company's expense after the hurricane, are still vulnerable to future storms.

GCN Audio: Trent Lott's Comments.

(Note: This recording contains the bulk of Lott's comments, but not all. This was done to reduce file size.)

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