Congressional Republicans signaled today that they have abandoned their plan to conduct a joint House-Senate probe of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.
In announcing a joint probe this month, the Republican leadership had said it would be the most efficient way to investigate the administration's much-criticized initial response to the hurricane. But today, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) conceded that he could not overcome Democratic opposition to a joint investigation.
The Democratic leadership has refused to appoint members to a joint committee, citing the lack of equal representation of Democrats on the panel, and the lack of power to issue subpoenas that the majority opposed. Democrats also have insisted on an independent inquiry.
Democratic opposition has left Republicans little maneuvering room for mounting a credible probe. With the joint investigation apparently off the table, Republicans can only hope that Democrats will participate in each chamber's separate investigation. It was far from clear today that Democrats would do that.
As of now, both Reid and Pelosi have refused to partake in investigations in their chambers, rightly arguing that the probe needs to be independent and armed with subpoena powers.
Why are Republicans so afraid of an independent commission? Their president is already screwed. It's not as if the commission would find anything to make things even worse for their failed president.
At this point, let's just find out what went wrong, free from political pressures, so we can make sure something like this never happens again.