KWAME HOLMAN: President Bush dedicated his entire today Hurricane Katrina and events related to recovery efforts.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Bureaucracy is not going to stand in the way of getting the job done for people.
KWAME HOLMAN: Criticism of his administration's response to the hurricane has been unrelenting prompting the president this morning to announce he would oversee an investigation. Mr. Bush later met with several charitable organizations willing to donate supplies and then held discussions on how to provide assistance for displaced students in the region.
But pressed by reporters throughout, Mr. Bush would not say who should be held accountable for mishandling the crisis.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I think one of the things that people want us to do here is to play a blame game. We got to solve problems. We're problem solvers. There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right and what went wrong.
KWAME HOLMAN: The press corps moved on to White House Spokesman Scott McClellan, grilling him on the accountability issue during his daily briefing.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC News: Isn't it incumbent upon this administration to immediately have accountability to find out what went wrong when at any time this could happen again?
SCOTT McCELLAN: This is a massive federal response effort that we have underway.
TERRY MORAN, ABC News: Where does the buck stop in this administration?
SCOTT McCELLAN: The president.
TERRY MORAN: So he will be held accountable as the head of the government for the federal response that he's already acknowledged was inaccurate?
SCOTT McCELLAN: The president's most important responsibility is the safety and security of the American people.
SEN. JOHN WARNER: Busy day, huh?
KWAME HOLMAN: But on Capitol Hill where the full Congress returned for its fall session, members already were making plans to probe government failures in response to Katrina.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: It is difficult to understand the lack of preparedness and the ineffective initial response to a disaster that had been predicted for years and for which specific, dire warnings had been given for days.
KWAME HOLMAN: Sen. Susan Collins and Joseph Lieberman announced their Governmental Affairs Committee would hold investigative hearings, but they stopped short of calling for the dismissal of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff or Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Obviously what Michael Chertoff and Michael Brown did in this circumstance would be of great interest in our inquiry, but we want to go at this in a way that's credible and legitimate and open minded. And therefore I think the last thing we'd want to do right now is to reach judgments about who should stay and who should go.
KWAME HOLMAN: But through the course of the day returning members of Congress voiced frustrations with varying degrees of emotion. Sen. Patrick Leahy, Democrat from Vermont.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Why the hell couldn't a truck load of water, a truck load of medicine, a bus load of physicians, people who could bring help and care and hope to the people, why couldn't they get through?
KWAME HOLMAN: House Democrat Jim Moran of Virginia.
REP. JIM MORAN: Whether it's because we're not used to seeing poverty so visible or the results of institutional racism so stark or because of just pure incompetence, it was criminal to abandon thousands and thousands of men and women, mothers and children, grandparents to rot in the squalor of complete government neglect. There has to be an immediate, rigorous and harsh determination of accountability for this criminal neglect.
KWAME HOLMAN: House Republican Cliff Stearns of Florida.
REP. CLIFF STEARNS: A great deal of criticism has been leveled against the federal government's response. Much of it may be deserved. But there's also a level of criticism due to local and state governments too. Allowing New Orleans to turn into something out of the Wild West where anarchy reins is inexcusable and all levels of government need to see what was done wrong.
KWAME HOLMAN: House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi held a news conference and faulted President Bush.
REP. NANCY PELOSI: The buck stops at the president's desk. The president said he's going to lead the investigation into what went wrong. He need only look in the mirror.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Republican Sen. Trent Lott, whose Mississippi home was washed away in the storm, said President Bush was not to blame.
SEN. TRENT LOTT: The president has been strong. The president has come to our area. He was in Mobile and he was in Biloxi, Mississippi. He was in Poplarville Mississippi. No president has ever walked the damaged streets of Poplarville Mississippi in the history of this country. He was in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Let me tell you, I saw his eyes. I saw compassion and hurt and tears. And I saw passion. And I saw leadership.
KWAME HOLMAN: While many members took advantage of their first day back to vent frustrations, Congress was expected to turn quickly to a series of bipartisan efforts to approve aid to victims, money to restore services, and to begin the long task of rebuilding.