CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Sen. Ernest Hollings called Tuesday for an investigation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's efforts to provide timely assistance and funds to victims of Hurricane Hugo last month, but the wife of the vice president said FEMA was doing a good job.
Hollings, D-S.C., announced from his Washington office that he will ask the General Accounting Office, the congressional watchdog, to investigate the federal agency for 'incompetent handling' of the Hugo relief effort.
'GAO needs to find out why this agency couldn't perform in an emergency,' Hollings said. 'They're supposed to manage emergencies, not cause them.'
The senator said that as of Tuesday morning, FEMA had issued a 'minimal number' of checks to hurricane victims.
'They just keep stonewalling, fretting and filling out forms,' he said. 'If I were them, I would be embarrassed.'
The senator, whose home is in Charleston County, said the federal government must take a more active and aggressive role to relieve areas devasted by the hurricane that blew inland Sept. 22, inflicting billions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses.
Marilyn Quayle, wife of Vice President Dan Quayle, called criticism of the agency's efforts a 'bum rap.'
After spending two days in the hurricane-ravaged areas of South Carolina, Mrs. Quayle said FEMA is doing a good job and the handling of requests is 'going very well.'
Quayle did not mention Hollings in her comments.
'Personally, I think there has been a misconception,' Mrs. Quayle said at a news conference. 'Everyone's natural reaction is that they want everything done yesterday.'
She said FEMA is responsible for the opening of 17 disaster centers by Thursday.
'We are moving right along,' she said. 'I think everyone should be pleased with what is being done.'
FEMA announced Tuesday that it is closing its centers in North Carolina because of less than expected requests for aid.
Quayle spent Monday at a center in Moncks Corner, S.C., north of Charleston helping victims fill out forms for various forms of financial assistance.
She said she will make recommendations to the vice president and president, but declined to discuss them.