Video: Oklahoma more than OK to Katrina victims

By Mike Taibbi Correspondent
NBC News
updated 9/19/2005 7:40:35 PM ET 2005-09-19T23:40:35

In Oklahoma, as in so many other states, they've opened up their hearts to Hurricane Katrina victims. And at the Council Road Baptist Church in Bethany, they've opened up their wallets too — donating money and time to help hundreds of evacuees like Warnell and Nattie Nelson get through these days and weeks of crisis.

But even in red-state Oklahoma, Republican politicians aren't convinced that, on a national level, the party's figured out the specifics about how to pay for the recovery.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., says maybe this isn't the time to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent or to fund all those pork barrel projects costing hundreds of millions. “This is a moral question,” says Coburn, “Not an economic issue.”

At the state fair in Oklahoma City, some say forget about Iraq, we have to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, whatever the cost.

“If it takes more taxes,” says Carroll Holsted, “I would be willing to throw in some more.”

“We really need to spend more time at home working on issues here,” says Terry Trent.

Tulsa Republican Congressman John Sullivan has heard comments like those and says the country is watching to see how his party performs. “We're in charge right now and it's on our plate and we need to do it right,” says Sullivan, “If we don’t do it right, we're going to pay the price.”

In the meantime, the Nelsons are considering giving up on their beloved New Orleans and settling in Oklahoma.

“I love New Orleans,” says Warnell Nelson. “[It's] my home. But right now, this [Oklahoma] is my home.”

Kelly Stuart, from the baptist church, is helping them settle in, convinced that the Nelsons and thousands of other victims were ignored by their government.

“For their immediate needs and emotional recovery,” says Stuart, “I think they were failed.”

And she says that's why her church — the private sector — will give all the help it possibly can without waiting for a government check.

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