After spending approximately 45 minutes with Jefferson, the helicopter went on to rescue three additional New Orleans residents before it ran low on fuel and was forced to end its mission.
"Forty-five minutes can be an eternity to somebody that is drowning, to somebody that is sitting in a roof, and it needs to be used its primary purpose during an emergency," said Hauer.
Coast Guard Cmdr. Brendan McPherson told ABC News, "We did have an aircraft that responded to a signal of distress where the congressman was located. The congressman did decline rescue at the time so the helicopter picked up three other people.
"I can't comment on why the congressman decided not to go in the aircraft," McPherson said. "Did it take a little more time to send the rescue swimmer back a second time? Yes … You'd have to ask the congressman if it was a waste of time or not."
The Louisiana National Guard then sent a second five-ton truck to rescue the first truck, and Jefferson and his personal items were returned to the Superdome.
Schneider said he could not comment on whether the excursion was appropriate. "We're in no position to comment on an order given to a soldier. You're not going to get a statement from the Louisiana National Guard saying whether it was right or wrong. That was the mission we were assigned."
Jefferson insisted the expedition did not distract from rescue efforts.
"They actually picked up a lot of people while we were there," he said. "The young soldier said, 'It's a good thing we came up here because a lot of people would not have been rescued had we not been in the neighborhood.'"
In an unrelated matter, authorities recently searched Jefferson's property as part of a federal investigation into the finances of a high-tech firm. Last month FBI officials raided Jefferson's house as well as his home in Washington, D.C., his car and his accountant's house.
Jefferson has not commented on that matter, except to say he is cooperating with the investigation. But he has emerged as a major voice in the post-Katrina political debate.
"The levee system that had protected New Orleans for hundreds of years had failed," he said on the House floor on Sept. 7. "Our city was inundated, 80 percent of it, with deadly water. Thousands of lives were lost, many drowned, trapped in their homes. Others were lost trying to escape the fury."
Last week, Jefferson set up a special trust fund for contributions to his legal defense in light of the FBI investigation. A senior federal law enforcement source tells ABC News that investigators are interested in learning if Jefferson moved any materials relevant to the investigation. Jefferson says he did not.
ABC News' Sarah H. Rosenberg, Chris Isham and Ted Gerstein contributed to this report.