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WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today concerning the federal government’s response to victims of Hurricane Katrina and the $51.8 billion emergency supplemental appropriations bill for hurricane relief that will be considered on the House Floor on Thursday:
“Hundreds of thousands of citizens in the Gulf Coast region have been devastated by the worst natural disaster in our nation’s history. The needs of the survivors are great, and this great nation will respond in a manner that the American people expect and demand. It is my expectation that every Member of the House of Representatives will strongly support the emergency supplemental appropriations bill tomorrow.
“However, our national unity in helping these members of the American family recover from this disaster must not preclude us from asking hard questions and demanding honest answers about the federal government’s slow and inept response to it. Federal agencies and officials failed to appreciate the magnitude of this disaster, even as they were being warned by hurricane experts of the potential devastation. And, even as the gravity of the catastrophe became clear to anyone with a television set, federal officials still seemed unaware of its enormity.
“This Congress also has an obligation to conduct effective oversight of the expenditure of disaster relief and to ensure that these funds are meeting the needs of survivors and affected communities. The fact that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is leading the relief and recovery efforts does not give me a great deal of confidence that these funds will be used to maximum effect without proper oversight.
“Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Frist today announced the formation of a bipartisan, bicameral Congressional committee to examine the response to Hurricane Katrina. But unfortunately, the history of this Republican-controlled Congress is not to do effective oversight or to ask the hard questions.
“As a result, I believe that a bipartisan, independent commission must be established to examine the federal government’s actions before, during and after this natural disaster, and to ensure that we do not repeat the same mistakes again. The American people would be better served by an independent 9/11-type commission.”