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WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) made the following statement today on the House floor:
“Mr. Speaker, hundreds of thousands of our citizens in the Gulf Coast region have been devastated and displaced by the worst natural disaster in our nation’s history – Hurricane Katrina.
“The needs of the survivors and affected communities are great. And, this great nation must respond in a manner that the American people expect and demand.
“I have every expectation that every member of this House will vote today for this emergency supplemental appropriations bill because our paramount concern must be to assist and aid the victims of this catastrophe.
“But it pains me to say that once again this House has abdicated its obligation to conduct real, meaningful, effective legislative oversight of the Executive branch.
“The fact is, we are appropriating nearly $52 billion dollars today – which comes on top of the $10.5 billion we appropriated last week – and additional disaster relief certainly will be needed. And yet, neither the Chairman nor the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee were consulted in the drafting of this legislation.
“The unfortunate truth is this compliant Republican Congress has acted more like an adjunct to this Administration than a co-equal, independent branch of our government. As the columnist David Broder wrote on Sunday: ‘Majority Republicans see themselves first and foremost as members of the Bush team – and do not want to make trouble by asking hard questions.’
“Well, now more than ever, the American people deserve honest answers to the hard questions about the inadequate federal response to this disaster. For example, why did federal agencies and officials fail to appreciate the magnitude of this disaster, even as they were being warned by hurricane experts of the potential devastation? Why was the federal response so slow and inadequate? And why did federal officials seem unaware of the gravity of the devastation even as it became clear to anyone with a television set?
“Given the track record of this Republican Congress, I have no confidence that the tough questions will be answered – let alone asked.
“Thus, I believe the only way we’re going to get such answers is through the creation of a bipartisan, independent commission that investigates the federal government’s response to Katrina and makes recommendations to ensure that we do not repeat the same mistakes again.”