Sep 15, 2005

Mr. LEVIN.  Mr. Speaker, this is a very important debate for our country.  I cannot imagine anything more important to the American people than an independent investigation of why the response to Hurricane Katrina fell so short of expectations.  We need a full accounting of what went wrong at all levels of government so such failures don't happen again.

I support the appointment of a non-partisan, independent commission--modeled after the successful 9/11 Commission--to investigate the response to Hurricane Katrina.  An independent commission is the only way to get to the bottom of this.  The commission would look into every aspect of the preparation and response to Hurricane Katrina, and let the chips fall where they may.  The American people have made it clear this is what they want as well. A new Washington Post/ABC poll found that 76 percent of the public supports the creation of an independent commission.  The Leadership of the House badly misreads the public mood when it disregards the clear wishes of the American people for a non-partisan investigation. We need to look at our government's weaknesses and correct them.

I oppose the straightjacket procedure under which the House is considering this legislation.  The Majority calls this a ``Select Bipartisan Committee,'' but the legislation was drafted behind closed doors with no input from Democrats.  This is bipartisanship? The Leadership of the House will not even allow Democrats the opportunity to offer a substitute and have a straight up-or-down vote on it.  Is the Majority's position so weak that it cannot withstand a debate?

I don't think the American people are going to have much patience for partisanship on this issue.  They want answers and a measure of public accountability, not a partisan whitewash.  There are hard questions to be asked about the slow, disorganized, and woefully inadequate response to a natural disaster that left a major U.S. city uninhabitable.

The proposal before the House calls for a House investigation that would be completely controlled by the Republican party.  Republicans would outnumber Democrats on the Committee 11 to 9.  There would be no bipartisan subpoena power.  With all due respect, this would be an investigation in name only.  It would have no credibility with the American people.  You can't have a comprehensive and fair investigation when the people controlling that investigation have a vested interest in the outcome.

I urge the House to reject this unfair procedure and reject the very partisan investigation it seeks to establish.