PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF THE SECOND EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT TO MEET IMMEDIATE NEEDS ARISING FROM THE CONSEQUENCES OF HURRICANE KATRINA, 200}

Sep 8, 2005

Mr. LEVIN.  Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the emergency funding bill that the House will consider later today to continue relief and recovery operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  We need to approve this measure today with all deliberate speed. I do object to the procedure in which the House will take up this emergency measure, which provides just 40 minutes to debate a $51 billion appropriation, with no amendments allowed.

I urge the House to reject this procedure and allow Representative Obey to offer an amendment to strengthen the Federal Emergency Management Agency and re-establish FEMA as a separate, independent agency whose Director reports directly to the President.  The Obey amendment would also require that the Director of FEMA have extensive experience in emergency and disaster-related management.  The amendment is very similar to the legislation introduced earlier this week by my colleague, Representative Dingell, which was cosponsored by myself and 64 other members of the House.  This is a proposal that should enjoy bipartisan support, since I note that Representative Foley and other Republican members have introduced similar legislation.

Let me speak candidly.  The response of the federal government to Hurricane Katrina was woefully inadequate.  Four years after 9-11, the federal government was not ready to respond to a national catastrophe that has left a major American city uninhabitable.  In the weeks and months ahead, we need an investigation of why the federal government's response fell so far short of the mark, and we need accountability.  One thing is already clear: the federal agency with lead responsibility for responding to national disasters--FEMA--has lost its way since it was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security.  This is simply not the same agency that responded so effectively to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.  Since being transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in 2001, FEMA's ability to respond to natural disasters has been eroded.

I believe we need to restore FEMA's status as an independent agency.  In addition, the Director of FEMA should be an experienced professional in areas of emergency management, and not the former head of the International Arabian Horse Association with no previous background in disaster relief.

I urge my colleagues to vote to allow Representative Obey the opportunity to offer his amendment.  The next natural disaster could happen next week, and we need to restore FEMA's ability to respond to it.  I also ask all my colleagues to join me in voting for the underlying bill.