The Senate Democratic Leader today sent the following letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist urging him to set aside the estate tax and other issues, to focus on hurricane relief and recovery efforts:
September 1, 2005
The Honorable Bill Frist
The United States Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Frist:
Hurricane Katrina has left a trail of death and destruction along America’s Gulf Coast. As I write, flood waters continue to pour into New Orleans, countless individuals are missing and thousands more are struggling to come to grips with the loss of loved ones and shattered dreams. It will be weeks before we know the full scope of the human and physical toll this storm has exacted on millions of Americans. The only thing we know for sure is that we’re facing a national tragedy and these people need and deserve our help.
As you know, President Bush has cut his vacation short and returned to Washington, DC to direct the recovery effort. In these critical hours, scores of Americans are engaged in search and rescue efforts and stemming the tide of further damage. Our thoughts and prayers are with the survivors and the brave men and women engaged in finding them.
Next week will be the Senate’s opportunity to address this crisis, and I write to you today to ask that you permit the Senate to do just that. As you know, the current Senate agenda calls for us to consider motions to proceed to estate tax legislation and other issues when we return to session next Tuesday. Given the tragic and devastating events along the Gulf Coast, members of the Senate would have great difficulty explaining why we were debating the estate tax during our first days back when we know hundreds of thousands of families are suffering.
I urge you to take the estate tax and these other items off the table, so that Senators and the resources of the Senate can immediately be focused when where they belong when we return — on the recovery effort. There can be no more important challenge facing our country in the days ahead than getting relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina, and the agenda of the United States Senate should reflect that priority.
In the days ahead, it is essential that we work together not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans united in helping families torn apart by this devastating storm. It will be up to all of us to put these families first, and to ensure they quickly get the aid they need to start rebuilding their lives. I pledge to do all I can to immediately address the needs of the victims of this horrible tragedy and hope you join me in this effort.