Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks at today’s Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing examining the handling of federal contracts for Gulf Coast reconstruction. Remarks as prepared.
“I want to thank Senator Dorgan and the Democratic Policy Committee for so aggressively pursuing this matter of contracting abuses, both in Iraq and in the Gulf Coast reconstruction effort. The previous set of hearings on Iraq provided the American people with disturbing insight into the billions of taxpayer dollars that have been plundered by the Administration and its cronies.
“Now, only weeks after hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, we learn that a similar culture of corruption, mismanagement and incompetence has plagued the reconstruction effort there. As it turns out, “Brownie” was not “doing a heck of a job.” The federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina has been marred by critical delays, ineffective coordination, poor decision-making, and significant contracting irregularities.
“When the President was asked recently about the relief efforts, and whether families are getting what they need, he said things are going “pretty good.” But that clearly is not the case. Tens of thousands of evacuees are still living in hotel rooms, FEMA has bungled its cash assistance program, trucks of ice and other supplies meant for the victims were redirected to other parts of the country, and local contractors and workers who desperately need the work have been passed over in the awarding of large no-bid reconstruction contracts to out-of-state companies.
“The American people, and especially the victims of this devastating natural disaster, deserve better. America can and must do better. That is why I will continue to call upon the President to:
- Push to ensure the health care, housing, education and financial needs of displaced families are met.
- Support an independent commission to find out what went wrong and to ensure that we are fully prepared to respond to future disasters that may hit our shores.
- Support the creation of an ethics watch dog and chief financial officer to oversee this massive expenditure of taxpayer resources in the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast region.
“Again, Senator Dorgan, I want to thank you and your staff for holding this important hearing because it is so critical that the victims get what they need, that the reconstruction of the region is carried out ethically and professionally, and that everyone involved plays by the rules.”