Senate Democrats

Reid Floor Statement on Relief Effort

“Our response to the tragedy of September 2005 must be every bit as bipartisan and direct as the tragedy of September 2001.”

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following floor statement on the Hurricane Katrina relief effort:

Mr. President, let me begin by offering my thoughts and prayers to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. They’ve experienced untold horrors in the past few days, and their road to recovery will be long and hard. As we approach the start of our regular Fall work period, there can be no more important challenge facing this body in the days ahead than providing relief to the victims of the tragedy.

It will be weeks before we know the full toll this storm has exacted. The only thing we know for sure is that we’ve experienced a national crisis and the people of the Gulf Coast need and deserve our help.

In these crucial hours, thousand of Americans are engaged in search and rescue efforts. I hope the brave men and women performing these heroic duties know that they too are in our thoughts and prayers.

Tonight in the Senate, we are taking a critical first step towards bringing relief to the victims of this disaster. I support President Bush for submitting this $10.5 billion request, and I thank my colleagues for permitting us to take up and pass this important legislation tonight. Our unified response sends a powerful signal to victims of this tragedy looking for signs that their government sees their plight and stands with them during this dark time.

In these days ahead, it is important we continue to send this strong, unified message. We must work together not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans united in helping families torn apart by this devastating storm.

It is my hope that our actions following the 9/11 Attacks will be a model for what we do here tonight and in the future. Our action after 9/11 was bipartisan. It was our top priority, and it moved significant resources to the victims of the terrorists attacks in a timely manner.

Our response to the tragedy of September 2005 must be every bit as bipartisan and direct as the tragedy of September 2001. We didn’t handle 9/11 with a Democratic or Republican aid package, and we shouldn’t handle this crisis any differently. This is not the time for partisanship. The victims of this terrible tragedy must come first.

With that principle guiding us, it is important that we begin to consider our next steps. The $10.5 billion we’re sending now represents a good first effort, but we all know much more needs to be done.

I am deeply concerned about the security situation on the ground. Unless we establish security in this area, we cannot mount an effective rescue operation – – let alone begin rebuilding.

We’ve all seen the images of families stranded at the Superdome or sitting outside the convention center. They don’t have food. They don’t have water. They don’t have medicine. They’re living in unsanitary conditions, and because we can’t keep the area safe, they’ve been unable to get out. That is unacceptable.

This is America. These are Americans we see suffering. We must find ways to get them the resources they need and bring them to safety. We must restore security, accelerate our rescue operations and expedite our relief efforts as soon as possible.

We must get these people the help they need.

When we reconvene on Tuesday, the security and safety of the Gulf Coast residents must be our first order of business. These families are counting on us. They are suffering, and they have no where else to turn. We owe it to them to make their survival our top priority, and we should give them nothing less.