Senate Democrats

Democratic Leaders Call Congressional Oversight a First Step

Americans Deserve an Independent Commission and Independent Answers

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi urged their colleagues to support an independent commission to investigate the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. The leaders wrote that while Congress has a Constitutional role in providing oversight to the executive branch, this should be a first step with an independent commission still required.

The text of the letter is below:

September 9, 2005

The Honorable Dennis Hastert
Speaker of the House of Representatives
The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable William Frist
Majority Leader
The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Speaker and Senator Frist,

Hurricane Katrina’s devastation is widespread and we are only beginning to comprehend its effect in cost of lives and livelihoods. Although the full extent of the damage is still unknown, now is the time for us to demonstrate leadership to the country to restore the American people’s confidence in our government’s ability to do what is right for the country.

We must continue to work together to provide relief and support to all those impacted. While we have passed two supplemental funding measures, there is much more we can and should do to ease the suffering of the survivors and help them begin rebuilding their lives and their communities.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that the government’s immediate response to Katrina was unacceptable and inadequate. What is even more startling is that this failure comes nearly four years after the tragedy of September 11th. 9/11 served as a wake up call to all Americans and to the Congress that we must do more to protect the country from national disasters. We reorganized the federal government’s institutions to better respond and prepare and we advised the American people and all levels of government to be vigilant and equipped to respond. Yet, the lesson of Katrina must surely be that we have not done enough and there are more lessons to be learned.

We believe that the results we saw over the past two weeks demand a thorough review and investigation. The President, Members of Congress and most importantly, the American people, all agree that we must determine what went wrong and how we can be better prepared in the future. The best way to do that is to appoint an independent commission modeled on the September 11th Commission. That commission, which was widely lauded by members of both parties and the American people, provided an expert, thorough, non-biased analysis of what went wrong and offered concrete suggestions for the future, many of which where embraced by the Bush Administration and have been adopted by the Congress. We urge you to once again to join us in calling for the creation of such a commission to investigate the Katrina disaster.

While we believe Congress has an important constitutional role to play in providing oversight to the executive branch and federal agencies, congressional oversight is just a first step toward answering all the questions raised by the Katrina disaster. The American people deserve answers independent of politics and from individuals not vested in the outcome. This can only be done through an independent commission insulated from politics. It is our hope that you will bring your leadership to support the formation of such a commission.


HARRY M. REID – Senate Democratic Leader
NANCY PELOSI – House Democratic Leader