Senate Democrats

Reid: America Can Do Better for Victims of Katrina

In advance of President Bush’s address tonight, U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement today:

“The families in the Gulf don’t need to hear a speech from me. And they certainly don’t need to hear another speech from President Bush. What they need is leadership. That’s why we’re here to give our plan to help families get back on their feet, back into homes and back on the job.

“Let’s be clear about what Katrina was: a failure of leadership. The day before the Hurricane made landfall, President Bush received a briefing on the enormity of the storm. But when flood waters poured into America’s Gulf Coast, America’s government sat on its hands.

“We can’t change that. It’s in the past. But we can change our future and make sure no American is left behind again.

“Our first job is to help our neighbors as quickly as possible. Our plan insists on housing, health care and classrooms for everyone who has lost everything. For two weeks we’ve been trying to get this relief out of the Congress and to victims, but Republicans have held it up, and the desperate are still waiting.

“We can do better. We believe that one lesson of Katrina is that in America – we don’t leave anyone behind. Our rule on aid is – be fair and be quick. Never again will the federal government rescue some Americans, and leave other less fortunate ones waiting behind.

“Next, we need answers. In order to fix what went wrong, we need to know what went wrong. We don’t believe the President can fairly investigate his friends. And even though we’re in Congress, we don’t believe Congress should investigate its own role either. We support an independent commission like the one created after 9/11.

“Let’s put good people on the independent commission and take politics out. Let’s give it real power and let it go to work.

“And while we’re looking for answers, we need answers about poverty. When tough times threaten, Americans who’ve worked hard shouldn’t see their escape options limited to a roof top or the Superdome. We can do better, and Democrats stand ready with real solutions to help.

“Third, we need to remember every American has a stake in this. We’re a country that rolls-up our sleeves and works alongside a neighbor when they need help. We didn’t leave Europe in ruin after World War II. We didn’t leave San Francisco in rubble in 1989, and we shouldn’t tell the people of the Gulf Coast that Katrina is their mess and they need to clean it up.

“We can do better. We support an American Marshall Plan to rebuild the Gulf – one that partners the resources and know-how of the government with the vision and leadership of the people who live there.

“And one more thing: We should let those who’ve lost so much help rebuild their cities, so they can build better lives for themselves.

“We will rebuild the Gulf Coast…And billions of dollars – billions of taxpayer dollars – will be spent in the process. We Democrats want to be certain that money goes to help the victims, not to enrich the contractors. And we want to make sure that the well-connected get treated no better than the carpenters, plumbers and electricians who do the work. The President has stripped away protections for these workers, but we know America can do better.

“Democrats want an independent ethics watchdog – someone with integrity and investigative power to police this spending and make sure everyone plays by the rules.

“Americans are coming together. Churches have opened their doors. Families have opened their pocketbooks and their homes. Entire cities have opened their arms.

“Katrina did more than pull apart buildings and trees, it pulled together the ties that bind.

“We Democrats want to rebuild our sense of unity and community, even as we repair levees and rebuild cities.

“We are Americans. We want to move forward united and strong. We believe that together, we can do better.”