[Congressional Record Volume 151, Number 109 (Tuesday, September 6, 2005)]
[Senate]
[Pages S9625-S9630]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                           HURRICANE KATRINA

  Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I wanted to spend a few minutes this 
afternoon if I could and express my sympathy and the sympathy of my 
family, I know the sympathy of all of us in this Chamber, to the 
victims of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding that occurred 
particularly in Louisiana. I thank the leadership for giving us an 
opportunity today to express ourselves as a national body about this 
devastation that has occurred. There will be a lot of discussion about 
what happened, what did not happen, the shortcomings of our Government 
in responding in a timely fashion to this situation. But today is a 
time to offer our prayers and our sincere and deep sympathies to those 
who have suffered as much as they have.
  There will be hearings next week. The President, I gather, has 
announced an investigation at the executive branch level. I think an 
independent investigation is probably the best way to proceed. Having 
the Government investigate itself is interesting but not

[[Page S9626]]

always the best way to get to the bottom of the information we ought to 
have about what happened. Because we will have events like this--
hopefully nothing of this magnitude--again. There will be other events 
that require our Nation to respond far more expeditiously, far more 
thoughtfully, far more humanely than we did in this situation.
  First, it obviously goes without saying that the thoughts and prayers 
of all of us and the entire country are with the people of the Gulf 
region at this hour. This is a disaster of unspeakable and 
unprecedented proportions, and we are still struggling to comprehend 
the magnitude of this event. Certainly the attacks of September 11, 
2001 come to mind in terms of the damage done to life and property.
  At the same time the devastation wrought by this act of nature is 
quantitatively and qualitatively different. As we speak here this 
afternoon, an entire American city, between a half a million and a 
million people, is uninhabitable. Its mayor tells us it will remain in 
that state for many months to come. Hundreds are believed to be dead 
and he predicts that the number will soar in the days to come--possibly 
into the thousands.
  In Mississippi over 100 are known dead. According to that State's 
Governor, the destruction of the Gulf communities such as Biloxi, 
Gulfport, and Bay St. Louis is nearly total. Let me be clear and repeat 
what I said. I said destruction, not damage. Thousands of homes and 
places of business are a total loss and will have to be completely 
rebuilt in the coming months. I know that our colleague, Senator Lott 
of Mississippi, lost his own home. Nearly a million homes in his State 
have been without power for days.
  In Alabama more than 400,000 homes and businesses have lost power. 
Mobile and the surrounding environs suffered severe flooding. In 
western Florida the situation is similar. The Presiding Officer 
certainly knows of what I speak. Hundreds of thousands were without 
power and with scant access to the basic necessities of life--clean 
water, sanitary facilities, food, and shelter.
  The upshot of all this destruction and damage is that millions of our 
fellow American citizens are now literally refugees in their own 
country.
  We don't like to use the word refugee and I certainly have stayed 
away from it. But as you watch pictures of people walking along 
railroad tracks, along highways, of people perched on rooftops waiting 
patiently for aid, and enduring deprivation that we have never seen in 
this country on such an immediate and immense scale as we have in this 
event, then certainly the word refugee is appropriate in these 
circumstances.
  We are receiving reports of looting, shooting, and chaos that has 
interfered with rescue and relief efforts. We all struggle to remember 
a comparable amount of destitution and destruction in our Nation. And 
so far we struggle in vain in that effort. We cannot believe what we 
are seeing is taking place in our own Nation, our beloved America. 
Nothing like this has ever happened in the United States.
  And we are reminded as well that America is not a loose collection of 
States or regions. We are a single indivisible nation. What happens in 
one State or region is felt all across our country in the concerns of 
loved ones, the charitable contributions, and the secondary 
deprivations that all Americans will experience as a result of this 
catastrophe.

  The Gulf region is a principal source of domestic and foreign goods 
that are consumed by all of us--natural gas, oil, lumber, poultry, 
coffee, and bananas. It is the departure point for the export of 
billions of dollars worth of goods made in our own Nation--corn, 
soybeans, wheat, and other commodities.
  The Army Corps of Engineers tells us it could take as long as 6 
months to drain the water from the basin in which the city of New 
Orleans lies. It will take months if not years before that city and 
other areas damaged by this hurricane and flood return to some 
semblance of normalcy. The aid package we considered last Thursday 
evening is the first installment of emergency aid for the national 
Government but by no means will it be the last. This Senator pledges 
his support for delivering all appropriate aid as expeditiously as 
possible to those in need in the gulf region. This is a time requiring 
unity and urgent action.
  There will be a time, as I said earlier, in the days and weeks to 
come to examine what went wrong. And a lot went wrong before as well as 
after this hurricane and flood.
  Our citizens are already asking the tough questions about what we 
could have done to prevent the full extent of this tragedy. They are 
outraged, not just in the Gulf area. I spent yesterday in my home State 
of Connecticut. I went to the State armory in that city to help 
organize food assistance packages that were being shipped to the Gulf 
region. I can tell you people in the city of Hartford, as well as 
people throughout my State are outraged and appalled by what they saw 
as incompetence and indifference at the very highest levels of our 
national Government. And I think they are right to be incensed and to 
demand better action and answers to what occurred.
  They want to know why there has been a 44-percent cut in funds for 
flood prevention in New Orleans since 2001, even though a 2001 FEMA 
report told us that a hurricane flooding New Orleans was one of the 
three most likely major disasters facing the United States, along with 
a terrorist attack in the city of New York.
  Citizens want to know why the administration, despite promising there 
would be no net loss of wetlands, has allowed their development, 
including those in the Gulf region, which are better flood prevention 
mechanisms than any dam or levy built by man.
  Citizens all across this country want to know why, despite knowing 
for days before the hurricane that it could cause major devastation, it 
took so long for the Federal agencies to mobilize relief, rescue, and 
law and order operations.
  Citizens want to know all across our Nation whether nationwide spikes 
in the price of gasoline are normal under these circumstances or the 
result of price gouging by unscrupulous profiteers who always stand 
ready to take advantage of tragedy. And they want to know that our 
President and Attorney General are doing everything possible to prevent 
price gouging.
  These are very important issues--not the only ones--but they are some 
of the ones being asked by our fellow citizens at this very hour.
  As I said a moment ago, now is the time for us to pull together as a 
nation to support one another, to do what we can to help the people of 
the Gulf region get their lives back to some semblance of normalcy.
  Eight days after the hurricane first hit the gulf region and 9 days 
after it became a storm stronger than the New Orleans levees could 
hold, there are still critical needs that must be addressed 
immediately.
  Right now as we speak here today in this Chamber, New Orleans is 
coated with a layer of toxic sewage that endangers the health of both 
those left stranded and the relief workers themselves. It has been 
estimated that there are thousands of bodies that have yet to be 
recovered on the streets and bayous of Jefferson Parish. There are 
public safety concerns. There is not enough food and water. And the 
city remains without power.
  They need our help now, and they need more than the direct assistance 
we have just begun to deliver. Last week, as I mentioned earlier, this 
body approved over $10 billion in emergency aid. That is a fraction of 
what will be required in the coming months and years to rebuild the 
lives and communities affected by this tragedy.
  Our first concern must, of course, be the health of those who still 
remain.
  We need to guarantee all displaced victims access to comprehensive 
health care coverage, to Medicaid, including waiving residency, assets, 
and copayments requirements. Those who survive remain at great risk for 
illness and disease. They need and deserve medical care.
  We need to provide resources to help the Centers for Disease Control 
and Prevention and local public health authorities monitor and respond 
to disease outbreaks and to help treat victims. We need to work closely 
with the pharmaceutical industry to get badly needed medication to 
these affected areas.
  We need to make sure that this is a long-term effort. We must provide 
funding for continued monitoring of

[[Page S9627]]

those in the region, as exposure to environmental hazards could have 
lifelong consequences.
  We should invest in the public safety net and support mental health 
providers to help victims cope emotionally with the disaster. We need 
to offer Federal support for communities and tax incentives for 
individuals to incorporate displaced victims.
  We also must provide basic services and support for those who now 
literally live as refugees in other States.
  The New Orleans school district has been decimated. Only 2,500 of the 
7,000 employees have been accounted for. The central office has been 
destroyed, and all of the school records in New Orleans are gone.
  Thankfully, there are over 30 cities that have stepped forward to 
take in the 20,000 children who have so far been identified as in need.
  We have to get direct financial assistance to the school districts 
absorbing these students so they can adequately care for them in 
addition to the students they already serve.
  We also must provide financial assistance for college students as 
they relocate to other universities and provide incentives for those 
universities that have already offered students a new home.
  And we must make sure that victims are not penalized by rules, 
regulations, and responsibilities that may work well under normal 
circumstances but can be debilitating in times of an emergency.
  We should waive income requirements for Head Start displaced 
children. We should give States that have offered childcare to refugees 
flexibility on their subsidy payments. And we should waive TANF work 
requirements for victims of the hurricane and flood.
  We should also offer tax relief to victims so they can begin 
rebuilding their lives and expand and extend unemployment assistance so 
they can get back on their feet more quickly.
  We should mobilize volunteers through AmeriCorps and other 
organizations in a unified rebuilding effort. And we should encourage 
private industry to participate with their own resources and expertise.
  We also need to guarantee that the brave military personnel who 
continue to carry out operations in the gulf region with characteristic 
precision and professionalism will have all the resources that they 
need.
  Last week, the U.S. Coast Guard crews rescued over 22,000 people in 
Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, but we are not properly supporting 
them, in my view. Their costs in both operations and reconstruction are 
estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and they are being 
forced to divert funds from their already strapped 2005 accounts. This 
should be simply unacceptable to all of us.
  We also must start discussing long-term solutions. We must be 
prepared as a nation to prevent or mitigate the effects of tragedies of 
this magnitude. We must invest in viable and sufficient flood control 
projects. We must examine building codes to consider if they can be 
strengthened to limit damage in the future. Perhaps most importantly, 
we must develop disaster relief plans throughout our Nation so that we 
will not again be caught off guard as we were this time.
  We must restore the ability of the Federal Government to respond to a 
disaster of this magnitude whether manmade or natural.
  During the 1990s, FEMA evolved to fulfill this role and demonstrated 
through several disasters its ability and confidence, I might add, to 
quickly mobilize resources and other aspects of relief efforts. By all 
accounts, that is no longer the case. We should consider whether FEMA 
should be made a Cabinet level agency and whether there are other steps 
that the national Government can take so that in the future we can 
fully mobilize our resources to respond to national catastrophes.
  I am also going to revisit shortly, when the appropriations bills 
come up, what I have recommended on three different occasions, along 
with my colleague from Michigan, Senator Stabenow, to fully fund the 
first responders. It was strongly recommended by our former colleague, 
Warren Rudman, who, along with a very distinguished commission financed 
and supported by the Council on Foreign Relations, reported that we 
should be spending some $20 billion every year for 5 years to see to it 
that we have the adequate resources in place to respond.
  Now, they were talking about a terrorist attack when they talked 
about first responders. They did not have in mind natural disasters of 
this magnitude. But clearly we need to anticipate both. We have 
narrowly lost that amendment on three different occasions. But I would 
hope in light of what has occurred in the Gulf region of our own Nation 
over the last week and a half that we would be able to find the 
necessary support to see to it that our first responders in this 
country have the tools, the equipment, and the preparation so that we 
never ever again find ourselves in this situation, ill prepared to 
respond to a crisis of this kind.
  Lastly, I want to pay a little special tribute to my own 
constituency. As I mentioned a few moments ago, I spent a good part 
late yesterday morning at the armory in Hartford, CT, where people in 
my office were gathering these supplies to send down to the gulf 
region. It was Labor Day, and I went over half expecting there might be 
a handful of people there to process and handle the contributions. 
There were hundreds of people there. It was really rather an emotional 
moment to drive up and see literally hundreds of people, volunteers 
from various churches and organizations in my State, gathering the 
materials. There was a line of automobiles that went around the block 
several times. People with their families in the car, with young 
children, arrived, opened up their trunks and the backs of their cars, 
and pulled out food, clothing, supplies of all kinds to be delivered to 
the victims of Katrina in the Gulf region. And then to watch volunteers 
sorting it out, packaging it up again. This was at one armory. Today 
they are opened up across the State, and again we are seeing the same 
reaction today--literally thousands of people pouring out in our small 
State of Connecticut to provide assistance. What I know is that it is 
occurring all across the country.
  While we are talking about the failures of Government to respond 
well, how proud all of us ought to be in this Chamber of our fellow 
citizens because they are not sitting down. They are reacting. They are 
involved in telethons and charitable giving, doing everything they can 
to assist the people of the Gulf region. It is a great picture of 
America. It is what all of us believe about our country. In moments 
like this I did not hear a person in Connecticut talk about the South 
or southerners or differences in red States and blue States. I watched 
good people in the city of Hartford, CT, doing everything they can to 
help out people in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. That is our 
America. That is the country we represent, and we are all deeply proud 
of our fellow citizens. We will get through this. We will put these 
people back on their feet again, but we need to be better prepared so 
we can minimize the kind of hardship that these communities have 
suffered through in the last 10 days.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Alexander). The Senator from Washington.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I rise this afternoon to join my 
colleagues in offering my support and sympathy and certainly everything 
we can do from my home State of Washington to so many of our fellow 
Americans who are suffering so tragically from the outfall of Hurricane 
Katrina. I want them to know we will do everything we can to make sure 
we are there for them.
  I have to say that over the past week, citizens from this end of the 
country to my end of the country on the west coast have been glued to 
their television screens and really overwhelmed by the tremendous 
devastation and the unfathomable suffering of so many of our fellow 
Americans. The images have become almost too much to bear, watching 
families without food and water, people who have been trapped on their 
roofs, people searching for their loved ones. People have come up to me 
everywhere when I have gone through my State over the last week. My 
office has been inundated by calls from my fellow citizens in 
Washington State who are really horrified at the conditions they have 
seen on TV. They are asking, rightfully, what can we do to help and how 
can we be there for our

[[Page S9628]]

citizens? They are reaching into their own pockets and doing everything 
they can, and that truly has been heartwarming to see.
  They are also asking, How could this have happened? I have to say 
that people in my home State are upset and, really, with good reason. 
Our Government failed in its initial response. We now have to see that 
we succeed in this ongoing recovery. That certainly is my focus right 
now.
  There is going to be a lot of time for hard questions and 
accountability, but I think today we need to focus on meeting the 
tremendous needs that rescue workers and our guard and police forces 
are meeting on the ground. We also need to recognize that the recovery 
area is now no longer just limited to the gulf coast. As Americans have 
opened their hearts and their homes and they have opened up their 
communities and their stadiums and their hospitals and their homes in 
towns and cities from coast to coast, that need has spread across the 
country.
  Shortly, in my home State of Washington, we are expecting to welcome 
2,000 evacuees. Nearly 200 of them are going to arrive by this 
Thursday, and we need to make sure we are doing everything and being 
prepared to meet their needs as they come to our States. Right now we 
have to ensure that the evacuees have the bare essentials, that they 
have food, clothing, and shelter. We also have to make sure we are 
preparing for the long term.
  For most children in this country, as we all know, this week marks a 
very exciting time, the beginning of the school year, a time that they 
head off to meet their new teachers and reconnect with old friends and 
make new ones. For all of the children who have been displaced from 
their homes and their school districts by the effects of Hurricane 
Katrina, the beginning of the school year is really the least of their 
worries. But we will need to come together as a country to help these 
schools across the Nation that are taking in these students from the 
gulf coast.
  I just heard on the television before I came here that there will be 
probably 200,000 or more of these young students, and we have to do 
everything we can to absorb the costs and help the transition for these 
children and families, to make it as smooth as possible.
  We also need to make sure we pay special attention to funding for 
support for homeless and foster children and ensure that the most 
vulnerable among us have the support they need to succeed and to build 
brighter futures again.
  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many different sectors of our 
transportation system have also stepped up to the plate to deliver 
critical service, and because this region's infrastructure is so 
devastated we need to immediately explore alternatives to moving people 
and freight throughout the region. I think we all know it is going to 
take time to get our transportation infrastructure back to where it 
was, but we need to start concentrating on that and getting systems put 
in place now as well.
  Rest assured, I will be asking very hard questions in the days to 
come about what went wrong and what we need to do to ensure that 
Americans never endure such preventable suffering again. All of those 
questions will be explored in detail, but right now I am going to 
continue to make sure that we are providing the immediate support that 
our families and our communities again need. Once again, I just want to 
say my thoughts and my prayers go out to everyone who has been touched 
by this disaster.
  I see my colleague from Illinois who has been down in the region is 
on the floor with us. I look forward to hearing about his firsthand 
experience as well.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.
  Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise to address what has been a 
heartbreaking week for all of us. As was mentioned by my distinguished 
colleague from Washington, I just returned from a trip from Houston 
with former Presidents Clinton and Bush as part of a fund-raising 
effort to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As we wandered 
through the crowd, we heard in very intimate terms some of the heart-
wrenching stories that all of us have witnessed on television over the 
past several days: Mothers separated from their babies; adults mourning 
the loss of elderly parents; descriptions of the heat, filth, and fear 
of the Superdome and of the convention center in New Orleans.
  There was an overriding sense of relief in Houston, and the officials 
in Houston and in the entire State of Texas deserve great credit for 
the outstanding job they have done in creating a clean and stable place 
for the tens of thousands of families who have been displaced.
  A conversation I had with one woman captured the realities that are 
settling into the families as they face the future. She said to me: We 
had nothing before the hurricane, and now we have less than nothing. We 
had nothing before the hurricane, now we have less than nothing.
  In the coming weeks, as the images of the immediate crisis fade and 
this Chamber becomes consumed with other matters, we will be hearing a 
lot about lessons learned and steps to be taken. I will be among those 
voices who will be calling for action. In the most immediate term, we 
will have to assure that the efforts at evacuating families from the 
affected States proceed--they are not finished yet--that these 
Americans who are having to flee their homes, their cities, their 
counties, and their towns are fed, clothed, housed, and provided with 
the medical care and medicine they need.
  We are also going to have to make sure we cut through the redtape 
that has inexcusably prevented so much help from getting to the places 
where it is needed. I can say from personal experience over the last 
week how frustrating it has been, how unconscionable it has been to be 
unable to find somebody in charge so that we can get medical supplies, 
doctors, nurses, and other supplies down to the affected areas quickly 
enough.
  We are going to have to make sure in this Chamber that any 
impediments that may continue to exist in preventing relief efforts 
from moving forward rapidly are eliminated.
  Once we stabilize the situation, this country is going to face the 
enormous challenge in providing stability for displaced families over 
the months and years that it is going to take to rebuild. Already the 
State of Illinois has committed to accepting 10,000 displaced families. 
There are stories in Illinois, as there are all across the country, of 
churches, mosques, synagogues, and individual families welcoming people 
with open arms and no strings attached.
  Indeed, if there is any bright light that has come out of this 
disaster, it is the degree to which ordinary Americans have responded 
with speed and determination, even as their Government has responded 
with what I consider to be unconscionable ineptitude, which brings me 
to the next point. Once the situation is stable, once families are 
settled for at least the short term, once children are reunited with 
their parents and enrolled in school and the wounds both on the outside 
and on the inside have healed, we are going to have to do some hard 
thinking about how we could have failed our fellow citizens so badly 
and how we will prevent such failures from ever occurring again.
  It is not politics to insist that we have an independent commission 
to examine these issues. It is not politics. Indeed, one of the 
heartening things about this crisis has been the degree of outrage that 
has come from across the political spectrum--from across races, across 
incomes; the degree to which the American people sense that we can and 
we must do better, and a recognition that if we can't cope with a 
crisis that has been predicted for decades, a crisis in which we were 
given 4 to 5 days' notice, then how can we ever hope to respond to a 
serious terrorist attack in a major American city in which there is no 
notice and in which the death toll and the panic and the fear may be 
far greater?

  That brings me to my final point. There has been a lot of attention 
in the media about the fact that those who were left behind in New 
Orleans were disproportionately poor and disproportionately African 
American. I have said publicly that I do not subscribe to the notion 
that the painfully slow response of FEMA and the Department of Homeland 
Security was somehow racially based. I do not agree with that. I think 
the ineptitude was colorblind.

[[Page S9629]]

  But what must be said is that whoever was in charge of planning and 
preparing for the worst-case scenario seemed to assume that every 
American has the capacity to load up the family in a SUV, fill it up 
with $100 worth of gasoline, stick some bottled water in the trunk, and 
use a credit card to check into a hotel on safe ground. I see no 
evidence of active malice, but I see a continuation of passive 
indifference on the part of our Government toward the least of us.
  So I hope that out of this crisis we all begin to reflect--Democrats 
and Republicans, Black and White, young and old, poor and wealthy. I 
hope we all begin to reflect, not only on our individual 
responsibilities to our families and ourselves but on our mutual 
responsibilities to our fellow Americans, mutual responsibilities that 
reflect themselves in church and community organizations and block 
clubs but also express themselves through our Government.
  I hope we realize the people of New Orleans were not just abandoned 
during the hurricane, they were abandoned long ago--to murder and 
mayhem in their streets, to substandard schools, to dilapidated 
housing, to inadequate health care, to a pervasive sense of 
hopelessness.
  That is the deeper shame of this past week, that it has taken a 
crisis such as this to awaken in us the understanding of the great 
divide that continues to fester in our midst. That is what all 
Americans are truly ashamed about. That is what I am ashamed about. And 
the fact that we are ashamed about it is a good sign. The fact that all 
of us don't like to see such a reflection of this country that we love 
tells me that the American people have better instincts and a broader 
heart than our current politics would indicate. ``We had nothing before 
the hurricane,'' the woman told me. ``Now we have even less.'' I hope 
we all take the time to ponder the truth of that message.
  Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, I rise to extend my deepest sympathies and 
strongest possible support for the people of America's Gulf Coast 
region, which was devastated by the terrible forces of Hurricane 
Katrina.
  In the aftermath of the worst natural disaster in the history of the 
United States, we continue our attempt to comprehend the magnitude of 
the losses that have occurred--most especially all those who have lost 
their lives, lost livelihoods, and virtually all their physical 
possessions. The scale of the destruction is most horrifically 
reflected in the faces of those we have seen over the past week--faces 
etched with an indelible and almost unimaginable sorrow, suffering, and 
burden, and their images have reverberated throughout a country in 
solidarity with their terrible plight. Indeed, there are colleagues in 
this very body who have endured horrendous loss, and my thoughts and 
prayers go out to them as well.
  In Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida lives have been 
forever transformed along with the landscape, as we have witnessed 
untold scenes of homes that no longer exist; floods that ravage entire 
neighborhoods and cities; fires that consume what remains of buildings, 
men, women, children, and the elderly seeking food, water, and 
medicine--as well as missing loved ones.
  The cities of New Orleans, Biloxi, Gulf Port, Pascagula, and so many 
others have sustained injuries almost beyond belief. America and the 
world have been stunned by the cruelty of the tragic effects of this 
storm. At the same time, we are also hearing the stories of those who 
have rushed to the aid of our fellow Americans in need--men and women 
of the National Guard and the U.S. Armed Services, paramedics, doctors, 
police men and women, volunteers from all walks of life. And as chair 
of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Fisheries and Coast Guard, I 
especially thank the selfless commitment of the people of the Coast 
Guard, who have rescued at least 32,000 thousand individuals find have 
served with the greatest heroism and honor.

  To the people of the Gulf region: You do not stand alone in your pain 
and frustration. Congress has a responsibility to ensure that essential 
items, medical care, and shelter are provided in a timely fashion, 
wherever and whenever they are needed. I am pleased the Congress passed 
a $10.5 billion emergency spending bill to move the Gulf region toward 
recovery, and there should be no question that as additional resources 
are required, they will be provided. It is only with the full weight of 
the Federal Government that the entire region will not only endure, but 
recover. And as chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, I will 
leave no stone unturned in identifying resources and services that can 
help bring such a recovery to fruition.
  I also believe that, looking forward, it is critical to examine and 
assess what steps might have been taken not only to diminish the impact 
of the hurricane, but also to respond appropriately in its aftermath. 
We must determine how we, as a nation, could have been better prepared. 
We owe that not only to those who will face potential catastrophes in 
the future, but also to all those who have died and those suffering 
today from Katrina's swathe of devastation.
  In the end, no human or natural act can deprive Americans of their 
unyielding and singularly determined spirit, and that truth has once 
again demonstrated itself in the hearts of the people of the Gulf Coast 
as well as the millions of acts of kindness and compassion that have 
manifested themselves throughout America in Katrina's wake. We also 
appreciate the outpouring of sympathy and support expressed by many 
nations and their people throughout the world. Grief and humanity, hope 
and caring truly know no political boundaries. This is a tragedy for 
all of humankind, a wound to our world, but it is one from which we 
will, in time, recover to the fullest extent possible.
  All of our will and our resources as one of the wealthiest nations on 
earth must and will be brought to bear over what will be a long but 
ultimately triumphant process of reclaiming our Gulf Coast towns and 
cities for the future. As we all work toward that common goal, we do so 
hand-in-hand with all those for whom we are praying and keeping in our 
thoughts.
  While the hurricane's winds and rain have long since dissipated, the 
collective concern and strength of this Nation continues ever onward--
unbroken, undaunted, unflagging. Our message to the people of the Gulf 
Coast is both simple and solemn: Your country will be with you every 
step of the way, and that is our promise to you in this most difficult 
and desperate of times and forever forward from this day.
  I yield the floor.
  Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I want to again express my deepest 
sympathies to all those who have suffered so much because of Hurricane 
Katrina and its aftereffects. This past week has seen destruction and 
misery on a scale perhaps not witnessed before in the United States. 
Words simply cannot describe it.
  Americans have responded to this tragedy in typical fashion with 
untold acts of kindness and selflessness. Many who have lost everything 
themselves have worked without sleep and in terrible conditions to help 
those who cannot help themselves. The Coast Guard and military saved 
thousands stranded on rooftops. People have volunteered their services 
and their homes and have donated generously. Companies both large and 
small have also stepped up to help, as has the international community. 
In my own State of Wisconsin, we have mobilized and deployed almost 500 
members of the National Guard. First responders and rescue workers have 
traveled to the stricken areas to help, people are preparing shelters 
for those who have been displaced, and people are opening their 
pocketbooks. I deeply admire and respect all of these acts of heroism 
and generosity. And as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations 
Committee, I want to express my sincere thanks to the many in the 
international community who have come forward with their own offers of 
help, and their words of support and solidarity.
  Unfortunately, these acts of heroism and compassion starkly contrast 
with the inadequacy of the response to this major national disaster. 
Thousands desperate for help were left stranded as the relief effort 
slowly sputtered into action. Empty assurances and high-level excuses 
were no comfort to those stuck in overcrowded and unsafe shelters or to 
those who were desperate for medicine. It is shocking and 
disappointing, to say the least, that 4

[[Page S9630]]

years of efforts to supposedly improve our emergency response 
capabilities fell so short. We have devoted countless hours, and tens 
of billions of taxpayer dollars, to Homeland Security since 9/11. But 
the American people have not gotten an adequate return for this massive 
investment.
  We must do all we can to help the residents of Louisiana, 
Mississippi, and Alabama get back on their feet and rebuild their homes 
and their lives. These Americans will need our resolve and our 
partnership long after the headlines fade.
  In addition it is of the utmost importance that there be a thorough 
and independent review of the response to Hurricane Katrina in order to 
identify failures and improve our emergency response system and 
capabilities. I pledge to work with my colleagues on both sides of the 
aisle to ensure that those responsible for costly failures are held 
accountable, and to ensure that we learn from this tragedy. We must 
face up to the searing and shameful images of American families being 
left to fend for themselves in increasingly desperate circumstances, 
and we must ensure that we never see such images again.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.

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