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Expressing Shame At Government’S Response To Hurricane Katrina

Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Miller) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Rep. Brad Miller

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I know that today's session was a formality, that there would be no votes other than a voice vote; but I thought it was important to be here, to show my support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in whatever way I could, however modest.

Martin Luther King said that we cannot walk alone. We are responsible for one another. We help others in need on the faith that when we are in need, we will be helped. North Carolinians have twice faced desperate needs following devastating hurricanes in just the last decade. Other Americans have responded generously, both acting together through their government and in their contributions to private relief efforts. Americans are again responding generously to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

But, Mr. Speaker, I share the anger of many Americans at how shamefully inadequate our government's response has been. Tens of thousands of Americans are living outside the walls of civilization. They are without food, they are without water to drink, they are without medicine or medical care, they are without effective shelter. Mr. Speaker, they are without the protection against violence that law provides.

The failures that have led to that are not the failures of the last 4 days, but of the last 4 years. There have been repeated warnings that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were vulnerable to precisely what has occurred, and yet our government was stunningly unprepared.

The President's press secretary was asked earlier this week about our Nation's response, our government's response to the hurricane, and he said now is not the time for finger-pointing. Earlier today on this floor the gentleman from California (Mr. Lewis) said now is not the time for finger-pointing. The gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Wamp) has said now is not the time for finger-pointing. The gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Kirk) said now is not the time for recrimination. The gentleman from California (Mr. Daniel E. Lungren) said now is not the time for recrimination or for finger-pointing.

They say that this is a time to grieve for the victims of the hurricane; and, Mr. Speaker, I do grieve for the victims of the hurricane. They say now is the time to help the victims of the hurricane; and, Mr. Speaker, I want to help the victims of the hurricane in every way I can. I am here today, and like millions of Americans, my wife and I are contributing to private relief efforts.

But, Mr. Speaker, there has to come a time for accountability. If there is not accountability for the stunning failures that we have seen in our government's response to this hurricane, we will fail again and again.

I know that this administration thinks that accountability is an ephemeral thing. If there is an attempt at accountability too soon, it is finger-pointing. If there is an attempt at accountability too late, then it is something you should get over. There is just a moment for accountability.

Mr. Speaker, tell me when that moment will be? Tell me precisely when the moment will come for accountability for the failures of our response, for the failures of our planning that have led to the devastation and the hardships that we are seeing now. Mr. Speaker, tell me where the line forms to ask hard questions.