Good morning. This is Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.
This Labor Day weekend comes in the midst of several important and painful anniversaries. On Tuesday, Americans remembered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the tragedies that befell the Gulf Coast region, including my own home state of Mississippi. Next week we will mark the 5th Anniversary of the tragic events of September 11th.
Unfortunately, though there has been progress to remedy the problems caused by Hurricane Katrina, here we are one year later and many residents still remain displaced and homes and communities still need to be rebue, thousands of people are still homeless. And throughout the Gulf Coast, 80 percent of businesses with approved federal disaster loans are still waiting for their money. And while Gulf Coast residents have done all that they can, it is time that the federal government step up to the plate and lead the recovery efforts.
Immediately after the storm, Democrats in the House and Senate led by the Congressional Black Caucus and Gulf Coast members acted swiftly and introduced legislation that would help jump start the reconstruction efforts. Unfortunately, Republicans let partisanship get in the way of doing the right thing.
Resources have been identified but the funding is slow getting to those on the ground and continues to be bogged down in bureaucratic red tape. While the recovery efforts sluggishly move along and neighborhoods languish, the Gulf Coast faces another storm seasoned virtually unrecovered from last year.
The Katrina Anniversary also reminds us of the need to ensure we do all we can to keep Americans safe. As the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, I fully understand what's at stake when we fail to protect our nation from catastrophic events whether it is from the likes of a hurricane or a terrorist attack.
Despite multiple warnings of future and possible man-made or natural disasters, the Bush Administration and the rubber-stamp Republican Congress have failed to adequately prepare our nation, leaving us vulnerable to large-scale disasters.
In March I released a report on the state of homeland security and the Bush Administration received a failing grade on emergency preparedness and response. From our ports to our nuclear facilities, to transportation and aviation security, this Administration has failed and continues to fail to keep our country safe.
There are remarkably troubling gaps that exist in our homeland security, this Administration and the Republican Congress have ignored the recommendations of the bi-partisan 9/11 Commission. And time and time again, Republicans have blocked Democratic efforts to implement and fund these recommendations to ensure our safety.
Rather than implementing policies that will strengthen our security at home and abroad, the Administration serves up slogans and PR campaigns. America needs real solutions for real security — not jingles and slick posters.
Our President continues to resort to name-calling and fear mongering in an attempt to distract from his failure to keep America safe. But sadly, Americans have seen this page of the Republican playbook before.
As we witnessed from the events of Hurricane Katrina, September of 11th, and from recent news of thwarted attacks in London, we cannot afford to shortchange our first responders or neglect our national security.
While we must focus on rebuilding businesses and communities and bringing back jobs, we cannot undermine these efforts by failing to prevent similar disasters and catastrophic events which threaten the progress made.
America — the Gulf Coast will rebuild and recover. Our sisters, brothers, and neighbors are hard at work to make it happen. Now we just need to insist that the federal government does right and that matches the fervor and resilience of the American spirit.
Democrats are offering a new direction for America that will strengthen our security at home and abroad with policies that are both tough and smart. Only then can we truly restore this country to its standing of a nation that answers the call for help at home and abroad. This is Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi. Thank you for listening.