Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Congressman Ford Urges Congress and the President To Maintain Focus on Victims of Hurricane Katrina

Yesterday, the White House announced that John Roberts, who has not been confirmed as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, is now being nominated as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the country is facing too much right now to have to endure a confirmation battle for the Chief Justice position, especially for someone who is not even on the Supreme Court. My advice to the President: ask Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to serve temporarily as Chief Justice, and allow the Roberts nomination to serve as an Associate Justice to go forward next week.

Right now, the needs of Hurricane Katrina survivors are most important and our attention is needed there. This week, Congress should appropriate money for the affected states to pay for the recovery and relocation for hundreds of thousands of survivors. States like Texas and Tennessee will use these resources to aid the growing population of Katrina survivors being absorbed into their communities, schools, shelters and hospitals.

After Congress appropriates these funds, my colleagues and I should postpone all other business and turn our attention to what went wrong with the federal response to ensure that it doesn't happen again. The Federal response to Hurricane Katrina reveals real fault lines in our nation's preparedness to respond to man-made or natural disasters. Almost four years after the heinous attacks of 9/11, Katrina confirms that our homeland security suffers from poor coordination and execution.

In the interim, the President should replace FEMA Director Michael Brown with someone with more experience, stature and the capacity to handle the immediate task of coordinating recovery efforts in Louisiana. This includes organizing a public health response to the infested flood waters in New Orleans. General Colin Powell should be asked to lead this effort on behalf of the nation.

Finally, Congress and the President need to focus on a long range plan to help Katrina survivors to start new lives outside of New Orleans and the Gulf region.


Harold Ford