Friday, September 23, 2005

What Is Behind Ed Bryant, Van Hilleary, And Bob Corker's Silence On FEMA?

In light of the recent disaster in the Gulf and the impending hurricane about to hit Texas, an objective observer would think a candidate for the U.S. Senate would be taking swift action and asking the hard questions in regard to FEMA and their recent failures so we can find out what went wrong and prevent it from occurring again.

However, that is not the case when it comes to Ed Bryant, Van Hilleary, and Bob Corker, all Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee. In the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina, not one of the aforementioned candidates has gave any opinion or assessment of FEMA and their recent failures.

A recent CNN/USA Today Gallup poll revealed that 81% of Americans support an independent commission to look into the failures our government had in responding to Hurricane Katrina. Nevertheless, the Republican majority in Congress and the President have blocked any attempt to offer and fair and balanced assessment of what happened, instead calling for a Congressional inquiry into the matter.

And as we all know, the government usually doesn't do a very good job when probing itself in a matter such as this. They are quick to point the finger and align blame elsewhere, rather than getting to the heart of the matter. That is why it is so crucial that we do have an independent commission to review the mistakes that were made so we can learn from them and fix the problemed areas.

Thus far all of the Republican candidates running for the U.S. Senate have been mum on the idea of looking into the failures of FEMA. Now why is that you might ask yourself? I have one theory of my own. I believe they are remaining quiet on this issue because they know an independent investigation would expose past votes they made that weakened FEMA so much that it diminished its campacity to fully do its job as recently demonstrated.

Here are a few votes that I have found that really distributed me.

In 1997, both Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary voted to do away with $1.7 billion in advance funding for the FEMA. (Amendment to HR 1469 on 05/15/97) Also in 1997, both Bryant and Hilleary voted to erase $2.4 billion appropriated as future funding for FEMA. (Amendment to HR 1469 on 05/15/97) Then in late 1999, both Bryant and Van Hilleary supported a $5 million cut in both funding for FEMA's emergency planning and assistance account and FEMA's emergency food and shelter program. (Amendment HR 2684 on 09/08/99)

However, those votes aren't the only ones that may reveal why they are being so quiet in regard to the current state of FEMA.

In 2001, both Bryant and Hilleary insisted that the report for Fiscal 2001 Supplemental Appropriations not include any provisions rescinding FEMA disaster relief funds. (HR 2216 on 07/12/01) Then In late 2002, both Bryant and Hilleary refused to recommit to the joint resolution to the House Appropriations Committee with instructions that it be sent back with wording that would call for extra funding for FEMA. (HJR 124 on 11/13/2002)

These votes clearly show Bryant and Hilleary's total disregard for FEMA while they were in Congress. And their current silence on this all important issue adds more credence to that analysis. Nevertheless, the truth must out in this matter. The American people need to know why our government failed its people for almost a week so we can make sure it doesn't happen again.

Hopefully Bryant and Hilleary will recant their reckless past voting and join Congressman Ford in calling for an independent commission to look into our government's emergency failures so we can better prepare for the future. However, Bryant and Hilleary are not alone in this matter. Bob Corker must also speak up and give his opinion and assessment on FEMA. With his continued silence on the issue, it makes us believe that he is in lockstep with Bryant and Hilleary in their views.

Once again, Congressman Harold Ford Jr. is on the front lines fighting for the people while his opponents are missing in action.