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Colorado Representative Diana DeGette has jumped into the foreground on the Katrina catastrophe. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which she serves, will be holding hearings in Washington tomorrow on the effect of Katrina on gas prices.
In addition, along with Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), she has introduced legislation to separate FEMA from the Department of Homeland Security. Here’s a portion of her press release:
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“FEMA is our nation’s primary emergency response agency. How quickly and well it responds to a disaster can mean the difference between life and death for Americans. As an independent agency in the 1990s, FEMA was a model for disaster relief and assistance,” said Rep. DeGette. “Now, as part of DHS, it is mired in bureaucracy and a backwater for political appointees. We can start addressing the failures of our government’s response to Hurricane Katrina by restoring FEMA’s independence.”
The proposal would follow the plan that made FEMA a successful agency under the leadership of Director James Lee Witt by establishing FEMA as an independent agency, whose director reports directly to the President, allowing the director to better coordinate emergency response with other agencies and departments and to establish clear lines of accountability. In addition, it would require the director of the agency to be an emergency management professional.
DeGette places a large amount of blame on the feds:
“While we cannot prevent natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, we can avoid man-made disasters like the slow and inept response by the federal government,” said Rep. DeGette. “Restoring the independence of our emergency response agency is a critical step in this direction.”