Republicans block efforts to amend relief bill, hold vote without providing copy of bill
In the wake of what the Wall Street Journal projected may be the most expensive natural disaster in American history, the Republican Leadership in the House of Representatives limited floor consideration of the $52 billion Katrina relief bill proposed by President Bush and voted to reject any Democratic efforts to amend the bill to include a wider array of relief measures, RAW STORY has learned.
Democrats said no one had even seen a copy of the legislation.
Voting along party lines, Republicans denied a measure that would have allowed for two hours of discussion and opened up the measure to be amended.
The Republican leadership pushed through a Suspension Rule in the House Rules Committee that blocked any members from offering amendments to the bill. Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the Committee, led opposition to the rule.
The bill, which enjoys bipartisan support, is expected to pass on the House floor tomorrow.
Democrats implored Republicans to allow amendments, which would enable consideration of measures such as which areas and to which agencies relief dollars were most needed and how to restructure FEMA so that it would be more effective.
"We've been on vacation for five weeks. Now, in our first week back, the Republican Leadership would rather duck and run than discuss what's happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina," Slaughter told RAW STORY in a statement. "Life in the Gulf Coast is no vacation. The Federal Government failed the American people in its initial response to this horrible disaster and by their actions; the Republican Leadership is once again showing that their priorities are out of sync with the needs of so many hard working families."
"It is this very lack of accountability in government which ensured that our disaster response would be a bigger disaster than the hurricane itself. Yet here they go again, completely unfazed in their determination to eliminate debate, consideration and accountability from the Congress and the Federal government. No one has even seen a copy of the bill."
The White House expects to ask for more.
"My expectation is that we will, in fact, need substantially more than the $51.8 billion that the president is requesting today. But this at least puts everybody on very solid footing to perform their tasks in the several weeks ahead," White House budget director Joshua Bolten told reporters Wednesday.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the loss of revenue from oil production and tourists in the Gulf Coast will trim economic growth by 0.5 percent to 1 percent.
Originally published on Wednesday September 7, 2005.