Statement of Common Cause President Chellie Pingree on House Hearing Featuring Former FEMA Director

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, our government failed miserably at all levels to respond to the needs of its people. Americans deserve an independent body, similar to the bipartisan 9-11 Commission, to investigate and determine the full scope of what happened in the aftermath of Katrina to learn from this tragedy and prevent similar ones from occurring in the future. But our leaders in Congress and the White House are failing us by refusing to appoint outsiders to investigate.

A congressional investigation into the failed government preparations and response to Hurricane Katrina is not adequate. We need a commission that is independent of Congress, the Executive Branch, and of state and local governments. We do not believe it is possible for those who led this demonstrably failed response to conduct a credible investigation. We need investigators without a political stake in the outcome.

Today’s Congressional hearing involving former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown broke no new ground. It only exposed the long-running “blame game” that has already engulfed federal, state and local officials.

More than 1,000 people are dead, tens of thousands of people are displaced and the Gulf Coast has suffered tens of billions of dollars worth of damage. If we are to get to the bottom of what happened, Congress and the Bush Administration must stop these half-hearted measures and seriously consider an independent commission to sort out the truth. We deserve no less.