Democrats Say GOP Blocking Aid to Katrina Victims

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:31pm EDT

( - House and Senate Democratic leaders charged Tuesday that their party is the only one that considers meeting the needs of Hurricane Katrina victims important and that Republicans are trying to take aid money away from the victims "to give tax cuts to the wealthy."

Michele Baker rode out Hurricane Katrina with her husband before her home was destroyed. The couple then waded through flood waters to get to the Superdome.

"I never though that I would have to live through something like that," Baker said. "And I can't believe that some people in Washington think that after a category five hurricane the solution is to unleash a 'category five assault' on working people."

Baker was a custodian for the Orleans Parish school district and is president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union chapter at her school. She blames President Bush for her situation.

"We may not be stuck on rooftops anymore, but at times we feel just as stranded and just as neglected by this administration as we did then. We may not be waiting desperately for bottles of water to reach us but the truth is we need jobs and health care just as [sic] if we are going to survive this crisis," Baker said. "We don't want a president or a Congress that is all talk. We need schools to open. We need jobs to go to. We need to start rebuilding our lives for ourselves and our families."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told Baker and a group of approximately 30 union members and other hurricane survivors from New Orleans that Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill view their situation differently.

"We believe that Katrina's victims should be one of the top priorities that we have in Congress," Reid said. "But we Democrats are the only ones that believe that."

As evidence of the alleged lack of concern on the part of the GOP, Reid claimed an aid package is being kept from consideration.

"We have legislation that's ready to move that would give relief to these folks that started out at about $8 billion. That's what we think it's going to take," Reid said. "But we simply have gotten no reaction, in fact, the floor has been blocked legislatively, it has been a no-man's land. We cannot offer amendments because they won't give up a legislative vehicle to do that.

"We've been prevented from helping these people, absolutely prevented, thwarted, stopped, blockaded," he continued.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blamed the White House for Democrats' inability to get their aid package through the House.

"First we had a natural disaster, then we had a second man-made disaster by the Bush administration in the emergency recovery and now we're going to have a third disaster in terms of the long-term recovery because of decisions they are making in favor of their friends," Pelosi charged. "It's all connected through the budget. We have a budget that is a reflection of their distorted values."

Senate Republicans have proposed a $2 billion initial aid package to begin long-term recovery. House GOP members have put forward a $2.5 billion package. Reid and Pelosi reject both proposals.

"The Senate (Democratic) side was talking about $8 billion-plus, and on the House side they're offering - if this is supposed to be a compromise it's pathetic -- $2.5 billion. Well, that's absolutely not a compromise. That's a failure. That's a disgrace. That's an abdication of responsibility," Pelosi complained. "And, even though we'd like to get money as fast as we can to the victims of Katrina, we will not settle for crumbs."

Pelosi returned to a favorite target of Democrats' complaints to explain why Republicans allegedly do not want to spend more money helping Hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast.

"They're using the victims of Katrina to give tax cuts to the wealthy," Pelosi charged. "It's a cruel hoax on the victims of Katrina to use their plight to have a budget that doesn't address their needs, that increases the deficit and gives tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country."

Both the House and Senate are expected to take up long-term recovery proposals for victims of Hurricane Katrina in the coming weeks.

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