Sunday, October 08, 2006

Not so Fast

This is my version of a post by Scout_Prime over at First Draft

The Dept. of Homeland Security bill that was recently passed and signed by Bush in Arizona with much hoopla is another example of GOP bait and switch on the part of the GOP and the President. Included in the legislation were rules that were supposed to begin addressing the problems with FEMA management that led to the Katrina disaster.

Below are some of the key provisions that Congress included and the first two were considered the very important.

  • The FEMA administrator would be the chief Presidential advisor for emergency management;
  • the administrator... would be required to have emergency management experience;
  • Strengthen FEMA’s regional task forces
  • Provide additional assistance for individuals and communities that are struck by disaster, including allowing FEMA more flexibility in the types of housing it can provide to disaster victims in order to find more cost-effective alternatives to the widely criticized trailers.

Granted that this was a compromise bill and as such didn’t go as far in doing what many experts thought should be done, and that is take FEMA out of DHS and the agency head made a Cabinet level position. The bill did, however, try to increase the stature and power of the head of FEMA which is at least a step in the right direction. But what did Bush do on October 4, 2006?

He attached a signing agreement that effectively re-writes all of the key sections of the law. If you think Bush and his cronies are concerned about our safety then this latest stunt should convince you otherwise. This signing statement, like all the rest, was meant to maintain the increased powers of the executive branch. Bush is going to use his vast wisdom as the unitary executive once again and to use his judgment to interpret and apply the law" with regard to…

· Higher standards of qualifications and experience for the Head of FEMA [section 503(c)(2)] enacted so we wouldn’t see the likes of another “Great Job Brownie”
Not so fast--that would "limit the qualifications of the pool of persons from whom the President may select"

· The head of FEMA is to be the Principal Advisor on emergency management [section 503(c)(4)]
Wrong again!

· Head of FEMA reporting to Congress on whether….
1) additional authority is needed to prepare and deploy response strike teams [section 507(f)(6)]
2)additional authority is needed to continue or make permanent the housing pilot program or make recommendations on such [section 689i(a)(4)(B)(iv). Also public assistance pilot program [689j(b)(2)(E)]

Whoops!--no consulting with Congress about your authority or better housing than FEMA trailers. Instead the President shall “recommend for congressional consideration such measures as the President shall judge necessary and expedient.”

· Or that the President would “act through” the head of FEMA in regard to a national preparedness goal, [section 643] or developing a national preparedness system [section 644] or establishing emergency response teams.[section 633]
Nope…I’m the decider and I don’t act through anyone.

Why did Congress waste all this time conducting months of hearings investigating how our federal government could screwed up so badly in its response to Hurricane Katrina. Even if they did compromise on the expert recommendations they at least moved in right direction only to be virtually ignored by the President. How many years left?

Below are some links if you would like to read for yourself.

Presidential Signing Statement on H.R. 5441, the "Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007


h/t to Scout_Prime

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