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The Congressional Connector

Week of February 13-17, 2006

House Report Blasts Government’s Response to Katrina
On February 15, the special bipartisan committee that was appointed last fall to investigate the preparation and response to Hurricane Katrina issued a blistering report on the ineffective response to one of the costliest and deadliest disasters in U.S. history.  The 520-page report, entitled “A Failure of Initiative” charged that the failure by all levels of government “to respond more effectively to Katrina – which had been predicted in theory for many years, and forecast with startling accuracy for five days – demonstrates that whatever improvements have been made to our capacity to respond to natural or man-made disasters, four and [a] half years after 9/11, we are still not fully prepared....  The single biggest failure of the federal response was that it failed to recognize the likely consequences of the approaching storm and mobile federal assets for a post-storm evacuation of the flooded city.  If it had, then federal assistance would have arrived several days earlier.” 

Legislation Introduced to Restore Child Support Enforcement Funds
On February 16, Reps. Levin, McDermott (WA) and Emanuel (IL) introduced a bill to repeal the child support enforcement cuts that were included in the budget legislation that was narrowly approved by Congress on February 1 and signed into law by President Bush.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has determined that the cuts would result in reducing child support collections by $8.4 billion – with a reduction of $537 million for the State of Michigan.  (CBO is Congress’ non-partisan budget scorekeeper.)  Michigan child support experts voiced strong opposition to the child support enforcement cuts.  In a meeting with Rep. Levin, Macomb County child support collections staff told him the cuts would likely force them to lay off staff and not pursue collections in cases where the parents are hard to locate.  “It was wrongheaded to cut funding from a program that successfully collects payments owed to children,” said Rep. Levin.

House Approves Resolutions on Aid to Palestinian Authority
On February 15, the House voted 418 to 1 to adopt a resolution [S.Con.Res. 79] opposing direct U.S. foreign aid for the Palestinian Authority as long as any political party “holding a majority of parliamentary seats within the Palestinian Authority maintains a position calling for the destruction of Israel.”  The militant group Hamas swept the Palestinian parliamentary elections in late January.  Hamas is listed as a terror organization by the European Union and the United States.  The Senate approved the resolution on February 1. 

Michigan Lawmakers Call for Emergency Federal Funds to Fight Emerald Ash Borer
On February 13, nine members of Michigan’s House Delegation and both Michigan Senators sent a letter to President Bush requesting the release of $40 million in emergency funding to fight the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.  The Borer is an exotic pest from China that bores into the bark of ash trees and eventually kills them.  EAB has already destroyed 15 million ash trees in Michigan alone and has led to quarantines of firewood from infected areas.  The bipartisan letter notes that state and federal experts have estimated the three states need $50 million this year to carry out an effective EAB eradication program, but that only $10 million has been budgeted to battle this destructive insect.  The letter called on the Bush Administration to immediately release additional emergency funds to help stop this pest.  Rep. Levin signed the letter.

Study Reveals that the Federal Government Spent More than $1.6 billion on Public Relations
On February 13, a new study was released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that documents how federal departments spent more than $1.6 billion taxpayer dollars on public relations and media over a two and a half year period.  The GAO is the non-partisan watchdog arm of the United States Congress.  The study was requested by Reps. Waxman, Pelosi and Miller (CA) followed a flurry of media reports concerning the growing use of taxpayer dollars for propaganda purposes. 

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