Senator Biden on Hurricane Katrina

An .mp3 file of Senator Biden speaking on the floor of the Senate yesterday is now available. Click here to listen to the audio of his statement:

Mr. President, the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina has revealed the best and the worst about our great nation. It’s revealed the great economic divide that exists among our citizens while it demonstrated as well the capacity of the majority of our citizens to be compassionate and even heroic during times of great need. It also exposed the demons of some who will use any opportunity to prey on the weak.

The hurricane also demonstrated the best and the worst in our government. It is clear by all accounts that the federal response was insufficient, and we’ll be discussing that in the coming days and weeks and months to come and hopefully address the concerns so that, God forbid, faced with this or a terror attack we will not go through the same degree of incompetence. That seems spreads across the governmental front.

It seems clear to me that we have to do more to support state and local law enforcement officials. These men and women in my opinion demonstrated the very best of our government.

The men and women in Biloxi and New Orleans and other police departments in the region have been working 24 hours a day, many of them have lost their homes, their families have been displaced. They have been working with limited food and water. Many of them don’t even have the facilities to take a shower and use a restroom…

Just look what’s happening in the Gulf States right now. Mr. President, law enforcement is a national concern. It requires a national response and a national commitment. Local communities need robust police departments. They need superior communication technology and equipment. And I know my friends in the Commerce Committee know more about the spectrum fight – which I’ll not get into now — than most do. But the idea that there’s not sufficient spectrum available to our first responders because the broadcast industry is unwilling to commit to the deal they made is beyond me, beyond me.

The local communities, they — they’re the ones that not only affect the overall security of the country but the day-to-day lives of their citizens by reducing crime. This also helps local governments be better at responding in periods of crisis. What could be more important — what could be a more important national priority than the safety of our citizens?

..In addition, this funding will support the shelters in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama that have been impacted and will help support shelters in adjoining states that have been called upon to do much more in the coming months.

I think that all of my colleagues have heard me say that I believe there’s not a more important responsibility in government than the safety of its citizens. It comes before their health, before their education, before everything. There are no civil liberties, there are no opportunities if you are not able to be safe on the street. Without safety and security, nothing else really matters.

Our local law enforcement agencies, they’re there every day fighting crime or responding – every day fighting crime or responding to emergencies. And Hurricane Katrina demonstrated quite starkly how we rely on them. Federal support for these officers has been on a steady decline for the past few years. We need to reverse that trend, Mr. President.

This amendment will help us get back on track.

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