September 26, 2005

PORK RESPONSE UPDATE: Reader Neema Salimi wrote Rep. Tom Lantos and reports: “Congressman Lantos sent me a form letter in response to my request that he cut pork to pay for Katrina spending. He doesn’t even address it.”

Salimi’s right, as he forwarded the response. Click “read more” to read it.

UPDATE: Reader Mary Wlodarski sends a response she got: “I have been a regular reader of your blog for years and really love it! I sent both my senators, Durbin and Obama a letter asking them to review the budget in light of the need of our southern states, foregoing our projects to help out the gulf states. I only got response from Obama. He must have thought I was concerned about the pets in the budget, not the pork!”

Maybe he thought it was a pet pig? (I’ve put the letter she forwarded below, after the Lantos letter).

As the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf coast, many of our neighbors lost loved ones, homes and jobs. We all have been touched by this overwhelming destruction.

At first, I was shocked and amazed seeing the human misery and devastation along the Gulf Coast. Now, I am outraged and angry that because of an utterly ineffective response, tens of thousands of people in New Orleans and other victims failed to get the food, water, medicine, and evacuation assistance they so desperately needed. These victims need assistance and the American people deserve answers.

While Congress has acted to provide funding, current programs simply will not be enough to rebuild communities, revive economies, and restore lives. Congress should provide the needed legislation to help local communities rebuild homes and hospitals, schools and stores, industries and infrastructure. Furthermore, we need an independent, blue ribbon, bipartisan Katrina Response Commission modeled on the highly successful 9/11 Commission to get answers to the many questions raised by this disaster.

The outpouring of public support has been tremendous and reassuring yet the road to recovery will be long and difficult. I will continue to work to do all I can and I know I can count on your support.

Cordially,

TOM LANTOS
Member of Congress

“The American people deserve answers” — just not from him!

MORE: Here’s the Obama letter:

Dear Mary:

Thank you for contacting me regarding Hurricane Katrina and rescue operations for the pets of evacuees. I appreciate hearing from you.

Among the many difficult and heartwrenching aspects of this tragedy has been the lack of resources to rescue and care for those pets left behind by evacuees who were unable to take them on evacuation transports. Fortunately, as news spread about the plight of these animals, several groups volunteered to travel into that dangerous environment to help rescue them.

As soon as the resources were available, the United States Navy and National Guard began searching for and rescuing these pets in New Orleans and elsewhere in the Gulf Coast. The U.S.S. Tortuga moored near New Orleans, and the Tortuga’s repair division began a search and rescue mission for abandoned pets. The crew members set up “Camp Milo and Otis,” a makeshift kennel where medical care and shelter was provided for dogs, cats and other displaced animals from the city. The Department of Homeland Security also assisted by deploying Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams to provide medical care to pets and livestock, as well as provide any needed veterinary medical care for dogs involved in the rescue effort. And only days after the storm, SPCAs, Humane Societies and other pet welfare organizations from across the country joined the United States Navy and National Guard in attempting to rescue stray animals. Several thousand pets were rescued and sheltered around the state by late last week.

Individual citizens have helped with this effort as well. I was particularly heartened by stories like one in Grand Rapids Michigan, where an anonymous donor helped relocate 175 displaced dogs and cats. While it is tragic that so many pets remain left behind, that is yet another example of how humanity can shine through any disaster.

As you know, the lack of government planning for this disaster has drawn the ire of many Americans, and a substantial review process must take place to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated. Planning for the rescue and care of pets should certainly be part of that discussion.

Thank you again for writing.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator

P.S. Our system does not allow direct response to this email. However, if you would like to contact me again, please use the form on the website: http://obama.senate.gov/contact/

Some people do have pet pigs. But still . . . .

Actually, what’s most disturbing is that he has a form letter just for people who wrote their Senator about lost pets in Katrina. How many people do that? Enough to merit a form letter of their very own, I guess.