Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
Hurricane Katrina caused massive destruction to Louisiana and the surrounding states. This barber shop in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans was turned to rubble by the Category 5 storm.
On this date, the House and Senate returned to Washington early from their summer recess to provide financial aid to the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Deriving from Article I, Section 5, Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution, congressional leaders have the authority to recall Congress “whenever the public interest shall warrant it.” The House and Senate had scheduled a recess from late July to September 6, 2005, via H. Con. Res. 225. However, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert
of Illinois and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist
of Tennessee called both houses of Congress back into session to provide economic aid to the Gulf Coast. The House convened on September 2, 2005 and, with the Senate which had returned the day before, passed H. R. 3645 (PL 109-61), a $10.5 billion emergency aid package for the region. The swift action was, in part, a response to criticism that the federal relief response had been slow and uncoordinated after Katrina made landfall on August 29. During that session, Representative Rob Simmons
of Connecticut commented, “It is critical that we deliver this help today, and we have. Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, but this is not just a Gulf Coast disaster.” Representative Tom Lantos
of California said, “All Americans can be proud of the hard and sometime heart-rending work being done by local, state and federal emergency workers. . . . Those who were watching the news reports, as well as those . . . in the midst of the devastation, were united in one question: Why did the rescue efforts take so long?” Congresswoman Julia Carson
of Indiana asked Members to get involved: “We need to take a trip to the gulf, meet the people there, help serve the homeless, help serve the hungry, take clothes. . . . We need to be personally involved ourselves. And we need to get on the road right away.”