Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2013by Representative Eliot L. Engel
Posted on 2013-12-12
ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 3509, the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2013.
I would like to begin by thanking my friend and colleague, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Lee), for introducing this important legislation. The Haitian people are lucky to have a friend with her vision and tenacity.
It is difficult to overstate the devastation wrought by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that gave rise to the multinational assistance effort: 316,000 people dead, which is just unbelievable, including 103 United States citizens, 101 United Nations personnel, and nearly 18 percent of the Nation's civil service; 300,000 injured; 115,000 homes destroyed; and 2 million people displaced. An estimated 15 percent of the population of Haiti was directly affected by the disaster and related damages.
I traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, shortly after the quake, and I can attest to the fact that even those horrific statistics do not fully describe the waste and destruction I saw.
The United States quickly responded to the devastation in Haiti and responded robustly. In fact, the post-earthquake assistance program remains today among our most important foreign assistance commitments worldwide, which brings me to the bipartisan legislation before us.
H.R. 3509 should be understood as a culminating step in the ongoing oversight work of the Foreign Affairs Committee regarding that assistance plan. A multiyear and multibillion-dollar commitment, reflecting the compassion and generosity of the American people, it calls for ongoing vigilance, both in terms of accountability as well as policy direction.
Our committee commissioned a GAO report on that assistance which found, among other things, that the administration was not providing sufficient information to the Congress to fulfill its oversight role. We also sent a bipartisan staff delegation to look into specific problems the GAO found and held a full committee hearing on the matter.
H.R. 3509 is the logical next step. It seeks to fill the information gap by requiring the State Department to report on various aspects of our assistance program. It also includes a statement of policy that articulates the direction we think that assistance program should take. I believe that H.R. 3509 goes a significant way to achieving that goal.
As I seem to do frequently in our committee and on the floor these days, I would like to once again thank the gentleman from California, Chairman Royce, and his wonderful staff for working in a truly bipartisan manner on this bill. It is genuinely appreciated by me and all of my Democratic colleagues on our committee.
I urge my colleagues to support the bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.