President Bush is expected to sign a bill in the next week that would reform the governance structure of the American Red Cross. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee was approved by the Senate on April 23.
The organization has been criticized for its response to the Sept. 11 attacks and the Gulf Coast hurricanes of 2005. The bill seeks to modernize its structure, making it more accountable to Red Cross employees and volunteers, as well as to the public. To improve transparency, the bill would establish an office of ombudsman, which would report to Congress, to help raise awareness of the whistle-blower process among employees and volunteers.
According to a statement from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the bill is nearly identical to legislation he sponsored and which the Senate approved last month. The Red Cross does a very good job, said Grassley, the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee. It can do an even better job with some simple management improvements. The Red Cross is responsive to changes and ways to become more accountable to the American people. Im glad Congress has fulfilled its responsibility to deliver these reforms.
Lynne Weil, a spokeswoman for Lantos, said the Senate ultimately decided to adopt the Lantos version so the House and Senate wouldnt have to conference on the bill before sending it to the president. -- by Jennifer Lubell