Washington, DC – Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, praised the Senate for it speedy passage today of the American Red Cross Governance Modernization Act of 2007 (H.R. 1681), which he co-authored with the committee’s ranking member, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

“I look forward to seeing the President sign this critically important piece of legislation,” Lantos said. “While the reforms that we have called for will not directly affect the organization's disaster response, I am confident that it will help promote the kind of leadership needed to make Red Cross management and operations run smoothly and effectively.”

The bill reforms the governance structure of the American Red Cross, making it more accountable to the employees and volunteers of the organization and to the American people. The American Red Cross had undergone considerable criticism for its response to the 9/11 tragedy and the Gulf Coast hurricanes of 2005.

“Wherever disaster strikes, the American Red Cross is on the scene to lend a helping hand in any immediate aftermath,” Lantos noted. “In times of crisis, its staff of 35,000 and over 1 million Red Cross volunteers take on the daunting task of translating the compassion of the American people into shelter, clothing, medical help, and food. Be it a fire that puts a family out of its home or a tornado that tears through an entire community, the Red Cross responds immediately, answering the call of an astonishing 75,000 incidents last year alone. The organization deserves to maintain the good name it has developed through these good works, and it will be in an even better position to do so once the reforms are in place.”

The legislation reduces the number of members on the board of governors to 25 members and requires governors to be elected solely by delegates to the Red Cross’ annual meeting. It also shifts responsibilities for day-to-day operations from the board to Red Cross management. And it aims to improve the accountability and transparency of the Red Cross by establishing an office of ombudsman, who will report to Congress, to raise the profile of the whistleblower process for employees and volunteers.

Last week the Red Cross board of governors unanimously approved Mark Everson, the current IRS Commissioner, to become the new President and Chief Executive Officer of the Red Cross.