President Visits Gulf Coast
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KWAME HOLMAN: The president’s motorcade rolled through debris-strewn streets of New Orleans’ lower Ninth Ward today, on his 10th trip to the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina hit. He came to review the sometimes-slow progress of recovery efforts and used the trip to urge Congress to approve his funding plans.
Mr. Bush began with an aerial look at the city, over a landscape of empty, tarp-covered homes. The president picked through wreckage in the devastated lower Ninth Ward, greeted New Orleanians at a diner, and, accompanied by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, checked on repairs of the Industrial Canal levee, whose breaching flooded the ward.
The president wants Congress to spend another billion dollars on levee repairs, to rebuild them at least to pre-Katrina levels by June 1st, the start of hurricane season. Congress is poised to allot another $4.2 billion for the three states most affected by Katrina, but the president said the funds should be focused on hardest-hit Louisiana.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We’ve all been working together to figure out how to come up with a housing plan that will restore the confidence of the people of this important part of our country. And in order to make sure that housing plan meets its goals, Congress should make sure that the $4.2 billion I requested goes to the state of Louisiana.
KWAME HOLMAN: That debate over distributing federal aid continued back in Washington, a day after Texas Governor Rick Perry said his state was shortchanged on reimbursement for money spent relocating Katrina victims.
At a Senate hearing today, Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson responded.
ALPHONSO JACKSON: Homeland Security and FEMA has reimbursed Houston and the other cities very well. Have we reimbursed them completely? No, but to say that they have not been reimbursed is not true.
KWAME HOLMAN: The president also toured Mississippi. He helped construction workers rebuild a house in the town of Gautier, before returning to Washington tonight.