Iowa Congressman Jim Nussle, the chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee, says Congress will quickly approve the 10-billion dollars President Bush has suggested in immediate emergency federal spending to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “Just from, I think, all of our observations this appears to be a much grander scale than anyone has ever fathomed for a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico,” Nussle says. The few members of Congress who are in or near Washington, D.C. will convene either later tonight (Thursday) or tomorrow to rubber stamp the first installment of federal hurricane relief. Nussle, who is in Iowa, says in a normal year, the federal government spends up to eight-billion to respond to natural disasters around the country. Nussle says there’s room in the budget to deal “with this very huge challenge” the hurricane wrought because the federal government took in more taxes than expected — so the deficit isn’t as large as predicted. “Certainly, the Congress stands ready to help provide the help that is needed at a time like this,” Nussle says. Nussle says with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies in rescue and recovery mode, there’s no way to come up now with an estimate of the total cost of hurricane damage. Nussle says the federal government’s long-term financial response to the disaster will go far beyond FEMA and will include health care costs as well as spending to rebuild damaged infrastructure, like roads.
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