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Obama Monitors Midwest Floods, Pledges Help


As floodwaters threaten parts of the North Central U.S. states of North Dakota and Minnesota, President Barack Obama is assuring the American people that the government is ready to help. The president is detailing his administration's flood relief efforts.

President Obama says while he continues working to repair the nation's economy, the raging waters of the Red River are also commanding his attention. "Even as we face an economic crisis which demands our constant focus, forces of nature can also intervene in ways that create other crises, to which we must respond, and respond urgently," he said.

The Red River is receding after having surpassed record levels, threatening the neighboring cities of Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota.

Mr. Obama used his Saturday address to explain the many steps the government is taking, along with private agencies and volunteers, to help people in the region. "I will continue to monitor the situation carefully. We will do what must be done to help, in concert with state and local agencies and nonprofit organizations and volunteers, who are doing so much to aid the response effort," he said.

Mr. Obama has approved emergency spending for the areas affected by the flooding. The acting head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been in the region since Friday, coordinating the government's response. The president is also monitoring the situation downriver, in the state of South Dakota.

Mr. Obama is spending the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat near Washington, before leaving for several days of meetings in Europe on the global economic crisis. Aides say he is receiving updates on the flooding despite being away from the White House.

In the weekly Republican party address, Senator Judd Gregg says the president's $3.55 trillion budget proposal will put American children at "a huge disadvantage" by running up the national debt. "In the next five years, President Obama's budget will double the national debt. In the next ten years, it will triple the national debt," he said.

Senator Gregg calls the spending plan an "extraordinary move to the left," which spends, taxes and borrows too much.

Gregg had been offered the job of Commerce Secretary in the Obama administration, but withdrew his name from consideration. Since then he has been one of Mr. Obama's most vocal critics.

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