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Bush Repeats Pledge to Help Victims of Hurricane Katrina

President Bush says the government can pay for a massive rebuilding of areas destroyed by Hurricane Katrina without raising taxes. Democrats, and some Republicans, are raising questions about where that money is going to come from.

President Bush says the federal government will pay most of the costs of building new roads and bridges, restoring housing and health care and providing job training and primary education for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the killer storm.

"The recovery of the Gulf Coast region will be one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen," said George W. Bush. "And I have made a pledge to the American people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will help our citizens rebuild their communities and their lives."

The president has given no estimate for the cost of rebuilding, but it is certain to be higher than the $62 billion already approved by Congress, as that money is expected to run out next month.

Asked about the cost during a Friday news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Bush said the government would have to slash unnecessary spending, but he is confident Washington can handle it, saying, "It's going to cost whatever it's going to cost."

That has raised concerns among some fiscal Republicans about finding enough cuts in government spending to help offset some of the extra borrowing needed to pay for the reconstruction.

Congressional Democrats and a small number of Republicans are proposing rolling-back some of the president's record tax cuts to help pay for the recovery. White House officials say the cuts will stay, because raising taxes would hurt the economy.

In his weekly radio address, the president says he has a vision of vibrant new neighborhoods growing from the rubble of destroyed homes.

He again addressed criticism that race may have played a role in the slow pace of the response to the storm, as most of those stranded in the floodwaters of New Orleans were black and poor.

In a nationwide address Thursday and a prayer service Friday, Mr. Bush spoke of overcoming America's legacy of segregation and discrimination. Saturday, the president said rebuilt cities should have new minority-owned businesses and more families owning their own homes, not renting.

"As we rebuild homes and businesses, we will renew our promise to be the land of equality and decency," he said. "And one day, Americans will look back at the response to Hurricane Katrina and say that our country grew, not only in prosperity, but also in character and justice."

In the Democratic radio address, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco thanked President Bush for his help, after weeks in which federal, state, and local officials blamed each other for delays in responding to the storm.

"He has recognized that Katrina was no ordinary hurricane, and that our federal government will have to help us in extraordinary ways," said Kathleen Blanco. "We are prepared to work as partners. Some issues reach beyond party. In the face of the human tragedy, which lies behind us, and the task that lies ahead of us, there is no room for partisan politics."

Governor Blanco thanked neighboring states for taking in so many displaced people from Louisiana, and particularly New Orleans. She says she looks forward to returning that hospitality in a safer, more secure Louisiana, its cultural wealth returned to the world.