Congressional Republicans agreed Saturday on $29 billion in additional aid for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the other powerful storms that lashed the United States earlier this year, far more than the Bush administration proposed earlier this fall.
Gov. Haley Barbour says that Congress came to a "good agreement." Barbour patrolled the Capitol for days in an effort to coax as much money as possible from lawmakers eager to adjourn for the year.
Officials stressed the additional funds would not add to federal deficits, a priority for conservative lawmakers. They say the hurricane relief and an additional $3.8 billion to help prepare for an outbreak of avian flu would be offset, in part by a one percent cut across a wide swath of federal programs.
The agreement on hurricane aid was a triumph for Sen. Thad Cochran, the Mississippi Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Faced with pressure from lawmakers, the White House proposed an additional $17 billion in aid earlier this fall. Cochran countered with $18 billion on top of that, and circulated a list of possible offsets to prevent the deficit from rising.
Officials say some of the funds would be available for one of Barbour's top priorities, permitting federal aid to homeowners whose residences suffered water damage and are outside the federal government's 100-year floodplain. Few of them were covered by flood insurance.
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