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Bush to Probe Storm Response
Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, promised his own examination of Gulf Coast infrastructure, water projects and coastal erosion. Next week, the panel will look into Katrina's impact on energy supplies, a subject examined yesterday by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and set to be examined today by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
At the Senate Energy Committee hearing, Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) said Congress must accept politically difficult measures that lawmakers have repeated rejected, such as raising car and truck fuel efficiency standards.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) castigated the Cabinet's performance as two hours of "self-congratulatory" talk. "This administration does not live in reality," Pelosi said. "To hear them talk, everything went right. . . . They have very low standards, and no performance, and no accountability."
DeLay said the GOP leadership was working to bring legislation to the floor, possibly this week, that would loosen rules that govern federal assistance programs. He chastised Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) for seeking to open hearings next week on the response.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) proposed retooling a resettlement program for foreign refugees to help Americans displaced by Katrina.
But there was little immediate agreement on how to proceed and many notes of discord.
House and Senate lawmakers said they will proceed with a package of $70 billion in tax cuts and $35 billion in entitlement spending cuts, including as much as $10 billion out of a Medicaid program they simultaneously were suggesting expanding.
Before Katrina struck, the House and Senate were at loggerheads over an energy and water spending plan for the fiscal year that begins in October, with the Senate hoping to spend $700 million more than the House on water projects, including $27 million more on flood control in southeastern Louisiana and $20 million more on Louisiana coastal protection. House Appropriations Committee spokesman John Scofield said the committee has received no instructions to budge: "We are committed to living within our budget."
With federal resources stretched, Grassley questioned a rush to temporarily lift the tax on airline fuel, and he lambasted proposals to offer more tax incentives to oil companies for domestic oil exploration. "With $60 [a barrel] oil, you don't need more incentives," he said. "What we need is for the oil companies to take some of their profits and lower the cost of gasoline."
DeLay had a similar response to suggestions that the federal gasoline tax be suspended: "Now more than ever you're going to need . . . those highway trust funds, to rebuild the bridges that were destroyed, rebuild the railroads that were destroyed."
At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld said the involvement of troops in hurricane relief efforts will not diminish the military's ability to sustain operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He noted that more than 300,000 Army National Guard and Air National Guard troops remain available to help. He sharply rejected the suggestion that the commitment of large numbers of troops to Iraq -- including National Guard soldiers from Louisiana and Mississippi -- had delayed the military's response. About 41,000 Guard troops are in assisting the region.
"Not only was there no delay," said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "I think we anticipated in most cases -- not in all cases, but in most cases -- the support that was required."
Staff writers Bradley Graham, Amy Goldstein, Shailagh Murray and Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.