Published September 14, 2004
WASHINGTON – President Bush (search) asked Congress Tuesday for another $3.1 billion to help Florida and other states recover from the battering they have endured from recent hurricanes and other storms.
The measure was focused on helping Florida repair the damage done by Hurricanes Charley and Frances. But it also included money for the flooding and other damage Charley and Tropical Storm Gaston caused in southeastern states like North and South Carolina, said an administration official who described the package on condition of anonymity.
Aides said the request would not include potential damage from Hurricane Ivan (search), which could hit the Gulf Coast later this week. $1.5 billion of the money would be for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (search), which helps individual and state and local agencies after natural disasters.
It also includes money for the Small Business Adminstration, the Defense Department, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (search) and other agencies that have either dispensed aid or suffered damage to their facilities.
In an unusual step, it also includes $70 million for the American Red Cross (search), which has spent tens of millions of dollars helping victims of the recent storms.
But with many lawmakers eager to help their own regions, Congress is unlikely to act as quickly on Bush's latest request for hurricane aid as they did on his first package.
The election-year request is politically sensitive because Florida looms as a potentially pivotal state in the November elections.
Administration officials want Congress to act quickly. But its speed was in question because lawmakers from other regions said they would try winning additional funds for natural disasters their areas have suffered.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said he and a bipartisan group of senators would try adding about $2.5 billion to the measure, including money for Midwestern farmers hurt by drought and floods.
"They are not the only ones who have been hard hit in the last few years," Conrad said of Floridians.
When Congress approved Bush's initial $2 billion request for hurricane aid in a single day on Sept. 7 — with no amendments — Senate leaders agreed that lawmakers would be allowed to seek money for their own states' problems in the next hurricane package.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he did not know what would happen.
"We don't want this to become a Christmas tree," he said. But he also acknowledged, "There probably are a lot more people who will come forward and say, 'We have emergencies.'"