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Bush Visits Katrina Recovery Volunteers on Gulf Coast Trip

President Bush pitched in on volunteer projects to rebuild homes devastated by Hurricane Katrina Thursday during a visit to the Gulf Coast.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon appeared to be launching a filibuster on the Senate floor on oil royalties payments. Wyden has attached an amendment cutting subsidies to oil companies to an emergency supplemental bill aimed at providing more than $27 billion in relief to the Katrina-ravaged region.

On the ground in New Orleans, Bush and several of his Cabinet secretaries were promoting National Volunteer Week, which aims to show how volunteers can assist in efforts that the government can't handle on its own. Bush's visit marks his 11th trip to the region since the Aug. 29 storm killed more than 1,300 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Bush visited with volunteers helping to repair low-income housing damaged by Katrina. There he met a New Orleans family whose home was repaired through Catholic Charities, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

The president drove past destroyed homes and stopped by the home of Ethel Williams, 72, in the Upper Ninth Ward.

Williams' single-level home suffered damage during the storm and it served as an example of Operation Helping Hand, a volunteer program operated by Catholic Charities. Williams told Bush she would someday reward him for his visit with a home-cooked meal.

More than 21,000 national service members have served about 1 million hours during hurricane recovery efforts, McClellan said.

Bush plans to travel to Mississippi after the stop in Louisiana, returning to the White House Thursday night.

Back in Washington, D.C., as the Senate debated the $106.5 billion price tag for additional Iraq and hurricane recovery spending, a Senate panel released a seven-month inquiry report recommending sweeping changes for natural disaster response.

Among the 86 recommendations made was a call to abolish the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which received criticism for its mistakes before, during and after Hurricane Katrina, and start over.

"FEMA has become a symbol of bumbling bureaucracy in which the American people have completely lost faith, there are many good people who work at FEMA but they have lacked the leaders, the tools, the system and budget to be effective," said Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairwoman Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Collins said a new agency, the National Preparedness and Response Authority, should be led by a chief who would report directly to the president during major disasters.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., vice chairman of the committee, said the panel could not agree on a position on the White House's response to Katrina so Lieberman included a separate statement criticizing Bush's handling of the storm.

"President Bush won our admiration and our gratitude for the way he took charge responding to the attacks against America of Sept. 11. In the case of Katrina, he failed to provide that same presidential leadership when it was needed and America suffered," Lieberman said.

One White House official signaled the administration's opposition to abolishing FEMA. Homeland Security Adviser Frances Fragos Townsend told reporters that she has not had a chance to read the entire report but "now is not really the time to look at moving organizational boxes." The hurricane season begins June 1.

"We are far better prepared today than we were this time last year," Townsend said. "And we will be far better prepared by June 1."

Townsend said she disagreed with the report's recommendation to have the director report to the president, instead the director should be more like a "combatant commander" reporting to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

FOX News' Wendell Goler and Molly Henneberg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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