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Katrina Evacuees React to Bush Speech

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now among others listening to the president's speech were the people who would commit the money for his relief proposals, senators and members of Congress. So we're going now to congressional correspondent David Welna.

And, David, the president didn't mention how we'll pay for all this.

DAVID WELNA reporting:

That's right, Steve, he didn't even say how much it's likely to cost, though most estimates have the federal government picking up more than $200 billion of the tab. And, you know, Congress, of course, has already opened the purse strings for more than $60 billion in federal aid to the Gulf States. And with the sort of second reconstruction of the South that President Bush promised last night, lawmakers are going to have to approve a whole lot more spending. Now Mr. Bush did mention the American taxpayer at one point in his speech, but he said nothing about paying more taxes to help defray the cost of Katrina nor did he say anything about cutting other federal spending. So the people who are actually going to be paying for this in the short term at least are those who buy the US Treasury bills that finance the nation's deficit spending, which is already running at around $350 billion for this year. Add to that the fact that the money for the war in Iraq is running low and will have to be replenished, and you've got a lot of lawmakers who are very worried about digging the deficit ditch deeper. But as Mississippi Republican Trent Lott put it, `You're a fiscal conservative until you get hit by a natural disaster.'

INSKEEP: That's NPR congressional correspondent David Welna. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.