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Released about a half hour ago:

HOUSE SPEAKER AND SENATE MAJORITY LEADER

ANNOUNCE FORMATION OF COMMITTEE TO REVIEW HURRICANE RELIEF RESPONSE

Congress Commits to Passing $52 Billion More in Hurricane Aid

WASHINGTON, D.C. –House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) made the following statement today concerning further relief efforts related to Hurricane Katrina:

“Congress is actively responding to the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina. We’re committed to the residents of the Gulf Coast. And we’re doing everything we can to help them get on their feet. Last week, we passed $10.5 billion in aid. We’re committed to passing another $52 billion aid package this week.

“In addition, Congress will take up several bills to assist with the relief and rebuilding efforts, including one that removes some of the normal restrictions and red tape so that those in need can get welfare and other aid quickly.

“We also have bills to get our federal court system back up and moving and ensure that students forced to withdraw from college because of the hurricane aren’t forced to repay their student aid, grants and scholarships.

“We’re also taking up a bill that gives FEMA the authority to borrow more money if necessary for the national flood insurance program. And, we are looking at another measure that would allow FEMA to remove debris from private lands.

“All of these bills have one goal: to get help to the people of the Gulf Coast and get it to them now.

It’s a massive effort – and it’s going to take continued effort from not just the federal government, but state and local authorities too.

“Let us be clear: we should not diminish the fact that there were acts of heroism by individuals and victories by our first responders who risked their lives. But we all agree that in many areas, the initial relief response to Hurricane Katrina was unacceptable at the local, state and federal level.

“That’s why today, the House and Senate are forming a bipartisan committee made up of senior members. This joint committee will be tasked with reviewing, at all levels of government, the immediate preparation and recovery from Hurricane Katrina. The committee is to report its findings to the Congress no later than February 15th, 2006.

“Americans deserve answers. We must do all we can to learn from this tragedy, improve the system and protect all of our citizens.”

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