Democrats see ongoing need in Gulf region

Published 1:11 am Monday, July 21, 2008

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — House Democrats said Sunday they are honoring their pledge to bring resources to the Gulf Coast and keep attention there, nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina.

‘‘This is all about us doing right by the American people,’’ House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., said at a news conference.

Members of the delegation led by Clyburn said progress is being made with the billions of dollars in recovery aid set aside by Congress so far but that much work remains, particularly in improving health care, increasing affordable housing opportunities and repairing New Orleans’ underground infrastructure.

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Clyburn and others called on President Bush to extend from three years to 30 the time the state will have to pay for its $1.8 billion share of levee work.

The White House did not immediately comment late Sunday.

More than $100 billion has been set aside for recovery so far, and Clyburn and others also said the work will not end here. Part of the trip is not only to gauge progress so far but to also determine what needs still demand federal attention.

Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif., said seeing a family living inside a small, federally issued trailer made her question, ‘‘Do we live in America?’’

‘‘I was appalled, being an American, living in California, seeing what our people are going through,’’ she said. Richardson gave credit to the Democratic-led Congress for keeping attention on the region.

A Clyburn spokeswoman said Republicans were invited but none were expected to join the 20 or so Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on the four-day trip to south Louisiana and Mississippi.

The itinerary includes meetings with state and local officials, tours of the New Orleans area and a town hall meeting on insurance issues in Mississippi.