Bush seeks 52 billion dollars in Katrina hurricane aid

President Bush sent a request to Congress Wednesday for $51.8 billion in additional hurricane relief, raising Katrina's cost to the federal government to $62.3 billion so far, easily a record for domestic disaster relief.

Separately, Republican leaders moved to try to contain the political fallout from Katrina, forming a joint House-Senate review committee of senior lawmakers who will investigate the government's preparation and early response to the catastrophe. Democrats called again for an independent probe similar to the investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, reports MSNBC.

According to Reuters, Tallying damage from the storm to the U.S. economy, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, director of the Congressional Budget Office, said the economic impact seems likely to be "significant but not overwhelming."

His report said Katrina could slow economic growth in the second half of the year by one-half to 1 percentage point.

Holtz-Eakin also said rebuilding could ultimately ease unemployment by spurring a jobs rebound. But he acknowledged the estimates were "fraught with uncertainty."

Included in the initial relief funds is money for $2,000 debit cards that are being given to tens of thousands of households. That program is to be expanded.

There is also money for jobless benefits, early damage assessment for homes and temporary housing.

The White House declined to comment on the estimates put forth by some in Congress of spending for Katrina's aftermath possibly topping $150 billion. Even spending of in that range would be less than the roughly $300 billion that has been approved so far for the Iraq war.

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