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Senators: Cut fat to fund Katrina recovery

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, right, and Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Delaware.


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Lindsey Graham
Tom DeLay

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Since the president prefers not to raise taxes to finance Hurricane Katrina recovery, three senators suggested Sunday that Congress cut spending, delay a Medicare prescription benefit and forgo a tax cut for the rich.

Senate Democrat Joe Biden from Delaware suggested sacrificing a cut in estate taxes, and Republicans Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl put political "pork" in the budgetary cross hairs.

Last Thursday, President Bush announced an ambitious Gulf Coast rebuilding plan. However, he and White House advisers have refused to estimate its cost. Analysts expect it to be about $200 billion. Bush has said he prefers not to raise taxes and can glean the money from eliminating unnecessary spending.

But House Majority Leader Tom DeLay contended that Republicans have already reined in expenses and he challenged legislators to show him the fat.

Arizona's Kyl voted against the $2.4 trillion plan, but President Bush pushed it and the Republican Congress passed it.

"If we would simply take about a fourth of that and all of the various pork projects that were in the highway bill, and redirect some of that to the Gulf region, we would have billions of dollars to help rebuild that area and ... not waste money that would otherwise be spent on a lot of things that don't have much to do with rebuilding highways and bridges," Kyl said on CNN's "Late Edition."

Among those non-transportation expenses are: $2.6 million for walkway and bikeway improvements in Coney Island; $1.3 million for sidewalk lighting and landscaping at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles; and $1.3 million for a day-care center and park-and-ride facility in Champaign, Illinois.

South Carolina's Graham, who was on "Fox News Sunday," also cited the corpulent transportation and energy bill and pointed to another expense.

Graham said he supported possibly delaying the implementation of a Medicare prescription drug benefit -- a project many Democrats and some Republican fiscal conservatives, including Graham, opposed.

"There's so much opportunity here to go back into the budget and extract some savings to help pay for this hurricane relief that I look at it as an opportunity for the Congress to get back to its roots of being fiscally sound and conservative," Graham said on Fox. "Maybe something good can come from this hurricane."

The United States faces a record deficit, and Bush's 2006 budget includes a budget deficit of more than $300 billion.

Biden questioned how the Bush administration could finance nearly half a trillion dollars during the next several years for the war in Iraq and for Katrina recovery.

"We have two national emergencies," Biden said. "One relates to our interest in Iraq and the other in the Gulf, and I don't think you can take from one to deal with the other."

"... We're either going to share the cost with everyone, including the wealthiest among us by foregoing the tax cuts for the wealthiest, or we're going to put all the burden on the middle class.... We don't have to go forward with further tax cuts for the wealthy. There's a $70 billion tax cut in this particular budget. Permanently eliminating the estate-tax cut is a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Maybe we have to forgo those for the time being."

In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken September 9 - 12, 45 percent of respondents said they would support reducing Iraq war expenditures for Katrina. The poll had a sampling error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

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