White House 'Cannot Name Any Programs That Will Be Cut' to Pay for Katrina Relief

A top Administration official involved in implementing the President’s plan for reviving the part of the U.S. ravaged by Katrina said last week that he "cannot name any programs that will be cut" to pay for the relief effort.

At a White House briefing September 16th, Claude Allen, domestic policy advisor to President Bush, told me that "we did not focus" on cutting or eliminating any program in order to pay for Katrina relief without adding to the deficit. According to Allen, "The President’s focus was on the immediate need of the evacuees. We focus on providing that, and then in the mid-term and longer range is identifying again, programs that would help get families back on their feet, get the kids back in school, and get people back to work. That’s what we were focusing on."

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan interjected that "it’s important to do what the President has always done, which is to set the clear priorities, and we have, and then to excercise spending restraint elsewhere in the budget and that’s what we’ll do going forward."

When I again pressed the question about particular cuts to avoid more deficit spending, Allen reiterated: "We have not done an exercise to look at programs to cut. Again, the focus was on immediate need for the Gulf region, to provide them with the assistance, and that’s what we’ve done."

Also present at the briefing was the President’s National Economic Advisor, Al Hubbard. Asked by CBS-TV’s White House correspondent John Roberts where the money would come for a rebuilding estimated at as much as $200 billion, Hubbard replied: "It’s coming from the American taxpayer."