Bush Seeks $50B In Katrina Aid

A soldier from the Army's 82nd Airborne patrols Bourbon Street in the historic French Quarter of New Orleans on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2005. New Orleans officials have said they would begin for forcibly evacuate residents remaining in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) AP

President Bush is asking Congress for as much as $50 billion in immediate aid for the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, and the White House indicated Wednesday more money eventually would be needed.

The federal government also announced plans to dole out debit cards worth $2,000 each to victims of Hurricane Katrina, according to media reports.

The unprecedented cash card program initially will benefit stranded people who have been moved to rescue centers such as the Houston Astrodome. The program was outlined by Homeland Security Department officials in a conference call with state leaders Wednesday morning, according to a governor and another state official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the program had not been publicly announced.

The cards would be used to buy food, transportation, gas, and other things the displaced people need, Homeland Security officials told state leaders, according to an official who participated in the call and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, Senate Republican chairmen pledged to focus on recovery — and investigate later why the initial response was ineffectual, while Democrats pressed for investigations and the firing of the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency now.

As floodwaters began to slowly recede with the city's first pumps returning to operation, Mayor Ray Nagin authorized law enforcement officers and the U.S. military to force the evacuation of all residents who refuse to heed orders to leave.

The city faces the new threat of floodwaters that have become a toxic stew of chemical and biological waste, and growing concern over oil and gas leaks, reports CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts. Authorities fear an explosion, with no running water to fight fires.

Police Capt. Marlon Defillo said that forced removal of citizens had not yet begun. "That's an absolute last resort," he said.

U.S. Marines in New Orleans say they will not forcibly evacuate anyone; they are not law enforcement, reports CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick.

That's correct, says CBSNews.com legal analyst Andrew Cohen: Marines and other military personnel cannot engage in law enforcement activities unless Congress specifically repeals the Posse Comitatus Act.

Nagin's order targets those still in the city unless they have been designated as helping with the relief effort.

The move — which supersedes an earlier, milder order to evacuate made before Hurricane Katrina crashed ashore Aug. 29 — comes after rescuers scouring New Orleans found hundreds of people willing to defy repeated warnings to get out.

Although many states and cities across the country have sent police and firefighters to New Orleans, evacuating the city's holdouts may be best left to the Crescent City's own emergency workers.

"When we were down in the French Quarter trying to get some of the people out there yesterday, the people that lived there didn't give particularly a kind eye to someone from the outside saying you have to get out," reports CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan. "But when someone from the New Orleans police department showed up, they understood, they chatted a little bit. They both have something in common, unfortunately, in these circumstances."

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is calling for FEMA's removal from the Department of Homeland Security and questions the experience of FEMA chief Mike Brown.

"Did you screw this up?" CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith asked Brown.

"No," Brown replied softly.

"If, in the end, there's an investigation and they say 'This wasn't done right,' who's accountable?"

"Well, that's what the investigation will find out. That's what the investigation will tell us," Brown said.

It appears President Bush is distancing himself from Brown, reports CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller. Brown was not among those briefing Mr. Bush Wednesday morning on the situation.

  • Scott Benjamin

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