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Bush keeps $20 billion promise to New York

From Kelly Wallace
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Surrounded by members of New York's congressional delegation along with its mayor and governor, President Bush announced his administration was keeping its promise and then some, forking over more than $20 billion in aid to help New York rebuild following the September 11th terrorist attacks.

"This is the right thing to do," Bush said during the Rose Garden event, which was attended by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki. "It's the absolute right position for our government to take. It is essential that New York City come back and come back strong, for the good of the entire nation."

Bush administration officials and New York lawmakers worked out a deal over the past few days that calls for a total of $21.4 billion, including $5.5 billion in new money to help rebuild transit lines and pay for cleanup operations. The new money would be included in a supplemental bill the administration plans to send to Congress.

Shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center, Bush promised New York lawmakers during an Oval Office visit that he would provide the $20 billion they requested to help the city rebuild.

But in the months since then, some of New York's lawmakers publicly questioned whether the president would keep his promise. However, today, there was only the strongest praise for Bush.

"Mr. President, we say thank you," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, "Thank you for staying with us. Thank you for translating that promise into the specifics that have been presented to us today."

"For six months, we've been hearing -- the check is in the mail, the check is in the mail and the New York delegation worked very, very hard. And today we opened the mailbox and the check is there and we're going to continue to work with this administration to make sure the needs of New Yorkers are met," Rep. Nita Lowey, D-New York, told reporters following the announcement.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, said the aid is "not a panacea, but it's a giant step forward."

"Without this package, we could have had real doubts whether downtown would ever achieve the glory that it has seen in the past. With this package, we think it will be bigger, better than ever," Schumer said.

Last month, New York lawmakers fumed after hearing that budget director Mitch Daniels compared efforts by New York lawmakers to lobby for assistance to a "money grubbing game." Daniels later pulled back from his comments and Bush, during a visit to New York just days after that controversy surfaced, publicly stressed to New Yorkers he would keep his word.

New York lawmakers made clear that even more money may be needed.

"We look forward to working with you as additional needs arise for our workers and the rebuilding effort stemming from the attacks," Clinton said during the event.

Clinton also publicly invited Bush to attend a joint session of Congress in New York sometime later this year.

House and Senate leaders have indicated their support for the idea which the former first lady said would focus on "America's commitment to rebuilding New York and America's commitment to fighting for freedom."




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