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Bush to seek $4.2-billion more for La. storm aid

WASHINGTON - The White House said Wednesday that President Bush will ask Congress for an additional $4.2-billion to help Louisiana repair and rebuild homes battered by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Federal support for housing reconstruction, which has been the subject of protracted negotiations between Washington and local officials, is considered a prerequisite for wider recovery because it opens the way for thousands of people made homeless by the storm to return to New Orleans and surrounding areas.

The funds, which must be approved by Congress and are conditional on federal approval of a statewide recovery plan, are part of a estimated $18-billion spending plan for Gulf Coast reconstruction that the administration is to unveil today. The funds will be included in the supplemental budget request Bush will send to Congress.

Democrat drops bid to filibuster Patriot Act

WASHINGTON - With few if any allies, Sen. Russell Feingold dropped his effort late Wednesday to block the USA Patriot Act, clearing a path for Senate debate.

"I have no desire to inconvenience my colleagues or force votes in the middle of the night," Feingold, D-Wis., said on the Senate floor.

Feingold said he would propose changes as Congress works to renew the act's 16 provisions set to expire March 10. But any attempt to change the legislation would face an uphill battle, said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

"The outcome here is absolutely predetermined," Frist said. "It's going to pass with overwhelming support."

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