WASHINGTON (AP) – With Gulf Coast governors pressing for action, Senate Finance Committee members complained yesterday that the Bush administration is blocking a bipartisan $9 billion health care package for hundreds of thousands of evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“We’ve got people with needs today,” Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. She was joined by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, who testified via a teleconference hookup, in urging quick action on the legislation.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the committee, said four or five senators have been blocking action on the bill after the Bush administration raised objections to provisions that would extend Medicaid coverage to thousands upon thousands of adults who otherwise would be uninsured, including those whose applications have been rejected in Louisiana.

“We can work with everybody, including the administration, or against them, and I’m prepared to go either way,” said Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) “But I’m going to look after our people first.”

Administration officials contend the Medicaid extensions are not needed because a newly created fund could be tapped whenever health care providers care for uninsured victims of Katrina between Aug. 24 and Jan. 31, 2006.

The administration has not revealed how much money will be in the fund, and senators questioned both the funding commitment and whether the administration has the authority to establish such a fund.

Earlier yesterday, Blanco asked the committee for help in rebuilding her devastated state, saying Hurricanes Katrina and Rita “knocked us down but they did not knock us out.”

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