Duffy agreed, explaining that even those who have come to him with requests for funding have understood that money may not be available, and that if it is, it won’t be in the same amounts as in years past.
“People get it. ... I am pleasantly surprised,” Duffy said.
When Larry MacDonald, the mayor of tiny Bayfield, Wis., met with Duffy last week, he had no illusions that the freshman would be bringing back the kind of bacon that Obey had during his 42-year career.
Obey, after all, had been the ranking member and then chairman of the Appropriations Committee, where he was able to direct hundreds of millions of federal dollars to his rural, sparsely populated district.
And unlike Duffy, Obey was always a fan of earmarks, which he used to help communities such as Bayfield — with its 600 yearlong residents — foot the bill for the region’s tourist industry centered on Lake Superior.
“We accept the realities, but we also accept the reality we need the help to protect Lake Superior,” MacDonald said Wednesday.
“There has to be a way for small communities to be able to access [federal assistance] with some reasonable sense that we’ll be getting something,” he added.
MacDonald said that during their meeting, Duffy acknowledged Bayfield’s needs but made it clear that directing more federal funds to the region wasn’t in the cards. Duffy’s office agreed to work with MacDonald to cut red tape standing in the way of existing grant programs.
“He said he’d be more than willing to work with us and try to help,” said MacDonald, a Democrat.
But not everyone is convinced that the understanding will last.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was an Appropriations cardinal when Democrats were in the majority but who left the panel this year when Democrats’ membership was reduced, said GOP appropriators, particularly freshmen, will have to answer for the spending cuts back in their districts.
“The Republicans are going to have to own up — they’re going to have to put their name next to those cuts,” the Florida Democrat said. “They’re going to have to make sure that they explain why it is that their decisions on cuts are not going to strangle the [economic] recovery.”