Vice President Joseph Biden called on voters to push Republicans to work with Democrats and vote for a $35 billion plan for states and localities to retain teachers and first responders that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to add to a minibus appropriations measure.
“Repeat for 13 months [until the 2012 election] in the hopes that Americans will forget that they’re all now living under the economic policies that were enacted during the first two years of the Obama administration,” McConnell said. “In other words, they’re actually designing legislation to fail over on the other side, so they’ll have someone else to blame for the economy 13 months from now. That’s what’s going on in the Senate this week.”
Despite the partisan asides, the Senate did make some progress on the spending package, which is made up of the Commerce, Justice and science; Agriculture, rural development, and Food and Drug Administration; and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations measures.
“Hopefully, we’ll finish” with the appropriations bills so that the chamber can take up the teacher and first responder package, Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said after addressing the rally. Schumer heads the Senate Democrats’ policy and communications operations.
The Senate continued to plow through amendments into Wednesday evening. Earlier in the day, the chamber rebuffed an effort by Sen. John McCain to include language in the spending package that would prohibit funding for low-priority transportation projects such as historic renovation and beautification.
The Arizona Republican argued that the requirement has led to a series of questionable projects such as white squirrel sanctuaries, a national Corvette museum simulator theater and bicycle museums.
“One of my favorites is a roadside museum featuring a giant coffee pot,” he said.
McCain said it is galling that highway funding is used for such projects when roads and bridges remain underfunded.
“Its also a fact that more people travel over deficient bridges every day ... than go to McDonald’s,” McCain said. “We have to set priorities, and I would like the states to set those priorities rather than have it be mandated.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, who opposed the amendment, said the measure would go too far by prohibiting any landscaping and preservation activities by HUD and the Transportation Department, including the use of Community Block Development Grant funds for historic preservation, basic landscaping and streetscaping activities.
She said the amendment also would “cripple Amtrak,” which has to maintain 126 stations in 41 states “that are on the national register of historic places.”
The chamber voted to table McCain’s amendment, 59-39.