Thursday, October 18, 2007

Three Days of Peace, Love and Earmarks

The Senate voted Thursday to strip $1 million in federal funding for a museum at the site of the 1969 Woodstock music festival.

From The Politico:

Community leaders in upstate New York are building a $100 million museum there and sought money from the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) attempted to defend the earmark Thursday, but he failed, surprising even some critics of the project.

The Senate first rejected a motion to table the amendment, 42-52, shifting the $1 million earmark into the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant program. Five Democrats — Evan Bayh of Indiana, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jim Webb of Virginia — joined the entire Senate Republican Conference, including its reputed king of pork, Ted Stevens of Alaska, to oppose the Woodstock funding.

Senators then approved the amendment on a voice vote.

Schumer, as lonely as Charlie Brown, was the only senator to speak on Woodstock’s behalf.

“This is the largest economic program in one of our poorest counties,” he said, detailing how the rest of the $100 million project would be funded by private sources and the New York state government.

“It is a whole complex devoted to history in America from 1945 to the present," he explained. “If you believe in helping counties, if you believe that every one of us wants the federal government to not just pass broad-brush programs, but to help individual needs in our states ... this is the project.”

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) attached her name to the federal spending request, but Schumer was reportedly the main proponent. She still backed it, voting with Schumer to table the amendment.

Billionaire Alan Gerry, a longtime political donor, is the driver of the project. Days after a Senate committee approved the $1 million request, Gerry and his family contributed $20,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which Schumer heads, and $9,200 to Clinton’s presidential campaign, according to USA Today.

Clinton and Schumer aides said there was no connection.

Republicans, meanwhile, were eager to mock the project. After Schumer argued that Sullivan County, the site of the museum, needs job creation, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) pointed out that the county had a lower unemployment rate than the national average.

“Now, some of you may believe that it would be a neat thing to celebrate Woodstock again, and to do so with a museum,” said Kyl, who led the effort with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). “To the extent that one would argue that it’s only $1 million, therefore symbolic, the answer to that is, yes, it is. But I think the American people want us to begin to make some votes that demonstrate that we care about setting priorities.”

“Maybe." Coburn added, “this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius for taxpayers.”

Not quite yet.



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