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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Senators embarrass state with vote on Alaskan bridges

A Lansing State Journal editorial


Michigan's two U.S. senators - Democrats Debbie Stabenow of Lansing and Carl Levin of Detroit - shamed the state last week.

The Michigan duo joined most of the Senate in voting to waste a great deal of public money: $453 million.

That's what Congress recently appropriated to start building two bridges in Alaska. One of these bridges is so important, it would eliminate a seven-minute ferry ride between Ketchikan, population 8,000, and Gravina Island, population 50.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said he thought such spending was ridiculous. He was author of an amendment to defund the Alaska projects and divert as much money as legally possible to Louisiana to rebuild bridges there.

Eighty-five colleagues, though, disagreed, including Levin and Stabenow. We asked their offices why Michigan's senators were so eager to ease Alaska's burden.

The Stabenow response: "(The senator) joined an overwhelming number of senators in this bipartisan vote against this amendment because we need to get back to creating a real and comprehensive plan for reconstruction in the Gulf states following Katrina."

Levin's response: "This issue should have been debated when the highway bill was before us. There were many projects in the highway bill - hundreds of projects - that I wouldn't favor if voted on separately. Pulling one project out of a bill Congress has already passed would no doubt lead to reopening the entire package, which overall would probably leave Michigan far worse off."

Is Sen. Stabenow really telling her hard-pressed constituents that saving $453 million for Katrina relief is bad for Katrina relief plans?

Is Sen. Levin really telling Michigan that he and his colleagues failed to perform due diligence on the Alaska projects when they approved the mammoth transportation bill this fall?

The reality of this sordid little tale is that Stabenow and Levin voted for Alaskan pork as a political favor, to protect their own pet projects. One problem: That's not their job.

If they, and their fellow senators, were doing their job, they would go back into the $285 billion highway bill and vote on each and every one of the 6,000-plus favors, or "earmarks," stuffing it. If a project is worthy, it should pass, right?

The next time Sen. Stabenow tells you she is protecting the needy, remember this vote.

The next time Sen. Levin tells you he's vigorously defending the public interest, remember this vote.

And the next time Congress comes asking you for help, tell them "you gave at Alaska."


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