Decades of debate over the proposed St. Croix River crossing ended Thursday with a five-minute vote in the U.S. House, which approved the plan overwhelmingly and sent it to President Obama for his signature.
The 339-80 House vote easily surpassed the two-thirds needed to clear the project on an expedited basis, which became necessary after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton set a March 15 deadline for final action by Congress.
The Senate approved an identical measure last month by a unanimous vote, a move that belied some of the discord underlying the $690 million project. The long-delayed bridge plan was before Congress because it needed a federal exemption from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a landmark piece of 1960s legislation sponsored by former U.S. Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale.
Mondale lobbied against the bridge, calling it “a brutal assault on one of the most magnificent rivers in America.”
The bridge standoff divided environmentalists, who remain opposed, and labor-backed Democrats who joined with Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann, the main House backer of the project, which stands in her current district.
For Bachmann, the final passage represented a singular legislative achievement after three terms in Congress and a run for the GOP presidential nomination.
“This is it!” she enthused in a statement after the vote. “After decades of bureaucratic holdups and frivolous lawsuits from radical environmentalists, the people of the St. Croix River Valley will finally have their bridge. I represent the most patient people in the nation and I could not be more thrilled about the outcome.”
Opposition to the project bill was led by Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum, whose new district under the 2010 census will include the bridge site along Hwy. 36 in Oak Park Heights, where the mayor and city council have expressed opposition to the millions of dollars in related utility upgrades they say city residents will have to pay.
Said McCollum: “Every policy debate has two sides and I worked hard to reflect the voices of Minnesotans in the 4th District, as well as those Stillwater and Oak Park Heights residents who are deeply concerned about this mega-bridge project.”
McCollum, however, found herself at odds with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who championed the bill in the Senate with the backing of Dayton and Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who formed a broad bipartisan coalition on both sides of the river.
More from Star Tribune
More From Hot Dish Politics
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen welcomes his friend and housemate back, three months after Rep. Steve Scalise was gunned down at a congressional baseball practice.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar appeared on The Daily Show Tuesday night to talk about getting things done in Congress, lowering drug prices and the direction of the Democratic party.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar will appear on "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" at 10 p.m. today. She'll be the second Minnesota politician in recent months to appear, after Rep. Ilhan Omar came on in July.
A Duluth native who just barely lost Virginia's GOP gubernatorial primary said that politicians have not gone far enough in condemning the left for violence during a rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville. "I think that the left is going to try to use this as an excuse to crack down on conservative free speech," said Corey Stewart. "I think they're going to try to use this as an excuse to remove more historical monuments."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week launched digital ads against U.S. Reps. Jason Lewis, Erik Paulsen, and 23 other GOP lawmakers.