With seven legislative days remaining before Gov. Mark Dayton’s March 15 deadline, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann is pressing for a House vote Wednesday approving the long-debated St. Croix River crossing.
The vote will be a major test for the proposed $690 million bridge, because under rules allowing expedited consideration it would have to pass by a two-thirds majority, a result that is less than certain given opposition from both environmentalists and fiscal hawks.
The measure passed the Senate by unanimous consent Jan. 23 after a month of determined behind-the-scenes arm twisting by Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar. But it’s been a different story for Bachmann and her Republican colleagues in the House, whose leaders have shown a decided ambivalence toward the project.
Spokesmen for House Speaker John Boehner and Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica have said nothing publicly about the bridge legislation, which has languished for months.
With little prospect of getting a bill through the Transportation Committee before Dayton’s deadline, Bachmann is apparently willing to roll the dice in a floor vote on a suspension calendar requiring a supermajority.
Even as Bachmann was announcing the vote Monday, Taxpayers for Common Sense, an anti-pork watchdog group, fired off a letter the Transportation Committee members terming it “a bridge too far.”
Said Bachmann: “For over a decade, I have worked on the St. Croix River Crossing Project – first as a State Senator in the Minnesota legislature and now a Member of Congress…My constituents are eager for a new crossing to be built. This project has gone unfinished for far too long.”
The bill would grant the bridge an exemption from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a move that some environmentalists see as a costly and unfortunate breach of a landmark environmental protection.
Dayton, who has pushed for the project, has informed Congress that federal funding for the bridge could be reprogrammed to other state transportation needs if Congress doesn’t accede by the Ides of March.