In the end, the St. Croix bridge debate in the U.S. House Wednesday night played out to a largely empty chamber – an indication of the lateness of the hour, or that minds are already made up.
On the eve of Thursday’s full House vote, about 10 representatives, mostly from Wisconsin and Minnesota, traded views about whether the long-delayed $690 million project represents a wasteful “earmark” or a needed upgrade to an outdated river crossing in Stillwater.
Most intriguingly, the 40-minute encounter featured a head-to-head encounter between bridge backer Rep. Michele Bachmann, one of the most conservative Republicans in the House, and her Minnesota nemesis, Rep. Betty McCollum, one of the chamber’s most liberal Democrats.
It got a little personal.
“What would the Tea Party call an effective and efficient use of taxpayer dollars?” McCollum said by way of reminding listeners of Bachmann’s core political base. “Would they call this that?”
Bachmann, for her part, all but accused McCollum of trying to sabotage the project by insisting on a scaled-back version, something state officials say would take the decades-long process back to square one.
“I’d like to have the record to reflect very clearly that if Representative McCollum gets her way she will kill building the bridge over the St. Croix River,” Bachmann said.
The line of the night, though, went to Wisconsin Republican Sean Duffy, extolling the bipartisan support the bridge has received on both sides of the river: “You have Vikings and Packers supporting this bill!”

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McCollum says St. Croix bridge could raise taxes