Rep. Jim Oberstar, aka "Mr. Transportation," led the House attack Friday against Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican who has tied Congress up in knots with his one-man filibuster of federal road projects that expire Sunday.
"The Senate is so obscure," Oberstar said of the upper chamber, where a single member can hold up legislative action by withholding so-called unanimous consent. "One person gets their nose out of joint about something, and it brings the whole place to a halt."
Actually, Bunning's maneuver does a lot more than that. Without a planned 30-day extension, Oberstar said the feds will have to furlough thousands of transportation workers on Tuesday, temporarily shutting down a range of government highway and transit programs.
Oberstar said it reminds him of the GOP's 1995 federal government shutdown, "in microcosm."
Until the situation is resolved, states also will stop getting reimbursed for spending on highway and road projects.
The road and transit programs were due to expire last September but have been kept alive by a series of extensions while Congress considers comprehensive new transportation legislation.
The extension also would ensure payment of federal unemployment benefits.
The standoff with Bunning, who retires from the Senate this year, could easily drag well into next week. The Kentuckian's issue: He wants to pay for the extension with stimulus dollars rather than new spending.
Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, has raised objections about the way highway funds are doled out under a $15 billion jobs bill Democrats are eager to pass.
The Senate version allocates more than half of the highway money to four states: California, Illinois, Washington and Louisiana. Ironically, Minnesota would fare better under the Senate version, getting $25 million compared with $15.5 million under the House formula.
"Oberstar is not being parochial about this," said Transportation Committee spokesman Jim Berard. "He wants the process to be fair to all states."
Dueling maps in the Sixth District
Perhaps it was inevitable that Rep. Michele Bachmann's challengers in the Sixth District would unveil maps of the conservative lawmaker's national travels. But who knew they would do it simultaneously?
Tarryl Clark and Maureen Reed, both Democrats, rolled out maps in the last 24 hours that track Bachmann's speaking appearances. Reed, who also included national funding, even presented the graphic on a new standalone website: wheresmichele.com.
It's safe to say that this is emerging as a major theme among Democrats in the Sixth District.
Reed's campaign manager, Jason Isaacson, later told Hot Dish he was quite irked by the whole situation and said he was suspicious that the Clark campaign copied the idea after seeing it the previous night.
"It's one thing to copy us by buying bigger signs ... but when you look at this kind of thing where it's just kind of blatantly ripping off my people's hard work and efforts that kind of frustrates us," Isaacson said.
Clark campaign manager Zach Rodvold denied that Reed's map inspired theirs in any way, calling it a "funny coincidence." He said their map was merely one part of an entirely new section of their website, "The Bachmann agenda," that was in the works for some time.