One of the signature themes of the Senate Don Corleone, Susan Collins', lording of the economic recovery plan, is that she is dead set against spending money to reconstruct schools. What gives?
... after working most of Tuesday night, members and staff were plainly exhausted, and continued disputes over Obama’s school construction initiative delayed a planned meeting of the formal House-Senate conference on the bill.So what is Collins' problem?
“Like any negotiation this involved give-and-take, and if you don’t mind my saying so, that’s an understatement,” said Reid. Down to the end, the school modernization funds were a bone of contention for Sen. Susan Collins (R.-Maine), whose vote is pivotal to the president.
Last Friday, she had successfully eliminated all such money from the Senate bill. Wednesday she agreed to allow $10 billion as part of a $54 billion fiscal stabilization fund but argued that the $10 billion should not be confined to this single dedicated purpose.
After Reid’s announcement, an administration official said the issue was resolved, as did Collins. But House leaders, who had grown resentful of the Maine Republican’s veto power over the bill, remained unhappy—forcing the delay.
The constructions funds are especially sensitive in poor, often minority school districts less able to finance new schools. Among the many spending cuts made last week in the Senate, the school construction issue was perhaps the most ideological.Uh-huh... yeah, why help those poor minority kids, when you can just move to Maine, where there are no poor minority kids...
For the Obama camp, it brings back New Deal memories of the Public Works Administration creating construction jobs and building schools across the country. But Collins has always resisted arguing that, in today’s world, it represents an expansion of the federal role in state and local affairs.
BTW it appears that the Senate has also screwed over urban districts, in favor of the rural folk who don't like Barack Obama anyway, and who from what I can tell, don't want an economic stimulus plan... and of course, they've also screwed over the poor.
... House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D., Cal.) said the tentative deal calls for 65% of the money to be distributed according to the Senate’s more rural formula; 35% as the more urban House wanted.ABC News has more on the school construction money dust-up:
In the same talks, the House appears to have preserved its higher 65% subsidy to help laid- off workers meet COBRA payments to maintain employer-provided health insurance; the Senate had proposed 50%. But the House agreed in turn to drop its proposal to increase Medicaid coverage to help lower income individuals face the same insurance dilemma and can’t afford to pay even a subsidized COBRA payment.
One issue is that liberals in the House are objecting to the amount of money in the bill for school construction. Sources say the bill includes $6 billion for school construction. Negotiators worked hard to find a way to put the provisions back in after the Senate eliminated all $16 billion in school construction money. But some key House Democrats say that's not enough.No wonder Nancy Pelosi is pissed.
Another problem, sources say, is that some House Democrats say the bill gives states too much discretion on how to use some of the money intended for education. Some Congressman are concerned that governors will not use the money to help poor school districts.
Some Senate Democrats are unhappy, too. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, says there is just not enough money in the bill for school construction.
"Every school in America will get 10,000 bucks if they're lucky," Harkin said, guessing that might be enough to buy two energy efficient windows. "And what's that going to do for them?" he asked. "We're trying to add new heating facilities. We're trying to add renovations. And doing it by formula doesn't do it."
Harkin says he'd ultimately vote for it, but he doesn't like the concessions made to get the support of the moderate Republicans.
Labels: Democrats, economic crisis, economic recovery plan, House of Representatives, news and politics, Republicans, Senate, stimulus bill