Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Senatorial Weakness or Extreme Voter Manipulation?

Today’s press coverage includes a story on the hold up of the St. Croix bridge project - again - due partly to the failure of the Senate to approve the bridge measure as part of any of its bills even though it requires no new spending. What is does require is an exemption from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act that currently limits development on the St. Croix river.

Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar is described as a “leading proponent” of the bridge. Her party controls the Senate. She is up for re-election in 2012. Past practice and collegial courtesy take those things into account in the U.S. Senate, where bills sponsored by senators coming into an election year are routinely given extra consideration to give those senators something positive to talk about in their campaigns. So why has this bridge project been delayed yet again?

Supposedly both Democrat and Republican staffers are chalking it up to Washington’s “preoccupation” with negotiations on tax and spending deals. That “preoccupation” didn’t seem to hamper their multi-tasking ability to pass legislation allowing for indefinite detainment of American citizens without charges or censorship of the Internet, measures voted for by Klobuchar even though they were widely criticized and are sure to be challenged in court as unconstitutional. Women are great multi-taskers. So what stopped Klobuchar from pushing the St. Croix River bridge closer to the top of her to-do list?

Once you get past the anemic bipartisan soundbites, only two viable theories surface: either the good senator does not have the credentials and clout necessary to convince her leadership to pay attention to the needs of her state, or she is playing political football with the long-suffering constituents of the St. Croix River area. A key quote from the senator herself in a Star Tribune story by Kevin Diaz and Kevin Giles gives us a clue: “We believe we still have a window here for early next year. We can get it done.”

Early next year? As in, just in time to remind voters of her value and neutralize any idea of a valid alternative to her candidacy? Maybe this is the real consideration afforded to Klobuchar by her leadership: the ability to kick around desperately needed jobs and infrastructure projects until it serves her personal purposes. Either she can’t get this project done, or she will only do it for her benefit. It can’t be both. So, which it, Senator? Are you weak-kneed, or is this a power play?

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