The Mankato Free Press reports in Pending vote has Walz uneasy:
It’s looking increasingly likely Congressman Tim Walz is going to have to decide between budget discipline and 40,000 of his constituents sometime later this week, and the freshman Democrat said Tuesday he’s struggling with the decision.
Senate Republicans, backed by President Bush, are blocking efforts by Walz and other House Democrats to generate $50 billion of new revenue to offset $50 billion in tax relief for people who are otherwise going to get hit by the Alternative Minimum Tax next year. The Senate on Tuesday efectively voted to allow the cost to be added to the national debt.
After winning control of Congress a year ago, Democrats imposed “pay as you go” rules, known as pay-go for short, that attempt to force the fiscal discipline required to keep budget deficits and the national debt from growing. The rules require spending increases and tax cuts in one area to be offset by spending cuts or tax hikes in other parts of the budget. The Senate proposal would be a clear violation of the rules. . . .
“I’m talking to a lot of people and struggling with this,” Walz said Tuesday, referring to extensive discussion with his congressional staff and opinion leaders in southern Minnesota.
Walz said the politically expedient choice would be to support the Senate bill, whcih was expected to be voted on today in the House.
“The easy thing is to go that way,” Walz said. . . .
. . .There could be political fall-out, however, if Walz votes to violate the pay-go rules. During last year’s successful campaign to knock off longtime GOP Congressman Gil Gutknecht, Walz was critical of the budgets and massive deficits piled up by the then-Republican-controlled federal government.
And he was vocal in his enthusiasm for pay-go.
The Democratic-controlled House passed an AMT fix earlier this month that offsets the tax relief with $50 billion in new taxes, mainly by shutting down loopholes on offshore tax havens. Republicans in Congress and the White House balked at that idea, setting up the vote on an AMT fix that simply allows the deficit to grow.
“I’m as disappointed as I’ve been with the Senate,” Walz said. “And that’s saying
something.". . .
We don't think he'll be especially happy with the choice presented to the House by the Senate today, if we're reading an article in CQ Politics correctly Spending Fight Set to End in House:
Congress is poised to finish its spending work for the year Wednesday, although for most Democrats it comes at the price of continuing to fund a war they oppose.House Sought Less for Military
The House is expected to clear a bill Wednesday for President Bush’s signature that encompasses 11 of the 12 annual spending bills, providing $473.5 billion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2008. The measure (HR 2764) includes an additional $70 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus $11.2 billion in “emergency” spending.
Democrats took over Congress this year aiming to bring an end to the war in Iraq. But without 60 votes in the Senate needed to overcome Republican filibusters, they were unable to set a timetable for a withdrawal or a drawdown of troops. . . .
The Senate voted, 76-17, late Tuesday night to send the omnibus appropriations package back to the House for a final vote Wednesday. . . .
. . .The House version of the spending package included $31 billion for operations in Afghanistan, troop protection equipment and some military base programs. Yet Republicans insisted on funding for Iraq.
As part of a procedural maneuver set up by Democrats, the House Wednesday will be voting on whether to accept the additional war money added by the Senate. . . .
The Post Bulletin's Ed Felker reports in Federal spending bills includes regional projects:
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Mankato, saw his local and regional project requests survive mostly unscathed in the year-end appropriations bill moving through Congress this week, with some notable increases over amounts approved by the House earlier this year. . . .
. . .In Walz's case, the 20 projects he requested, alone and with other lawmakers, totaled $35.6 million, up $7.3 million over House-passed levels. The largest earmark, $27 million for the Lewis & Clark Rural Water System, which benefits southwestern Minnesota communities, was increased by $4.7 million in the final version.
Other notable increases were the $900,000 added to the House amount for the Veterans Re-Entry Education Program at Minnesota colleges and universities, to nearly $1.2 million, and $650,000 added to the National Child Protection Center at Winona State University, to $1.2 million.
The bill also included $850,000 in money for U.S. 14, up $150,000 over the House-approved level.
Three projects were added in the final bill that were not considered by the House, including two worth $100,000 each for flood protection measures in St. Charles and Winona County, and $410,000 for the Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge in western Minnesota and northwest Iowa. . . .
. . . Walz on Tuesday defended the projects as important and said the earmark process, which has been criticized by watchdog groups as pork barrel politics, has been improved by Democrats through better disclosure. He said he publicized his support for the projects throughout the year. "We think they are very, very responsible and investments in the future," he said.
He plans to vote for the bill when it returns from the Senate with additional funding for the war in Iraq. The House bill required two votes Monday night, one for the bill that covered 11 appropriations bills for the 2008 fiscal year, and one granting $31 billion in nonbudgeted money for the Afghanistan war but not Iraq. Both were passed with minimal Republican support. . . .
And how will Walz vote? The PB reports:
. . .Walz has been outspoken about what he said has been the president's unwillingness to negotiate with congressional Democrats over spending and the Iraq war. He said he was willing to agree to unrestricted war spending and Bush's budget target rather than force a government shutdown.
The last major shutdown came in 1995 during a budget battle between congressional Republicans and President Bill Clinton. "The bottom line on this one was this president was very obviously willing to go to the brink and shut this government down," Walz said.
Update 1:15: At Minnesota Monitor, Joe Bodell asks Congressional Earmarks: Pork or Proper?. His answer for Walz's district:
Ellison's fellow freshman Tim Walz hit on considerable success in the spending bill, securing more than $1 million in funding for transportation projects in his southern Minnesota district; $1.3 million for a National Guard training facility in Mankato; and a total of $35.6 million for labor, energy and water, agriculture and environmental projects. Reading the descriptions of these projects, it is again difficult to identify any obvious examples of so-called "pork-barrel" spending. One might quibble with calling a storm water management upgrade for St. Charles a Homeland Security project, but the merits of such a project are clear to those who were hit hard by the 2007 floods across southeast Minnesota.
So, to address Congressman Kline's critique of the earmark system -- that it is based on seniority -- how did the freshmen do? Leaving out the Northstar Rail project, which was co-sponsored by more senior members, Keith Ellison secured around $16 million for his district. Tim Walz secured more than $35 million. Again leaving out the Northstar Rail project, 30-year veteran Oberstar secured between $35 million and $40 million for Eighth District-focused projects.
Doesn't sound like a huge disparity to me.
Over at IDHA, DJ Danielson muses about rocking Congressmen, and expresses his disappointment that we have yet to post video of Hall performing last Friday, as opposed to Hall talking about veterans issues. We're working on it (excuse us if we put veterans first); meanwhile, go check out DJ suggestion for the official Dick Day for Congress theme song.