I’ve always said that when GOP Senator Roy Blunt is involved, look for a money motive – usually campaign finance if memory serves me right. Most recently, however, Blunt is gearing up to defend some of that wasteful, special interest, pork spending that, nominally at least, raises the hackles of good financial conservatives. Specifically, he’s threatening to block the nomination of Gina McCarthy, the President’s choice to head up the EPA, becoming the latest GOP Senator to resort to extortion.
How is this either extortion or defending pork? Blunt is proposing a quid pro quo. Obama wants McCarthy as EPA Head. Blunt wants quicker action on the St. Johns Bayou and New Madrid Floodway project where repair of a 1,500-foot gap in the levee came to a stop because of what KMOX designates technical problems with the project’s Environmental Impact Statement. Unfortunately, in this case, the phrase “technical problems” understates the situation. Coming in at about $100 million of that taxpayer money GOPers claim to be so protective of, even the Army Corp of Engineers, well-known to love an expensive boondoggle, had nothing nice to say about this project, labeling it “an economic dud with huge environmental consequences.”
Michael Grunwald adds:
“Huge” was putting it mildly. Corps documents suggested the project would drain more acres of wetlands than all U.S. developers drained in a typical year, cutting off one of the last swath of Mississippi River floodplain that was still connected to the river. The Fish and Wildlife Service warned that it “would cause substantial, irretrievable losses of nationally significant fish and wildlife resources, and greatly diminish rare and unique habitats in southeastern Missouri.” And the mitigation plan was a joke.
“Dud” was also putting it mildly. The project was marketed as a flood-control initiative for the downtrodden community of East Prairie, Mo.; Congress even let East Prairie use its federal economic development dollars for the local cost-share. But Corps documents showed that East Prairie, which flooded once every ten years before the project, would still flood once every ten years after the project. The main economic benefits would accrue to large landowners in the New Madrid floodway, who would get federal flood protection for their federally subsidized corn and soybeans. And the cost to taxpayers was so high that the Corps still had to use an interest rate from the project’s original inception in 1954 to nudge the benefit-cost ratio above 1 – to a grand total of 1.01.
Hmmm … “benefits accrue to large landowners” … maybe Blunt is actually hoping to grease the old campaign coffers after all.
To be fair, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill has also indicated that she would like this piece of wasteful spending expedited as well. Of course, McCaskill regularly puts common sense and her worries about wasteful government spending aside when she needs to show Missourians that she will fight for what they might, at first blush, take to be to be in their interests, no matter how mistaken they may be or how much damage it may do from a wider perspective. Remember when she sided with coal interests and helped squash cap-and-trade legislation because she feared somewhat higher energy prices would be laid at her door come election time? But at least this time, so far at least, she hasn’t been willing to hold the nominating process hostage to Missouri pork. So far acts of legislative terrorism are still a GOP speciality.