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Parliamentarian strikes down Pelosi priority in aid package

Republican lawmakers are celebrating a decision by the Senate parliamentarian to strike from the coronavirus relief package a $100 million extension of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system outside San Francisco. 

GOP lawmakers are also touting the removal of $1.5 million for the Seaway International Bridge, which connects New York to Ontario and historically has been one of the busiest border crossing points between New York and Canada.

Republicans characterized the targeted spending items as pet projects for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWatchdog: Capitol Police need 'culture change' Julia Letlow sworn in as House member after winning election to replace late husband The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden defends Afghanistan withdrawal after pushback MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHolder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Capitol Police officer killed in car attack lies in honor in Capitol Rotunda Rep. Andy Kim on Asian hate: 'I've never felt this level of fear' MORE (D-N.Y.), describing them as prime examples of wasteful wish-list priorities in the $1.9 trillion package.   

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“We watched the swamp come back to Washington: $100 million for a tunnel in Silicon Valley just outside of Speaker Pelosi’s district or a bridge for Schumer,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyRepublicans need to stop Joe Biden's progressive assault on America Top academics slam Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act Boehner: 'There's a lot of leaders in the Republican Party' MORE (R-Calif.) said last week.

A Senate source, however, said Schumer had no knowledge the funding for the bridge was even included in the bill until he read about it in the media.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyAnti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle On The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Democrats get good news from IRS MORE (R-Iowa) on Wednesday touted the parliamentarian’s ruling against the California public transit project as a dear victory. 

“Parliamentarian rules against Pelosi tunnel earmark It’s a small victory w a lot more $$$ still in the bill not COVID related but as a matter of common sense the Silicon Valley tunnel should be out bc what does this new pilot project hv to do w a pandemic!!” Grassley tweeted.

 

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Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Biden outreach on infrastructure met with Republican skepticism McConnell seeks to end feud with Trump MORE (R-S.D.) said the California project “got Byrded out,” referring to the Senate Byrd Rule, which limits what can be protected from a filibuster on the Senate floor by special budgetary rules.

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, confirmed Tuesday that both projects had been removed and argued that Republicans now don’t have much reason to oppose the popular relief package. 

Hammill noted the pandemic has "had an immediate and overwhelming effect on all of our transportation systems" and that the House included $1.425 billion "to help dozens of major transit rail capital projects."  

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The senior Democratic aide characterized the bridge money as a project that primarily would have helped Republican Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikAmbitious House lawmakers look for promotions Republicans urge Garland to probe COVID-19 deaths in New York group homes Parliamentarian strikes down Pelosi priority in aid package MORE’s (N.Y.) home district.

“The Senate Parliamentarian has now ruled that the BART extension from San Jose to Santa Clara does not meet the requirements of the Byrd rule because it is part of a pilot project. Therefore, it will be removed from the reconciliation package,” the aide said.

“The $1.5 million in funding for the Seaway International Bridge in Rep. Stefanik’s district has also been removed,” he added. “Now that the two projects that Republicans misled the public about in the House bill have been removed, it is unclear how Republicans will justify their opposition to the American Rescue Plan, which has strong bipartisan support among the public.”

A Senate source said Senate drafters of the relief bill dropped funding for the Seaway International Bridge originally requested by the Trump administration because Stefanik, a staunch Trump supporter, refused to advocate for its inclusion in the legislation.

The loss of federal funding could impact future operation of the bridge, which suffered a massive loss of traffic and revenue during the pandemic because of the closure of the U.S.-Canadian border. Maintenance and toll revenue dropped by as much as $170,000 a month because of travel restrictions. 

Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for Stefanik, said her boss has delivered for her district in other ways. 

“During her last term in Congress, Representative Stefanik delivered more than $75 million in federal appropriations for the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, including $6 million for the Seaway International Bridge that she delivered with former DOT Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine ChaoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - US vaccine effort takes hit with Johnson & Johnson pause Gingrich on Trump-McConnell feud: GOP 'better off' focusing on Democrats Trump rips McConnell in speech to Republicans MORE,” she said. 

“Congresswoman Stefanik also continues to strongly advocate for a safe reopening of the US-Canada border, which would consequently support the bridge,” she said.