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 PelosiHouse has the power to subpoena its members — but does it have the will? Man who threatened to kill Ocasio-Cortez, Pelosi pleads guilty to federal charges The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems look to repackage BBB into salvageable bill MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerVoting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Forced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans 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 McCarthyVirginia's new AG sacks lawyers at University of Virginia, George Mason House has the power to subpoena its members — but does it have the will? Mask rules spark political games and a nasty environment in the House 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 GrassleySmall ranchers say Biden letting them get squeezed These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill 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 ThuneSmall ranchers say Biden letting them get squeezed These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Watch: GOP leaders discuss Biden's first year in office 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 StefanikMask rules spark political games and a nasty environment in the House House GOP leaders vow to end proxy voting despite widespread Republican use House GOP campaign arm rakes in 0M in 2021 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 ChaoHogan won't say if he will file to run for Senate by Feb. 22 deadline Top Republicans pressing Hogan to run for Senate Biden returns restores tradition, returning to Kennedy Center Honors 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.