David Rogers has a piece in Politico that offers a nice summary of the recovery plan’s actual high-speed rail provisions and the direct role of the White House in securing them:
The $787.2 billion economic recovery bill — to be signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday — dedicates $8 billion to high-speed rail, most of which was added in the final closed-door bargaining at the instigation of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. [...] The same Maine and Pennsylvania Republican moderates who had criticized Obama’s school construction initiative were more accepting of the rail funds, since the Northeast corridor has a major stake in more improvements. To help pay for the added cost, a business tax break — providing a five-year carry back for net operating losses — was narrowed to keep the focus more on smaller firms with receipts of less than $15 million.
Needless to say, this reality is at odds with the made-up story conservatives have been telling all weekend about $8 billion being earmarked for a train to Las Vegas. And Rogers, as we’ll see, knows what the truth is, knows what conservatives have been saying, and knows that the two are different things, but he can’t quite seem to describe what’s happening with regular English words:
At the same time, conservative Republicans seemed almost blind to Obama’s role. Instead, in their campaign to find pork barrel projects in the stimulus bill, they painted the whole funding as a scheme by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on behalf of Las Vegas interests seeking a rail link to Los Angeles. “Sin City to Tomorrow Land” was one description.
Here is Rep. Candice S. Miller (R-Mich.) explaining her vote against the bill Friday despite the benefits to her home state: “Michigan is a state of about 10 million people, and we are the hardest hit, as I said, by this economy. And yet we are expected to get approximately $7 billion from this bill. And apparently the Senate majority leader has earmarked $8 billion for a rail system from Las Vegas to Los Angeles? You have got to be kidding. You have got to be kidding.”
Rep Miller wasn’t “explaining” anything, she was lying to her constituents. Nor were conservatives running a “campaign to find pork barrel projects int he stimulus bill” they were inventing fictional projects. Nor were obscure House backbenchers like Miller running a rogue operation here. House Minority Leader John Boehner led the charge on peddling this lie, and Senator Jim Demint was on the case as well.
Incidentally, it can’t be said often enough that while a special earmark for LA-Vegas HSR wouldn’t be such a hot plan, building an HSR link between LA and Las Vegas is a perfectly good idea and very much should be eligible for federal assistance.