WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the Senate attempts to finish up debate today on the $900 billion economic stimulus bill, there are still some Democrats, including Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who feel that it could use a little more work.
“I think you will see some pruning of the bill in the Senate and I will be a part of that,” she said Wednesday.
Klobuchar said that primarily she would like to see more money directed toward transportation and less used on other spending measures like the $75 million for smoking cessation.
“As much as we love the non-smoking in Minnesota, and I like it, it doesn’t belong in the bill,” said Klobuchar, adding, “I am hopeful that I will see more focus on transportation.”
On Tuesday, Klobuchar voted for an amendment that would have added $25 billion to the bill’s infrastructure spending, including on highways and mass transit projects.
Although the amendment ultimately failed to pass, Klobuchar will likely get another chance today to vote on making similar changes to the bill. While there have been many lawmakers in recent days seemed open to funneling more of the stimulus funds toward infrastructure and transportation, Tuesday’s 58 to 39 vote proved at least one thing:
“The fact is that we need Republican votes in the Senate,” Klobuchar said.
One bipartisan amendment that is expected to be offered today will seek to increase funding for infrastructure and transportation while eliminating measures such as the $350 million for government computers, $20 million in Interior Department funding, $400 million for HIV screening and $650 million for wildlife management.
The amendment is being led by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who have sought the support of Klobuchar and a number of other centrist senators.
But, on Wednesday, Klobuchar remained noncommittal.
“I am interested in what their amendment is and have been talking to them about that,” she said.
Klobuchar also has a number of her own amendments in the works, which may or may not pan out. So far, they include a measure for healthcare IT that would ensure patient privacy rights, another that would re-establish grant money for law enforcement, and a third that may give more funding to Food and Drug Administration inspectors.
She is also cosponsoring the CEO Pay Act, which is being offered as an amendment to the stimulus bill. The legislation would limit total annual compensation to $400,000 for any employee of a company that receives federal assistance under the Troubled Assets Relief Program.
According to Klobuchar, however, the bottom line is this: “I think the important thing is to get this passed.”
Cynthia Dizikes covers Minnesota’s congressional delegation and reports on issues and developments in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at cdizikes[at]minnpost[dot]com.