November 24, 2004

Boehlert transportation funding stripped by angry Oklahoman

I'll have to do some research on what exactly was cut, but it looks like Representative Ernest Istook (R-OK) took revenge on Congressman Sherwood Boehlert and a number of his colleagues for writing him a letter in support of Amtrak funding:

Istook, chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies, drastically reduced, or entirely excised, the transportation earmarks that those lawmakers were expecting to receive, making good on a little-noticed threat he issued in a letter last February.

Istook's anti-Amtrak retribution hit several of the Republican majority's most vulnerable members, including Reps. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) and Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), two Northeastern centrists who won tight races, in part, by convincing constituents of their ability to bring home road money.

The affected lawmakers did not learn of Istook's drastic action until last Saturday, when the bill was passed. Several of them contacted Republican leaders to inquire if they knew of Istook's punitive action and were told that party leaders were unaware that Istook was harming vulnerable members.

In addition to Gerlach and Simmons, Reps. John McHugh (R-N.Y.) and Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) were said to be particularly outraged at Istook's actions, according several committee sources. Upon learning that his projects were cut, McHugh came close to physical blows with Istook, according to some accounts.

There's no direct comment from Boehlert. I suspect a letter of commiseration is in order. (Update: I've written one (37K PDF), and I'll report what the Congressman writes back.)

(Thanks to Joshua Micah Marshall for posting this news.)

Update, February 3, 2005: Istook just lost the chairmanship of the Appropriations subcommittee that let him cause all this trouble, in a collection of changes that appear aimed at quieting all disputes among Republicans. Istook denies that the Amtrak issue had anything to do with it. Thanks again to Josh Marshall for following the story.

Posted by simon at November 24, 2004 9:35 AM in , ,
Note on photos