Landrieu: I’m “A Bit in the Doghouse” After Mass Transit Vote

February 3, 2009 10:06 a.m.

The Feinstein-Murray amendment to increase transportation funding in the stimulus bill — with an emphasis on highways and mass transit in the background — just fell two votes short of passage in the Senate. Two Republican appropriators, Sens. Kit Bond (MO) and Arlen Specter (PA), voted in favor, with one Democrat, Mary Landrieu (LA), voting no.

And Landrieu didn’t look shy about explaining her vote. I saw her huddling animatedly with White House adviser David Axelrod in a Senate corridor this afternoon and asked Landrieu about their conversation. Her response sheds some light on the apparent slowdown of the stimulus bill in the upper chamber of Congress after its burst of early momentum.Landrieu described herself as “a bit in the doghouse right now” with fellow Dems after being the only senator to oppose the extra transportation funding included in the Feinstein-Murray proposal. But she said her party was missing a political opportunity by making its first stimulus amendment an overall spending increase, rather than a cutting of extraneous provisions to make room for worthy ones.

“We got the order of the amendments wrong,” she told me. “Even under the best of circumstances, I’m not sure — given the politics of the other side — that we could get more than 10 Republicans [to back the stimulus].”

Landrieu added: “I’m not sure we’re trying hard enough … I’m not talking about trying to get Jim DeMint, who’s a hopeless case.” She mentioned Maine Sens. Susan Collins (R) and Olympia Snowe (R) as two stimulus votes that Democrats could be working harder to secure.

While Landrieu searches for elements of the stimulus to strike in order to make room for “real, targeted infrastructure,” as she put it, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) is working with Collins on a list of programs to trim from the bill.

“There’s a lot of ideas” of what to strike, he told me. “It’s taking a little longer than some would like.” With Congress’ self-imposed deadline coming in two weeks, the sausage-making process is about to get messy. Looks like a good time for the president to take full advantage of the bully pulpit today …

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