WASHINGTON – Ignoring a veto promise from the White House, the Senate on Wednesday passed a $106 billion transportation and housing bill rejecting President Bush's proposed cuts to Amtrak, housing programs and community development projects.
The measure, passed by a 88-7 vote, also includes $200 million to provide aid to nonprofits and other groups that offer counseling and information to help homeowners with subprime mortgages avoid foreclosures.
It's just the fourth of 12 appropriations bills to pass the Senate, even though the new budget year begins in less than three weeks. The White House promised Bush would veto the transportation bill because of "an irresponsible and excessive level of spending."
But the measure enjoys broad support from senators in both parties for funding popular road and bridge construction projects, Amtrak subsidies and grants for community development projects.
The bill rejects Bush-planned cuts in subsidies for otherwise unprofitable rural air routes and reverses his proposal to eliminate funding for a $100 million program to rehabilitate "severely distressed" public housing projects.
It also contains an almost 50 percent increase over current spending to repair and replace the country's crumbling network of bridges, as well as $195 million sought by Minnesota GOP Sen. Norm Coleman and his Democratic colleague Amy Klobuchar to replace the collapsed Interstate 35W span in Minneapolis.
Much of the momentum behind the transportation and housing measure comes from the more than 800 home-state projects inserted into the measure by senators in both parties. Those so-called earmarks total more than $2.5 billion, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a budget watchdog group based in Washington.