It's just a stretch of pavement in Florida, but it's becoming about as famous as the now infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska.
The new earmark of infamy is for Coconut Road, located near Fort Myers, Fla., just off Interstate-75 — and it's gotten a boost from, of all people, an Alaskan. Republican Rep. Don Young sponsored a $10 million earmark that was quietly slipped into a fiscal 2006 spending bill after House and Senate negotiators already had agreed on a final fiscal package.
Members of the Florida delegation have said the money is not needed, and both the state's senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Mel Martinez are sponsoring an amendment with anti-earmark crusader Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to create a committee to investigate how the bill was secretly changed.
Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama have jumped on board as co-sponsors.
Senate Ethics Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., also said she supports an investigation. And she agreed to work with Coburn to have his bill considered as an amendment to a bill she is managing on the Senate floor now.
A Boxer spokeswoman told FOX News the senator has some constitutional concerns, and Coburn's spokesman said the two are working on a solution.
A vote on the Coburn amendment could come as early as Wednesday.
As to why a member of Alaska's delegation would go to such lengths for an out-of-state project, Young's critics point to his relationship with a big-time Florida real estate developer with an interest in development along this very road. Critics have accused Young of quid pro quo with Daniel Aronoff, a major campaign contributor, who reportedly helped raise $40,000 for Young at a Florida hotel just days before the earmark was added to the bill. Aronoff owns thousands of acres along Coconut Road.
The key test for Coburn going forward is subpoena power. Coburn wants the committee to be empowered to issued subpoenas, and Hart said the senator would be fine with the Government Accountability Office looking into it.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters he supports an investigation, too, but not by Congress.
Reid said lawmakers should "ask the attorney general to take a real hard look at it, because he already has the inherent authority to issue subpoenas and do all the things that we don't have that inherent authority to do."
But Hart did not agree.
"Congress itself should lead the investigation into an action that hijacked Congress' fundamental right to legislate," Hart said.
A spokeswoman for Young said: "Congressman Young has always supported and welcomed an open earmark process. If Congress decides to take up the matter of this particular project, there will be no objection from Mr. Young."
Coburn considers the altered bill "a forgery." Hart said in an e-mailed statement that "both the House and Senate failed in their responsibility. It is therefore the responsibility of both the House and Senate to clean up their mess, right their wrong, and fix the problem once and for all so that it can never happen again."
Young, together with his home state senators, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, both Republicans, steered more than $200 million to create the "Bridge to Nowhere" to help some 50 residents of Gravina Island. The state's governor has said the money will not be used to build the bridge, though reports out of Alaska say a state congressman is trying to revive the project locally.
Young already has legal problems of his own on another matter. The congressman, and other members of the Alaska delegation, are being investigated in a number of state corruption scandals.