WASHINGTON – In the ongoing saga of whether or not taxpayers will ever have to cough up $1 million for a museum honoring Woodstock, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer has brought this long, strange trip to an end.
Schumer called Sen.Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to pledge to him that the money laid out in a labor spending bill will never be used for the "hippie museum"
"I trust him. This isn't a partisan issue. My goal is just to fix the problems," Coburn said.
Coburn, who had originally engineered a ban on the museum funds last month, had been adamant the Labor-Health and Human Services spending bill be more clear about the use of undesignated taxpayer money and was planning to propose a vote to change the bill's language to make sure that it could never be used on the Woodstock museum.
Due to Senate rules, Coburn would have needed a two-thirds majority — or 67 if all 100 members vote — a tall order for eliminating a potential "technicality," sources say.
According to Senate sources on Wednesday, Republicans were seeing tie-dyed red because of what they say was a backdoor attempt to maintain a provision — originally sponsored by Schumer and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton — to funnel $1 million to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, and more specifically to the Woodstock Museum.
Despite efforts last week to kill the provision in a House-Senate conference it found its way back into the final appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008, which began Oct. 1.
The proposed earmark for the museum — a move that has been widely panned by Clinton's presidential opponents — was effectively removed, but a provision that would have prohibited any Institute for Museum and Library Services funds from going to the performing arts center was left out.
In addition, prohibition on "phone-marking," that is, a controversial practice in which members are able to call agencies and request that non-earmarked money be spent on particular projects, was also left out. That meant funding for the arts center is not specifically designated but could be used for the museum.
Critics say the way the language stands now, Clinton or Schumer could have used their muscle to make sure that IMLS funds get to the museum commemorating the 1969 hippie music festival.
Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon told FOX News early in the day that there was no way the museum would get the $1 million. "The Senate has spoken," he said. "The program will not be funded."
A senior Senate Republican aide also involved in writing the bill said the language is not misleading and no funds can be used for the museum under the final House-Senate package.
"There is nothing hidden here," the aide said. "This is just a technical way to write something in order to delete an earmark."
Clinton's sponsorship of the museum funds made national headlines after her Republican opponent and Senate pork-buster John McCain poked fun at the former first lady during an October GOP presidential primary debate.
He later turned is best laugh lines at the debate into a television ad, in which he both trivializes the 1969 event and reminds voters of his five-years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam during that period.
''A few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock concert museum," McCain said a few weeks ago in Florida. ''Now my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at the time."
Five Democrats ended up voting against the Woodstock provision. So did old-school GOP members of the Appropriations Committee who had on prior occasions voted against earmarks roundly criticized by conservatives.
The open-air gathering called Woodstock attracted hundreds of thousands, and became a defining moment of 1960s youth rebellion. When Schumer and Clinton trumpeted the $1 million earmark for the museum back in June, she said in a statement that it would "continue to promote education, the arts, culture and tourism in the region."
The museum is part of a larger development, which opened in 2006 with a 16,800 amphitheater, called the Bethel Woods Center for the Performing Arts. Billionaire Alan Gerry is the force behind the project. He and his family have contributed almost $30,000 to Clinton and a committee headed by Schumer dedicated to electing Democrats to the Senate.
Gerry is a longtime major political donor. The contributions — $20,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and $9,200 to Clinton's presidential campaign — came just days after the earmark was inserted into the legislation.
FOX News' Trish Turner and The Associated Press contributed to this report