McCain criticized pork barrel spending on Saturday
(CNN)–Senator John McCain says Congress should share some of the blame for the collapse of the bridge in Minnesota, because of the diversion of money meant for transportation spending that goes to pet projects for members of Congress.
"Clearly inspections of bridges are needed and that's why the Department of Transportation has ordered them," the GOP presidential candidate said. "That we have to spend 233 million of those dollars earmarked for transportation, that are already intended for transportation, on an outrageous earmark of a 233 million dollar bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it, its an argument for reforming this broken system of corruption and earmarking in Washington." McCain said that money should have been used to fund inspections and repairs of the nation's infrastructure.
McCain has been a vocal critic of "ear marks", narrowly targeted projects that members of Congress tuck into appropriations bills. Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, faced criticism for an appropriation of 233 million dollars to build a bridge in an area of his state with a small population.
McCain made the comments to local reporters on Saturday in Ankeny, Iowa following a town hall meeting. He is due to participate in a debate Sunday with the other Republican presidential candidates in Des Moines.
–CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford
Republican presidential hopeful Tom Tancredo
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo's campaign stood by his assertion that bombing holy Muslim sites would serve as a good "deterrent" to prevent Islamic fundamentalists from attacking the United States, his spokeswoman said Friday.
"This shows that we mean business," said Bay Buchanan, a senior Tancredo adviser. "There's no more effective deterrent than that. But he is open-minded and willing to embrace other options. This is just a means to deter them from attacking us."
On Tuesday, Tancredo warned a group of Iowans that another terrorist attack would "cause a worldwide economic collapse." IowaPolitics.com recorded his comments.
"If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina," Tancredo said. "That is the only thing I can think of that might deter somebody from doing what they would otherwise do. If I am wrong, fine, tell me, and I would be happy to do something else. But you had better find a deterrent, or you will find an attack."
Tom Casey, a deputy spokesman for the State Department, told CNN's Elise Labott that the congressman’s comments were "reprehensible" and "absolutely crazy." Tancredo was widely criticized in 2005 for making a similar suggestion.
–CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich
WASHINGTON (CNN)— House Republicans emerged from a private meeting on Saturday and expressed their continued frustration with the Democratic leadership by accusing the Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of stripping comments he made on the House floor from that chamber's official transcript.
On Friday evening Republican Leader John Boehner offered a resolution claiming that Rep John Murtha (D-PA) "brought dishonor and discredit to the United States House of Representatives by misusing the powers of the chair."
Hoyer then stood up and declared, "Enough is enough," to thunderous applauses by his fellow Democrats.
One day later, Hoyer's declaration is missing from the Congressional Record, the daily journal of floor debate and action.
"We may be very close to where we have to think about maybe the NFL rule where you have instant replay where you can go and see what really happened on the House floor," quipped Minority Whip Roy Blunt, armed with a dvd of the House floor debate in dispute and a copy of the official transcript. "The problem is we don't have a referee."
House members regularly change their floor statements by asking to "revise and extend" their remarks. A search of the House transcript found that single phrase was uttered at least six times by Democrats and Republicans on the House floor during Friday's session.
“The journal is correct,” said a Hoyer spokeswoman. “This seems to be another attempt by Republicans to divert attention from our accomplishments and their lack of substantive ideas."
Republicans interpret the power to self-edit floor remarks differently.
"The purpose of "revise and extend" is to clean up utterances and clean up language in a way so that future readers will understand. It is not to substantially revise the meaning and affect of your comments on the floor," said Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam.
–CNN Congressional Producer Evan Glass
President Bush surveyed the site of the bridge collapse in Minnesota.
MINNEAPOLIS (CNN) - President Bush surveyed huge chunks of debris and twisted metal Saturday that were left by this week's bridge collapse in Minneapolis, and pledged the federal government would "eliminate roadblocks" and "cut through paperwork" to get it rebuilt.
"I bring prayers from the American people to those who have suffered loss of life as a result of the collapse of the 35W bridge in the Twin Cities. I bring prayers to those who wonder whether they'll ever see a loved one again," Bush said.
"I have met with the chief of police and the sheriff and rescue workers –people who represent men and women working as hard as they possibly can to save life and to find life - to go under these murky waters to find the facts. And it's going to take awhile.
"I have been impressed not only by their determination but by their compassion," the president added.
"We want to get this bridge rebuilt as quick as possible. We understand that this is a main artery," Bush said. "People depend on this bridge, on this highway."
Bush was accompanied to Minnesota by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters - who pledged that she would do what she could to meet the needs of the city.
On Friday, the chief federal investigators said the south end of the bridge "behaved differently" from the rest of the structure during its catastrophic collapse.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker said that based on a video of the collapse and where the bridge debris currently lies, the southern end apparently "shifted 50 feet to the east."
"And when we compare that to what we've seen in the rest of the bridge, the rest of the bridge appears to have collapsed in place," Rosenker told reporters.
However, Rosenker cautioned that investigators' interest in the southern end does not mean they have found the answer the bridge's collapse.
"What we have is a step forward," he said.
"We believe that as the bridge began to fall, as it began to collapse, it shifted," Rosenker said. "I am not saying that the 50-foot shift created the fall. That is not what we believe. What we believe is whatever created the failure, we also saw a 50-foot shift in the southern end of the structure."
Rosenker would not offer any theories on what caused the collapse, saying that would come after the 19 investigators have completed their analysis.
The 1,907-foot bridge came down Wednesday in a cloud of dust and a spray of river water during the evening rush hour.
Divers searched the river throughout the day Friday, locating 12 submerged or partially submerged vehicles, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said. While no bodies were found, two of the vehicles were so badly crushed that divers could not check inside.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office Friday identified a fifth victim as Paul Eickstadt, 51, of Mounds View, Minn., who was the driver of the tractor-trailer that was ablaze in the immediate aftermath of the collapse. The other four victims have been previously identified.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A day of frayed nerves and hard feelings in the House erupted into a shouting match Friday night, after the chamber's top Republican went to the floor with a resolution charging that Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., violated House ethics rules earlier in the day while presiding over a normally routine vote.
As the House clerk read the resolution from House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, accusing Murtha of bringing "dishonor and discredit" to the House by making remarks of a "partisan hue" while sitting in the speaker's chair, Democrats began to groan and boo.
Then, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., leapt to his feet, getting the attention of the lawmaker presiding over the session, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif.
"Madame speaker, enough is enough," Hoyer thundered, as the chamber erupted. He immediately moved to table Boehner's motion, a parliamentary maneuver that normally cuts off debate and puts the matter to a vote.
Boehner objected, trying to raise a point of order with the chair. As Tauscher tried to ignore him and move forward with the vote on the motion, the Republican leader began shouting, "parliamentary inquiry, parliamentary inquiry" and slammed his palm on the lectern, as the din in the House grew ever louder.
Tauscher eventually agreed to hear Boehner out, at which point the Republican leader suggested that Hoyer, with his "enough is enough" comment, had already engaged in debate, which Boehner said meant his resolution about Murtha had to be debated.
Tauscher rebuffed Boehner and moved ahead with the vote on tabling the resolution, drawing more shouts from the Republican side of the House.
WASHINGTON (CNN)– The House returned to work on Saturday morning intent on passing various pieces of legislation before recessing for August: an energy bill, funding for the Defense Department, a tweaked version of a bill allowing up to $250 million for the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis and approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Many hours of debate are scheduled on other issues before the House is set to vote on the FISA bill, the language of which has not yet been circulated to most members. The House last night rejected a Democratic version of the bill 218-207, with a two-thirds majority required for passage, but the Senate passed a Republican-sponsored bill on Friday night 60-28.
“The House could have led on this issue,” said Rep Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.
Disturbed by the fact that the FISA bill will be the last bill the House votes on before recessing, Hoekstra lamented, “It should be the first bill we do today. It should follow [the president] wherever he is today—to Minneapolis.”
If the House approves the Senate version of the FISA bill, it will then go to the president’s desk for signing.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate Friday approved a Republican-sponsored bill backed by the White House to close what the administration has called critical gaps in U.S. intelligence capability.
The bill passed 60-28, garnering the 60-vote majority it needed to pass. Immediately after that vote, a Democratic-sponsored bill failed to reach the 60-vote majority.
President Bush on Saturday said he was pleased that the Senate passed the measure.
"Last night, the United States Senate passed legislation to give our intelligence professionals the legal tools and authority they need to keep America safe," he said in a statement.
"I appreciate the hard work they did to find common ground to pass this critical bill. Today, the House of Representatives has an opportunity to consider that bill, pass it and send it to me for my signature. Protecting America is our most solemn obligation and I urge the House to pass this bill without delay."
The votes followed one in the House, where lawmakers failed to approve a Democratic-sponsored bill that administration officials said they could not support. The 218-207 vote was short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.
The Senate bill is expected to go to the House Saturday, where some Democratic sources said it is likely to pass.
"By passing a FISA modernization bill that the president can sign before we go home for recess, the Senate has taken immediate and decisive action to improve the security of our country," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. "The DNI requested Congressional action on this in April because it is an issue of homeland security. I trust the House will not adjourn before passing this critical legislation on to the president for his signature."
"In a time of a heightened threat, the Senate did the right thing and acted to give our law enforcement the tools they need to combat terrorism," said Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo, who co-sponsored the bill with McConnell. "It is now up to the House to act. It is critical to our national security - to keep our country safe - that we update this 30-year old law before we leave for August recess."
Lawmakers have been scrambling to pass a bill acceptable to the White House before they leave for a month-long summer recess. President Bush had threatened to veto any bill that Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said did not meet his needs.