Republican members of Congress who opposed the July passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), including Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN), saw significantly larger cuts to federal road project funding in their districts than those Republicans who supported the bill.
Gutknecht, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA), and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), the most prominent Republicans to oppose CAFTA, saw road project funding in their districts cut by as much as 70 percent following the bill’s passage last July 28. On average, road project funding was cut by around 20 percent for House members who favored the bill’s passage. Such cuts had been widely threatened as likely retaliation against any Republican who voted against the trade bill.
“The highway bill had been effective as leverage for CAFTA,” House majority whip Roy Blunt told the National Journal a week after the bill passed.
On July 21, during the weekly closed-door House Republican conference committee meeting, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) stressed the importance of a “yes” vote on CAFTA, Transportation Weekly reported. Thomas also pointedly told the committee that the final conference committee report for the transportation bill would not be filed until after the CAFTA vote.
On the morning of July 27, the day before the CAFTA vote, President Bush and Vice President Cheney visited the Capitol via motorcade to appeal to House Republicans to support passage of the bill.
Larry Weiss, director of the Citizens Fair Trade Coalition, spoke of the CAFTA bill as a test of the Bush administration’s ability to push its agenda: “The inability of the White House to get Republicans in line cast the vote into terms of the viability of the presidency—whether the president was a lame duck with three and a half years left in his term.”
The CAFTA bill passed after a night of feverish horse-trading. In the first voting period, it was actually defeated by five votes.
House Republicans then held the vote open for an additional 47 minutes, during which time they worked frantically to maneuver opponents to change their votes. Mention of the likelihood of retaliatory funding cuts for opponents of the bill, were mentioned in these discussions.
The president urged Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) personally in a cell phone call to reconsider his “nay” vote, according to The Times-Picayune.
“I was under constant bombardment by leadership from the speaker on down,” Boustany said. “I was taking members’ phone calls, I was called by the Secretary of Defense from Iraq. I was called to the cloakroom to talk to the leadership. I was one of the few people who was called in to talk to the president.”
The Republican leadership made it known that those who voted for the bill would be rewarded. Many side deals to mitigate the agreement’s effects on congressional districts were struck, and many favors were tucked into the highway and energy bills.
Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN), one of three Republicans who suffered major funding cuts after voting against CAFTA, saw highway project funding slashed by more than 50 percent. Rep. Mark Kennedy, from Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District, who voted for CAFTA, had cuts totaling around the average 20 percent for rank and file members.
The Washington offices of Representatives Kennedy and Gutknecht did not return calls to comment on the issue, and St. Cloud office of Mark Kennedy flatly declined to comment.
Here are the roads projects funded by the transportation bill in Kennedy and Gutknecht’s districts:
Mark Kennedy, Minnesota Sixth Congressional District: $64.14 million total, $9.66 million in cuts in House funding and augmented by $25.5 million in Senate funding in conference committee:
• $13 million for design, acquisition of right of way and utility relocation and construction for St. Croix River crossing (Cut from 5 million to 4 million and later augmented by $9 million by Norm Coleman)
• $8.8 million construction and acquisition of right of way of 8th St. N. in St. Cloud (cut from $6 million to $4.8 million and later augmented by $2 million by Norm Coleman and $2 million by Mark Dayton)
• $7.2 million construction and right-of-way acquisition for interchange at TH 65 and TH 242 in Blaine (Cut from $4 million to $3.2 million and later augmented by $2 million by Norm Coleman and $2 million by Mark Dayton)
• $4.8 million to replace Sauk Rapids Bridge (cut from $6 million)
• $4 million for Highway 55 connecting Wright and Sterns County to the metro area (cut from $5 million)
• $7.1 million for construction and acquisition of right of way for the Highway 23 bypass of Paynesville (cut from $4.5 million to $3.6 million and later augmented by $2.5 million by Norm Coleman and $1 million by Mark Dayton)
• $6.6 million design, construct and expand TH241 in the city of St. Michael (cut from $2 million to $1.6 million and later augmented by $2.5 million by Norm Coleman and $2.5 million by Mark Dayton)
• $2.4 million for the city of St. Cloud Metro Area right of way acquisition and corridor protection efforts (cut from $3 million)
• $2.4 million for a new interchange in Forest Lake for Interstate 35 at Broadway (cut from $3 million)
• $2 million for Highway 10 corridor improvement and design between the cities of Blaine and St. Cloud (cut from $2.5 million)
• $1.04 million for Environmental review for improvement along the entire US 10 corridor (cut from $1.3 million)
• $800,000 for I-35 in Lino Lakes for removal of bottleneck at Main St. interchange (cut from $1 million)
• $800,000 for design of a new interchange for TH 169 in Zimmerman (cut from $1 million)
• $800,000 for a study of a new river crossing connecting TH 10 and I-94 between US 169 and TH 101 (cut from $1 million)
• $800,000for 10th St. in St. Cloud to expand the 10th St. Bridge (cut from $1 million)
• $800,000 for I-94 access and interchange improvement, at CSAH 37 in Albertville (cut from $1 million)
• $400,000 for Stillwater Bridge for Environmental Assessment of the preferred approach to the new St. Croix River crossing (cut from $500,000)
• $400,000 for I-94 Woodbury for design for the planned improvement of the Radio Drive corridor (cut from $500,000)
Gil Gutknecht, Minnesota First Congressional District. $18, 990,174 total, $10,261,543 in cuts in House funding and augmented by $15 million in Senate funding in conference committee)
• $11,315,200 (cut from $12 million to $3,315,200 and later augmented by $4 million by Norm Coleman and $4 million by Mark Dayton) for US Trunk Highway 14 from Waseca to Owatanna
• $3,473,600 (cut from $2 million to $473,600 and later augmented by $3 million by Norm Coleman) to replace three at-grade highway-railroad crossings with grade-separated crossings adjacent to Winona State University
• $201,374 (cut from $251,717) to construct Pfeifer Road remove 10 foot raised crossing in Twin Lakes township
• $4 million (project added during conference committee, Coleman added $2 million and Dayton added $2 million) to construct last segment of the Victory Drive project to link Victory Drive with Highway 14 in Blue Earth County