The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 23, 2008

Final session: Infrastructure, auto industry

Current Congress to meet one more time under Bush administration

MANKATO — The lame duck Congress has left Washington without much to quack about, but there’s likely to be another session the second week in December.

For two Minnesota Democrats who will be there in December — and in January after President-elect Barack Obama replaces George Bush — it’s hard not to look ahead to the next administration.

“It’s going to be very difficult for us to do some of the big things we’d like to see with the current president in place,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, referring to major economic stimulus efforts and middle-class tax cuts.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato said there’s a slim chance that a stimulus bill could be passed in December that injects more than $26 billion into infrastructure projects such as road construction. The House passed that bill in September, but the closely divided Senate is unlikely to tackle the bill unless Bush signals he’s interested in the idea.

That sort of a bill, which would create a substantial number of construction jobs, might have a more positive impact on the economy than did the $700 billion rescue package for the financial services industry passed earlier this fall, Walz said.

“So I think there’s a chance,” he said, predicting that supporters of the plan will try to persuade Bush between now and Dec. 8 when Congress is expected to return.

If that effort isn’t successful, the final meeting of the current Congress will be about legislation aimed at helping the struggling American auto industry. That was to be the focus of last week’s session, but a $25 billion proposal gained little support.

Klobuchar said she was willing to support a bill for the industry but would not have voted for the plan that was proposed last week — one that generated little congressional support and was never brought to a vote. There was no evidence provided by industry officials that the $25 billion would make the companies financially viable in the long run, she said.

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