Peter De Fazio
This was a set-up deal - or a pretty good facsimile thereof. The timber payment bill has all the indicators of a partisan ambush, skillfully designed by the House Democrats. (Who knew they were as good at this?) It looks designed to put House Republicans on the spot. Which it did.
They'd have been better off to take the bait and vote to approve the Democratic proposal. What they've done instead is close to indefensible back home.
The immediate issue is timber money, the funds the federal government has been providing to rural counties that have a lot of non-property-tax-paying federal lands (especially forest lands) in their boundaries. Authorization for those payments has run out, and a lot of counties, most strongly in southwest Oregon but elsewhere too, are hurting. Congressional delegations through the region, including just about everyone and of both parties - Republicans no less than Democrats - have been trying to get the spigot turned on again.
One question has been, where will the money come from? House Democrats have come up with an answer: Reimposed - they had lapsed some years ago - royalties on offshore oil and gas leases. Republicans in the House have fought reimposition of those royalties for years.
Today the bill, sponsored by Oregon Representative Peter De Fazio, came to a House floor vote and lost, 218-192 (it needed two thirds). The region's Democrats voted in favor, the Republicans (including Representative Greg Walden, who has pushed hard for timber payments) against, and President George W. Bush had threatened a veto.
You can ask the question, If top priority was getting a funding bill passed, why would De Fazio and his allies run one that was so likely to draw Republican fire and therefore likely doom it? (Of course, finding the money hasn't been an easy thing regardless - Walden and other Republicans haven't yet found a winning formula either.) But we suspect that will be superseded by another question: When the choice came to a decision between taxes paid by oil companies and desperately needy counties in the Northwest, why did those Northwest representatives vote on the side of the oil companies? That could be a deadly question. (more…)