Klobuchar & Webb: Dems’ Unlikely Opponents of Bike-Ped Investment

Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) attempt to curb federal investment in bicycle and pedestrian paths, as well as other "transportation enhancements," was defeated on the Senate floor today -- but it managed to pick up two unlikely Democratic supporters in the process.

87913182_Vrns4_M.jpgA college-age Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), with her father at right. (Photo: Klobuchar for Senate)
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Jim Webb (D-VA) voted with Coburn to allow states to opt out of a current mandate to spend 10 percent of federal transportation aid on bike and pedestrian paths, bike-ped safety education, and other programs.

Coburn's amendment fell short by a vote of 39-59, with three other Democrats, Sens. Russ Feingold (WI), Evan Bayh (IN), and Claire McCaskill (MO), also aligning with the majority of Republicans in favor of the opt-out.

Feingold, Bayh, and McCaskill are fiscal hawks who frequently vote to limit the scope of government spending, making their votes less surprising than Klobuchar and Webb's -- if just as disheartening for clean transportation advocacy groups.

Klobuchar in particular hails from a state where bicycling is a popular element of local culture. She has spoken often of her personal appreciation of biking, hiking, and other outdoor activities, and welcomed a 14-year-old climate activist to Washington after the young girl's 1,500-mile bike ride.

Klobuchar's office has not yet responded to an inquiry about her vote on Coburn's two amendments to the Senate spending bill that funds U.S. DOT for next year. The second Coburn amendment that fell short today was a modified version of his earlier proposal to restrict all "transportation enhancements."

Even when limited to only block funding for transportation museums, however, the second Coburn plan was defeated on a 41-57 vote.

One GOP amendment that did make it into the DOT spending bill was Sen. Roger Wicker's (R-MS) proposal to allow Amtrak riders to carry guns and ammunition locked in their checked baggage. Twenty-seven Democrats joined all 41 Republicans to approve the proposal.

Late Update: Webb's vote was not cast in opposition to bike-ped spending, spokeswoman Jessica Smith said -- she noted that several members of his staff are bicycle commuters and that he voted against Coburn's second attempt to cut transportation spending today. Rather, Smith added, Webb's vote on the first Coburn amendment was intended to give states more flexibility in their transportation budgets during the economic downturn.

Late Late Update: Klobuchar spokesman John Davis responds:

This vote was about giving states discretion as they face very difficult economic times.  Senator Klobuchar has long supported and will continue to support bike and pedestrian paths.  See, for example, her vote to table Senate Amendment 2811 to the FY 2008 Transportation bill, which would have cut out funding for bike paths.  Senator Klobuchar would also like to move forward on a new transportation bill which should include funding for roads, bridges, mass transit and bike and pedestrian paths.