NY Times editorial wrongly suggested that Congress eliminated "bridges to nowhere" funding


A New York Times editorial wrongly suggested that Congress had defied Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and eliminated funding for two "bridges to nowhere." In fact, the money was sent to Alaska with no strings attached, instead of being specifically allocated to the bridge projects.

A December 14 New York Times editorial incorrectly suggested that Congress had defied Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and cut from a spending bill $442 million originally given to Alaska to finance the construction of two widely derided bridges there. The bridges, according a November 17 Times article, included "a mile-long, 200-foot-high bridge connecting Ketchikan to a sparsely populated island and regional airport and a second one linking Anchorage to a port nearly two miles across an inlet."

Here's what the Times wrote in its December 14 editorial, titled "The Senator Who Cried Wolf":

Alaska drilling should never be palmed off as a money-saving measure, but that is the sleight-of-hand being attempted. House moderates who oppose the drilling as well as the welfare cuts must stand fast.

They should keep in mind the senator's earlier melodramatic vow to resign from public office if pork money was rescinded for Alaska's notorious bridges to nowhere. An embarrassed Congress nevertheless scuttled the requirement to build the bridges. Alas, Senator Stevens remains at work.

The editorial brought up the bridges to attack Stevens's steadfast support of drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which is currently banned. Stevens has said he will not approve any budget bill compromise that does not include it. In encouraging House Republicans to call Stevens's bluff and vote against drilling in ANWR, the Times recalled Stevens' October 20 threat to resign if the funding for the two bridges were cut. But the editorial wrongly implied that an "embarrassed Congress" acted in defiance of "the senator's melodramatic vow to resign" if the earmark were rescinded. In fact, Congress did not defy Stevens. What Congress did, as the Times' November 17 article reported, was to simply eliminate the requirement that the money be spent on the two specific bridges. According to the news article, "The change will not save the federal government any money. Instead, the $442 million will be turned over to the state with no strings attached, allowing lawmakers and the governor there to parcel it out for transportation projects as they see fit, including the bridges should they so choose." Rather than defying Stevens, Congress actually gave Alaska more, in the form of greater latitude to decide where to spend the money.

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