WASHINGTON - As the Republican-led Congress
winds to a close, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.,
blasted GOP leaders for leaving behind a host of
unresolved issues critical to Illinois and the
Specifically, Durbin, who will be the second
in command in the Senate when the Democrats take
over in January, criticized Republican leaders
for failing to pass nine of the 11 funding bills
for fiscal 2007, which began Oct. 1.
Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, challenged that
assessment, saying Democrats share some of the
Before it adjourns today, Congress is
expected to pass a stopgap measure that will
continue funding federal agencies at 2006 levels
until February. Republicans opted not to try to
finish the funding bills for next year in their
post-election “lame duck” session.
“That creates a serious problem as we start
the next Congress,” said Durbin, who sits on the
Senate Appropriations Committee and expects to
chair a subcommittee next year, in addition to
his leadership duties. “Not only do we have our
work to do, but we have to clean up the work
that they didn’t finish.”
While the basic functions of the federal
government will be able to continue under the
temporary funding measure, many Illinois
projects will suffer because lawmakers’
“earmarks” won’t be extended, Durbin and LaHood
For example, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential
Library and Museum received a hefty sum annually
The Senate Appropriations Committee in June
included $1 million for the downtown Springfield
complex, at Durbin’s request, in the bill that
funds the Interior Department.
But the full Senate never voted on the bill.
The House included $700,000 for the library and
museum at LaHood’s request.
The Democrats could enact appropriations
bills including earmarks in February - six
months into the federal fiscal year - but that’s
also the time they begin the fiscal 2008 funding
“The longer we wait, the more difficult it
will be,” Durbin said.
LaHood, who sits on the House Appropriations
Committee, said it’s unfair to put all the blame
“There’s plenty of blame to go around. This
idea of trying to blame one party is nonsense,”
he said. “That’s so political, on its face, that
no one will believe it.”
LaHood blamed Senate Democratic Leader Harry
Reid of Nevada for blocking the funding bills,
noting that the House passed nine appropriations
bills before July 4.
The two that have been enacted fund the
Defense and Homeland Security departments.
Funding bills aren’t the only unfinished
Authorization of a plan to lengthen the locks
on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, long
sought by farmers and barge operators, dies when
Congress adjourns. Although the House and Senate
each passed bills authorizing the projects,
efforts to reconcile the two bills stalled.
“It’s a huge disappointment,” LaHood said.
“It passed overwhelmingly. But apparently the
leadership (of both parties) couldn’t get their
act together to get a conference, so we start
all over again next year.”
Durbin said the incoming chairwoman of the
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
has promised him to make the water project
authorization a high priority.
“She realized how important it is and will
work to get this passed,” said Durbin of Sen.
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
While the project has been opposed by some
environmentalists and taxpayer groups, it has
the support of 80 senators.
Another bill Durbin hopes will stand a better
chance next year would establish a Lincoln Study
Abroad program advocated by the late Sen. Paul
Simon of Illinois.
Dori Meinert can be reached at 202-737-7686