Thursday, March 08, 2007

BREAKING: Timber Payments Get 1-Year Reprieve in House Bill

I'm trying to get someone from the House delegation, or Wyden's office, to comment and explain the full story on this deal, but for now it looks like catastrophe might be averted for a year, at least:
A one-year extension of a federal safety net program for counties and schools will be included in a proposed supplemental budget in the U.S. House of Representatives, a House aide said this morning.

The extension would extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act of 2000. The aide said a formal announcement would be made later today. The supplemental budget still must be approved by Congress.

The Senate will be a thornier process, given what appears to be Sen. Craig's tantrum that Oregon gets most of the money (since, duh, they have the most qualifying land under the program), but this is a good sign. The amount of money allocated is not a lot in the grand scheme of the supplemental, and there are other add-ons being grafted onto the bill in both houses, so hopefully this will sneak through...more as we get it.

Update, noon--
Brian Shaw of KOPT adds some more information, based on his conversation yesterday with Gordon Smith. You can hear Smith's comments in this mp3 excerpt, and Brian offered this to me earlier this morning:
Smith suggests in here that the timber payments will be tied to the Iraq supplemental. Then this morning Defazio comes out of the Dem Caucus meeting saying he’ll have a big announcement later today. I brought up what smith had said on a hunch and judging from Peter’s response that’s in the offing . I asked Peter about the wisdom of tying to acts that are both contentious with dems together at a time when both are critical and time sensitive. He thinks we'll find broad support, but promises of an announcement later today.
Obviously, the above announcement is what DeFazio's planning to discuss. More on his comments when we get it.

Update, 3pm--
Well, DeFazio WAS planning on making the announcement, but much in the same way that Gordon Smith is trying to take credit for rescuing timber payments after sitting on his hands for 2 years last session, Greg Walden has suddenly become the main champion for the extension in his eyes, and beat DeFazio to the punch* with his own comments to the Med-Trib:
A one-year extension of a federal safety net program for counties and schools is in a proposed supplemental budget in the U.S. House of Representatives, Oregon Rep. Greg Walden has confirmed.

Payments to rural counties hurt by cutbacks in federal logging would continue for one year under a deal reached today, Walden said. Walden said he and other members of the Oregon delegation had secured the one-year extension as part of an emergency spending bill for the Iraq war.

The money amounts to $23 million annually in Jackson County. Without it, county officials have said they will close libraries, cuts search and rescue, and reduce road maintenance and other government services

A spokesman for the Republican congressman said details were still being worked out, but that it called for spending $400 million to help counties hurt by logging cutbacks.

“The good news is that we have made great forward progress in forcing the federal government to keep its promise to rural communities,” Walden said in a statement. “The bad news is that the president has already threatened to veto the emergency supplemental over other issues, so there is still much work left to be done for this to become law.”
What a joke. DeFazio has done almost all of the heavy lifting in the House on this situation, and Walden knows it. And as for those "other issues," what he's talking about is the extension of limited collective bargaining rights to TSA baggage inspectors, just like members of the Border Patrol and Customs. In that light, I assume we can count on Walden to vote for the supplemental...AND help to override any veto. Right? Otherwise Walden's bravado here is so much fluff for the media.

And speaking of the media, Walden now has his own version of the joke he lamely passed at Dorchester, that it's dangerous to get between a microphone and Ron Wyden. Apparently getting between Peter DeFazio and HIS mike isn't so hard, or Walden just likes, playing with fire. Don't get between Greg Walden and any accolade for something he's been a day late and a dollar short to!

*DeFazio did end up holding his presser, with everybody on the House side except Wu.