McCain blasted on Everglades restoration

06/06/08 Mitch E. Perry
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John McCain visited the Everglades this afternoon, the first time he’s ever had the opportunity to personally observe the River of Grass.

His appearance energized Democrats to criticize him for his opposition to funding the Everglades in legislation that survived a presidential veto last year.

McCain said he opposed the legislation, because it also contained funding for other projects that hadn’t been scrutinized. But former Florida Senator Bob Graham, said that wasn’t true.

Every member of the Florida Congressional Delegation, Republican and Democrat, supported the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. The bill passed Congress, despite the presidential veto. The bill authorized $2 billion for the restoration of the Everglades, along with funding for environmental projects and studies in 22 other states.

Republican Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart’s Congressional district includes the Everglades. He supported the bill, but defended McCain for not supporting it. Diaz-Balart said McCain proposed reforms in the bill that were not accepted, and that his famed reluctance to support so called pork, is the reason for his opposition.

But in the battle of dueling conference calls, Graham and House Minority Leader Dan Gelber insisted that McCain was confused and that it was not an Omnibus Spending Bill that he opposed, but in fact, the separate Water Resources Development Act that he was against.

Barack Obama says he would have supported the legislation, but both he and McCain were not present to cast their actual votes on the issue.

It was the second straight day that Florida Democrats attacked McCain for his opposition to legislation that most Floridians support. On Thursday, the state party criticized him for his opposition to legislation supporting a National Catastrophe fund, a bill that would aid Floridians home insurance problems in relation to hurricanes.

Brian Ballard, a Tallahassee lawyer and lead fundraiser for McCain's Florida campaign, said Gov. Charlie Crist was "working on McCain" to be sure he addressed both Everglades restoration and the state's insurance problem.

Ballard said McCain wants to come up with solutions on these issues that makes sense yet doesn’t "unfairly punish other states." He added, "My sense is Obama will promise anything to anybody to get a vote."

Graham said Everglades restoration overall is in serious jeopardy, seven years behind the schedule originally set to fund the project.

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