House Set to Consider Coconut Road Bill on Suspension Calendar

Posted April 28, 2008 at 4:20pm

The controversial Coconut Road earmark investigation is set for a vote in the House this week, but there likely won’t be anything contentious about it.

After fierce debate in the Senate over the highway technical corrections bill, the same measure is set to be considered, and will likely be quietly approved, Wednesday as part of the House’s suspension calendar.

As part of the highway bill, the Senate sought to correct an earmark for a road project near Fort Myers, Fla. But there was fierce debate over how to investigate the earmark’s mysterious origin; Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) wanted a bicameral panel to discover its sponsor, while Senate leaders favored a Justice Department probe.

The leaders were victorious and the bill passed with the Justice Department language, 63-29.

Previously, both Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said their preference would be to send the matter to the House ethics panel instead of the Justice Department.

Pelosi later reversed her position and said she would support sending the Senate-passed bill straight to the president’s desk. House Republican leaders also support that approach.

Informed that the bill was set for the suspension calendar this week, a Blunt spokesman responded that he “always said there should be an investigation and that is still the case.”

“Congressman Blunt raised some legitimate questions about the best way to move forward, but never opposed an investigation.”

An aide to Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) admitted inserting the $10 million earmark into the bill, but said it was done for legitimate reasons and made only technical changes consistent with the spirit of the law.

The money for the Coconut Road project benefited a wealthy land developer and campaign contributor to Young and would be reversed by the technical corrections bill.