WASHINGTON -- Call it Pander Week in the U.S. Senate.
With drivers nationwide fuming hotter than their engines over high gas prices, the U.S. Senate obliged and indulged them with a series of sounds-good/can't pass amendments designed more for the fall campaign ads than for the law books.
Democrats and Republicans put forth a series of amendments to a highway bill that are just what their core constituencies ordered. The GOP tried shifting the federal gas tax to the states, repealing alternative energy subsidies and resuscitating the Generalissimo Francisco Franco-like Keystone XL pipeline. Democrats tried extending energy tax credits and creating a new one for the purchase of natural gas vehicles. New York's two Democratic senators voted predictably, casting yeas for the Democratic panders and nays for the Republican panders.
Oh, and in the end, an important piece of real legislation did actually pass: a lean but better-than-nothing measure that keeps federal highway funding going for two years at a cost of $109 billion.
Meanwhile, it was not Pander Week in the House of Representatives. The House was not in session.
Here are the votes of Western New York's two U.S. senators on major legislation in Congress last week. A "Y" means the member voted for the measure; an "N" means the member voted against the measure; an "A" means the member did not vote.
There were no key votes in the House.
* States and Gas Taxes: The Senate rejected an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. The amendment would have given states authority to adjust gas taxes and determine how to utilize proceeds. DeMint said the amendment would allow states "to make their own construction and repair decisions without costly rules such as Davis-Bacon regulations and without having to funnel the money through Washington's wasteful bureaucracy and some self-serving politicians." An opponent, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said it "would force your State to raise its own taxes or force cuts elsewhere to offset massive cuts in Federal highway and transit investments."
The vote Tuesday was 30 yeas to 67 nays.
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D, N; Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D, N.