Blame that bridge collapse on excess pork? Maybe not


John McCain’s obsession with banishing “wasteful government” spending in the form of “earmarked” projects has long annoyed his colleagues in Congress. But he may have gone a bit too far lately.

In New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward last week, McCain startled reporters when he said Congress was partly to blame for the failed response to Hurricane Katrina, because it “funded pork-barrel projects” instead of “projects that were needed here.”

This week, McCain blamed earmarks for the deadly 2007 collapse of a Minnesota bridge. According to the Associated Press, he told reporters that the bridge “collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects.”


The collapse, which killed 13, remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, but authorities suspect a “serious design error” as a factor.

Some Minnesota leaders didn’t take well to McCain’s musings. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible McCain running mate, distanced himself from the senator’s comments by saying he was waiting for the agency’s report.

According to AP, McCain backtracked somewhat Thursday, stating that he couldn’t be sure if redirected spending would have prevented the tragedy. “Do I know specifically whether it would have replaced that bridge in Minneapolis? No, but I know that funding would have been available for higher-priority projects,” he said.

-- Maeve Reston