Dems strip more money from stimulus

House Democrats dropped a plan to spend $200 million on the National Mall after Republicans began using the provision to attack the larger bill.

Published January 28, 2009 3:05PM (EST)

The House GOP will, ultimately, probably have little say on what's in the stimulus package expected to come up for a vote Wednesday. But they have now won two minor -- but symbolically important -- victories. Earlier in the week, President Obama prevailed on House Democrats to remove a controversial provision from the bill that provided funding for family planning and contraception. Tuesday night, another bit of money that had come under attack, $200 million to improve the National Mall in Washington, was removed.

Congressional Republicans had been focusing on the money Tuesday. It was a convenient piece of the legislation for criticism. Opponents said the bill contains only $41 million in tax cuts aimed at small businesses, one-fifth of the $200 million designated for the Mall. Plus, it was easy to spin the provision as hundreds of millions spent on grass.

The truth wasn't quite that simple; in fact, the National Park Service says the cost of work needed to repair and improve the Mall is about $350 million. That would, among other things, cover the expense of fixing a sea wall, repairing bathrooms, replacing cracked sidewalks, installing filtration systems in landmarks like the Reflecting Pool and generally dealing with the stresses caused by 25 million visitors every year -- more than Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon combined, according to McClatchy. And, of course, doing work on the Mall would mean hiring people to do it.

ABC News' Jake Tapper, who broke the story of the provision's removal, ties the decision to a dinner White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel held Tuesday night with 11 House Republicans the administration wants to win over.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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