No one quite knows how or why it happened. But, for once, the mysterious mechanism of closed-door negotiation called a “conference committee,” where the House and Senate reconcile their different versions of a bill, produced something better than what was in the two original versions of the stimulus package. While the House version of the bill contained no money for high-speed rail, and the Senate version contained only $2 billion, the final version has $8 billion.
Politico says it was White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s doing and that it was largely the result of other Obama signature suggestions, such as school construction, having already been eliminated. Conservatives want to blame Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader from Nevada, because some of the money might go to building a high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
However it really happened, urbanists have reason to rejoice.
Ben Adler is a journalist in New York. He is a former reporter for Grist, The Nation, Newsweek and Politico, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian and The New Republic.