Robert Novak

An effort by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota to add $15.6 billion worth of pork barrel spending to the bipartisan economic stimulus package failed in the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday, when Chairman Max Baucus rejected it.

On Monday, aides for all senators received an e-mail listing the amount of money for building infrastructure that each state would receive under the Wyden-Thune proposal. Pennsylvania with $1.3 billion and West Virginia with $1.2 billion led the list. The states of the proposal's co-sponsors would benefit by $251.2 million for Oregon and $181 million for South Dakota. The two most populous states, California and Texas, would receive nothing.

Baucus indicated his interest in infrastructure spending but also turned down a plea to commit himself to considering the proposals two months from now.

Florida Surprise

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's unexpected late endorsement, which helped propel Sen. John McCain to a momentous victory in the Florida primary, came as an unpleasant surprise to Republican leaders around the state.

Crist had passed the word to GOP regulars that he was not making an endorsement after he shunned former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's courtship and suggested that they also stay neutral. His support for McCain irked Republican activists who generally would have preferred former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

A footnote: While losing the state, Romney carried heavily Republican Collier and Lee counties in southwest Florida by substantial margins. That represents Republican voters whom McCain will have to win over if nominated.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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