Ah, yes. Once again, Republicans place corporate welfare ahead of homeland security...
The weakest point in America's defense against terrorism may be an inconspicuous little bridge a few blocks from the Capitol. Rail tanker cars filled with deadly chemicals pass over the bridge, at Second Street and E Street SW, on their journeys up and down the East Coast. The bridge is highly vulnerable to an explosion from below, and if deadly chemicals were released on it, they would endanger every member of Congress and as many as 250,000 other federal employees.
This vulnerability could be easily eliminated by a federal law barring the transportation of hazardous materials through Washington and other locations at high risk of a terrorist attack. But the railroads have fought such legislation, which would increase their costs. If the Bush administration and Congress are serious about homeland security, they will get a chemical transportation law passed at once.
Earlier this year, the City Council in Washington passed a law prohibiting the transport of ultrahazardous materials within 2.2 miles of the Capitol. But CSX, the railroad that operates the two main lines running through the district, has gone to court to challenge the law, which would add to its costs. It claims that city governments do not have the power to interfere with interstate rail shipping. A federal court has blocked the law from taking effect, though CSX has temporarily stopped shipping ultrahazardous materials on the rail line closest to the Capitol.
The Bush administration filed a brief supporting CSX in its challenge to Washington's law, and, incredibly, it has made no effort to do the job with federal regulation. When it comes to defending the nation from terrorism, the president and the Republican leadership in Congress have been unwilling to make large corporations, many of them big campaign donors, shoulder their share of the burden. Washington's residents and employees should not have to risk their lives to save CSX the cost of rerouting shipments of ultrahazardous materials.
I'm glad the Dems have introduced legislation on this, but that isn't enough - they need to be screaming about this, or any of the Republicans' myriad other instances of looking the other way when it comes to our safety (port, chemical and nuke plant security, securing Russian nukes, that sort of thing). With all Bush and the Republicans' posturing about how tough on terror they are while Democrats are all sissy traitors, they must never be allowed to get away with shortchanging homeland security.
If Dean doesn't jump up on a table and start yelling about how the Republicans are soft-on-terror paper tigers, and if Democratic congressional candidates don't tie Republican votes against this legislation around their opponents' necks, then the Democrats are just going to have to cross their fingers and hope for a Watergate-type meltdown if they expect to win anything in 2006 or 2008. And even so, I would much rather see the Democrats win elections for an affirmative reason that sustains them for more than one measly election (and permanently establishing themselves as the serious-about-terror party would be sweet beyond measure).
You would at least think that Republicans would be in favor of something that might save their own asses, but I'm not gonna hold my breath, of course. It's all I can do to hope for something remotely positive to develop out of Plamegate or the attempt to stop Bush from installing someone to the right of Fred Phelps to the Supreme Court...