U.S. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday that Democratic Sen. Patty Murray made a "tough vote" but the "right vote to put people back to work" with the Obama administration's stimulus bill last year.
On Wednesday, LaHood and Murray were in Seattle to celebrate groundbreaking on the Mercer Corridor Project. The $164 million Mercer project was able to move forward with a $30 million stimulus grant through the TIGER (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery) program, which Murray created as chair of the transportation appropriations subcommittee. About $1.5 billion was made available through the program, which was part of a larger $48 billion in stimulus money geared to get people back to work through building transportation projects.
"If it wasn't for the vote of Sen. Murray and Congressman Jim McDermott to jump-start the economy, we wouldn't have 14,000 projects in America today. We would not be able to continue the president's vision for putting people to work, and we wouldn't have had the TIGER program. The TIGER program funded this and that's why we're here today," said LaHood, a moderate Republican congressman from Illinois before he was tapped to join the administration.
"I know you're all here to celebrate Mercer and I don't blame you. It is a mess. But I also want you to celebrate the extraordinary leadership you have in Washington to keep people working in this Washington," he said.
Murray's in a tight re-election bid with former Republican state Sen. Dino Rossi, who has criticized Murray's earmarks. Republicans have blasted the Obama administration's stimulus spending as Democrats appear to lose ground on both the economy and the polls heading toward November. In an attempt to stop the slide, Obama announced this week another $50 billion plan for rebuilding America's infrastructure and creating jobs.
The Mercer project is expected to support about 1,200 jobs. Another highway project in Spokane received a $35 million TIGER grant. That project is expected to support about 100 jobs.