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McCain blames federal earmarks for I-35 bridge collapse

Presidential candidate John McCain's blaming of federal earmarks as causing the Interstate 35W bridge to collapse in Minneapolis upset the Minnesota Senate's transportation chairman.

Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said he is troubled by McCain not understanding the importance of targeting money to projects with specific needs.

"Maybe the good senator should send the states a little more money," he said.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, McCain's campaign national co-chairman, said he agrees with McCain's frustration about how some federal tax dollars are spent. Pawlenty said the Arizona senator was making a general point about Congress' "misprioritized" earmarking decisions.

However, Pawlenty added, "I think it's more important that the NTSB be allowed to speak because they're the ones who have the definitive word as to why the bridge collapsed."

The National Transportation Safety Board has said leading theories for the collapse involve original bridge design flaws and weight issues as a result of construction equipment on the bridge, Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty said he left a telephone message with a McCain campaign staffer early Thursday "just reminding them that the cause of the bridge (collapse) relates to the NTSB investigation."

Murphy, meanwhile, said his reading of McCain's comments is that the state did not spend enough money on the bridge.

"Sen. McCain owes our state an apology," Murphy said.

State Capitol reporter Scott Wente contributed to this report.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.