- - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

SENATE

Lawmakers refuse to limit transportation projects

The Senate defeated a bid by Sen. John McCain on Wednesday to stop funneling federal funds to transportation museums, highway beautification and preservation of historic bridges, rejecting his argument that money needed to repair rundown roads was being diverted to projects like squirrel sanctuaries and car museums.

Senators turned aside the Arizona Republican’s measure by 59-39 after opponents said it would block Amtrak’s use of many historic rail stations and the preservation of icons like New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and New England’s covered bridges.

Mr. McCain’s provision was aimed at the transportation enhancement program, which last year sent the states more than $900 million. His proposal would have allowed states to continue using money from the program for bike and pedestrian paths, building tunnels under roads and other structures to separate traffic from wildlife, and acquiring historic sites.

Mr. McCain said recipients of money under the program have included the White Squirrel Sanctuary in Kenton, Tenn., the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., and historic items along a Pennsylvania highway that include a giant coffee pot.

CAMPAIGN

Romney serves up Perry blooper reel

The Romney camp, which launched an anti-Rick Perry website, careerpolitician.com, on Tuesday, unveiled a new Web ad this afternoon that is, essentially, a collection of the Texas governor’s worst moments from the GOP presidential debates he’s participated in since joining the race in August.

The Romney campaign announced the new video, titled “Ready to Lead?” on Facebook by asking followers “Do you think Governor Perry would be able to challenge President Obama in a debate?”

The video includes footage from Mr. Perry’s performance in Tuesday night’s Las Vegas debate, which most observers agreed was the governor’s strongest.

Still, the Romney team zeroed in on the mangled syntax, awkward pauses and meandering answers that have marked the Texas governor’s uneven performances in the GOP debates.

SOUTH CAROLINA

High court to hear primary case

COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s Supreme Court has agreed take a case challenging the state’s authority to conduct the GOP’s first-in-the-South presidential primary in January.

Papers are due in court next week.

Beaufort, Chester, Greenville and Spartanburg counties say the state Election Commission lacks the authority to run the primary and that it can’t force them to pick up part of the tab.

The counties estimate the primary will cost $2 million, with state and the state Republican Party picking up about $1.3 million or about 65 percent.

State Attorney General Alan Wilson agreed the state Supreme Court should take up the case. Mr. Wilson argues the state has the authority to run the primary because it was included in the state budget law.

SENATE

Lawmaker slams companies on sports helmet claims

A Senate committee chairman says sports equipment companies are making “empty, unsubstantiated” claims if they promise that their products will help prevent concussions.

That’s what Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV says in remarks he planned for Wednesday afternoon’s hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The West Virginia Democrat isn’t naming any companies. But manufacturers such as Riddell have come under criticism for claiming their football helmets reduce concussions. One company, Brain-Pad, claims its mouth guard helps reduce the risk of concussions.

Senators are expected to hear from Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, who directs a Michigan clinic that diagnoses and treats athletes’ concussions. He plans to say that no piece of equipment can significantly prevent concussions, and that companies making such claims give people a false sense of security.

FEDERAL RESERVE

Survey suggests hazy outlook for economy

Most areas of the country reported slight economic improvement in September and early October, according to a Federal Reserve survey of its 12 bank regions. But several regions said a hazier economic outlook is making businesses more cautious and holding back their spending.

The Fed said Wednesday that consumer spending rose slightly in most districts. A key reason was more people bought new cars, in part because dealers had a greater selection of models.

Manufacturing also rebounded, particularly in the auto industry that has been hampered since the March 11 earthquake in Japan.

Still, in some regions, businesses outside the auto industry reported a weaker and more uncertain outlook, which raised caution and weighed on those companies’ spending plans.

Three of the regions — Philadelphia, Richmond, and Chicago — indicated that many retailers were reluctant to build up their stockpiles ahead of the holiday season because of sliding consumer confidence.

The uncertainly appeared to rattle financial markets, which had been trading higher most of the day. Stocks fell after the report was released. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 72 points. Broader indexes also declined.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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