State Senate Democrats sent a letter of apology to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood for what they viewed as a rude reception on Wednesday by the GOP-led majority caucus – a charge Republicans dispute.
“It was appalling to see the tenor of the reception he received from Sen. (Don) Benton and the Republican majority, “ Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, said in a statement.
LaHood and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee visited with Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday. LaHood told them the state needed to commit several hundred million dollars toward completing a multibillion dollar Columbia River crossing or risk losing up to $1.2 billion in federal support.
The majority caucus initially posted a video of their meeting with LaHood online, but then pulled it. Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said the recording had been posted inadvertently and as soon as they realized the mistake, took it down.
Senate Democrats, however, felt obligated to post the recording. You can watch it here. The quality is a bit off because they recorded it off of a computer screen, with sticky notes visible at the bottom.
Republican Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, a leading critic of the proposed bridge project, said the caucus was respectful of LaHood but senators did air their concerns.
“What were we supposed to do, roll over because the secretary came to visit?” he said, adding that nobody raised their voice during the meeting. “There’s no need to apologize.”
Benton posted a news release after the meeting with LaHood that read “It’s Benton 1, U.S. Transportation secretary 0 in CRC debate at Capitol.”
David Postman, a spokesman for Inslee, said that what happens inside a caucus is supposed to remain confidential. He would not comment further.