LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Republican John McCain was confronted Thursday about why he opposed an Everglades restoration measure that had broad support from Florida officials, including Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and GOP Sen. Mel Martinez.
McCain also drew criticism from Democratic rival Barack Obama for opposing another Florida priority, a national hurricane insurance fund.
Both issues are meaningful to Florida, a hotly contested state in presidential races because of its rich trove of electoral votes. In both instances, McCain sided against Florida officials and with President Bush, while Obama went the other way.
McCain said he couldn’t support the Everglades measure because it was part of a massive, pork-barrel spending bill last year. But he said he would have supported the measure on its own.
The $2 billion restoration plan was backed by Crist and Martinez, key Republican supporters of McCain. Yet McCain sided with Bush, who vetoed the bill that included the Everglades funding along with hundreds of other local water projects, such as dams and beach restoration.
Nonetheless, the measure became law last November when the Democrat-controlled Congress overrode Bush’s veto.
McCain also faced criticism for opposing a national catastrophic insurance fund for hurricane-prone states. Democrats noted that Crist, who gave McCain a critical boost by endorsing him just before the Florida primary last January, had lobbied Congress for the fund. His predecessor as governor, Jeb Bush, also backed the fund.
Supporters argue it would spread risk across the country, strengthening insurance markets to help communities recover more quickly from hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan said of McCain, “by choosing to stand with George Bush’s failed policies, instead of standing with the families of Florida, he can’t deliver the change the country needs and deserves.”
McCain has said he would instead bring industry and government together to protect homeowners.