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Diaz-Balart Defends McCain on Everglades

In a conference call today with reporters organized by the McCain campaign, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) defended Sen. John McCain — who is currently on a 2-day swing through the state — against criticism over the Arizona senator’s opposition to a 2007 omnibus water bill that authorized a $2 billion Everglades restoration project. The $23 billion measure passed both the House and Senate, only to be vetoed by President George W Bush. However, the veto was overriden, the first veto override of Bush’s presidency. Diaz-Balart, whose district includes Everglades National Park, said McCain opposed the legislation not because of an opposition to Everglades restoration — a key environmental issue in Florida — but because it was laden with pork.

"I’ve worked with Sen. McCain on Everglades restoration as long as I’ve been in Congress. It’s important to note that out of $23 billion in the water bill — a bill that I supported, having to hold my nose because of the issues that Sen. McCain correctly points out — only $2 billion was for Everglades restoration. So there’s 280 projects that are outside the [Army Corps of Engineers] main responsibilities for water and wastewater infrastructure."

Diaz-Balart then quoted McCain on the bill:

"He said, ‘I believe that we should be passing a bill that will authorize legitimate, needed projects without sacrificing fiscal responsibility.’ One of those projects that the senator has always fought for has been Everglades restoration. [The attack] frankly, pun intended, doesn’t hold water."

Diaz-Balart claimed the attack originated with the Obama campaign, and seized the opportunity to blast Obama on past statements about his willingness to meet with hostile foreign leaders.

"It’s just trying to hide the real story, which is Sen. Obama’s willingness — and his naiveté of thinking you can meet with known thugs and terrorists with no preconditions and somehow they are going to be swayed by his beautiful rhetoric. [This] is why he has such serious issues in this community and a variety of different communities. That is the issue: poor judgment [of] Sen. Obama and strong leadership by Sen. McCain on fighting for what he believes in and supporting Everglades restoration."

In a moment of brutal honesty, Diaz-Balart essentially said he lacked the same strength of character he praised in McCain — opting to vote for the bill despite misgivings about pork.

“I voted for it because, I admit it, I was being parochial. I represent the entirety of the Everglades

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