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Obama Library-Gate: 5 Developments in Debate Over $100 Million Grant Proposal

State Democrats and Republicans point fingers amid pressure to out-bid the competition

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Obama Library: 5 Developments in Debate Over $100M Grant Proposal

AP

President Barack Obama speaks at Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn borough of New York, Friday, Oct. 25, 2013.

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Debate over President Barack Obama's presidential library and museum is getting hotter by the millisecond -- or so it seems -- as Illinois politicians, media pundits and the voting public weigh in on whether taxpayers should foot the bill.

At issue: a controversial measure to earmark an $100 million grant for the library, thereby claiming it for Chicago amid competition from Obama's home state of Hawaii and New York City's Columbia University, his alma mater. While Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Mayor Rahm Emanuel endorse the bill, Republicans argue the state can't afford the nine-figure sum.

A second Springfield hearing is scheduled for April 30 amid strong GOP backlash.

1. POTUS' library search team says it didn't ask for $100 million -- but might take the money anyway. Crain's Chicago Business reports that the Barack Obama Foundation -- led by local businessman Marty Nesbitt -- has denied involvement in requesting a state subsidy, referencing Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and other bill-backers as "unrelated parties" in a vaguely-worded statement. At the same time, the foundation also suggested that it would not rule out the possibility of accepting a large check as it "receives and evaluates proposals."

2. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton will do whatever it takes -- even if that means offering more cash. In an interview with Crain's, Cullerton says: "I don't know if they need money. We will work to provide them with whatever incentive they need. It might be less [than $100 million]. It might be more. ... We need to make sure they come and they stay here."

3. Madigan blasts the Tea Party for stoking controversy. The wily power broker, who maneuvered a strategy during legislators' spring break to push the $100 million measure through a House Executive Committee hearing unattended by GOP colleagues, pointed fingers at Republicans who demanded the April 30 revote, invoking the political movement via his spokesman, Scott Brown, who told the Chicago Sun-Times: "Some of our Republican friends decided to demonstrate their tea party gene because the word Obama was mentioned. So the committee will meet again on the 30th and there will be another vote on the bill. ... Prior to this little wave of tea party that flushed through Illinois since last week. I was unaware of any real opposition."

4. The Speaker, in damage control mode, cites a "misunderstanding of the rules" when no Republicans showed up to vote on the bill last Thursday. 

5. Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno wants Madigan to just chill out, OK? "This is going to happen. There will be an Obama presidential library [in Chicago],” she said Tuesday, while making her case to the Sun-Times editorial board. “Which raises the question: why would you spend [the money], especially given the finances of the state?” (The newspaper agrees.)

And the bleat goes on.

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