The compromise deal to reopen the government and avert a default on the nation’s debt, set to be approved by both houses of Congress Wednesday evening, is not without pork. It includes nearly $2.8 billion for dam project previously backed by Senate miority leader Mitch McConnell and a $174,000 payment to Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, the widow of late New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg.
As Andrew notes below, the Senate Conservatives Fund is already deriding the dam-building provision as the “Kentucky Kickback.” Though McConnell is surely pleased that the money is flowing to the Olmsted dam, which is situated on the Ohio River, he did not request it — the president did — and the provision was inserted into the legislation by Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Dianne Feinstein of California. Alexander said in a statement that the provision was necessary to ensure that the Army Corps of Engineers does not cancel $160 million in existing contracts.
“According to the Army Corps of Engineers, 160 million taxpayer dollars will be wasted because of canceled contracts if this language is not included. Senator Feinstein and I, as chairman and ranking member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, requested this provision,” Alexander told BuzzFeed. “It has already been approved this year by the House and Senate.”
After the election of Senate and House memberswho rode to office on a wave of tea-party fervor, McConnell in 2010 backed a two-year ban on earmarks. That ban was spearheaded by Utah freshman senator Mike Lee, whose energies also helped bring about the shutdown that is likely to come to an end this evening.
UPDATE: This has been updated since its original posting.