Did Extra $2 Billion Earmarked for Kentucky Dam Project Help Seal Budget Deal?

Friday, October 18, 2013
Sen. Mitch McConnell

The government shutdown might still be going if it wasn’t for a billion-dollar earmark for a Kentucky dam project, according to critics of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).


Buried within the bill that restored funding to Washington and averted a default on the U.S. debt was $2.9 billion for the Olmsted Lock and Dam project, which would impact Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky.


McConnell had championed funding for the dam in his home state in previous years. The original allotment for the project—which is to be constructed on the Ohio River by URS Corporation—was $775 million. Section 123 of the new Senate spending bill will fund the dam project to the tune of $2.918 billion. URS has said that without the roughly $2 billion in additional funding, the project would have been cancelled, thereby wasting $160 million in taxpayer money already spent on the dam.


McConnell’s office denied putting the provision in the bill as a way to guarantee his support for the legislation. It was McConnell and Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) who struck the eleventh-hour deal on the long-embattled funding bill.


The Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee founded by Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, has labeled the money the “Kentucky Kickback,” claiming it was all McConnell’s doing.


The Blaze reported that it was in fact Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Diane Feinstein (D-California) who officially requested the provision be added to the bill. A McConnell spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that the request had come from President Obama.


But conservatives weren’t buying it.


“McConnell may try to blame someone else for this, but he wrote the bill and it’s not the first time he has sought funds for this project. He also requested $100 million for it in 2010,” the Senate Conservative Fund claims. “This is what’s wrong with Washington and it’s what’s wrong with Mitch McConnell.”


With funding now in place, the dam is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Mitch McConnell Accused of Sneaking in $2 Billion ‘Kentucky Kickback’ in Budget, Debt Limit Deal—So Is It True? (by Jason Howerton, The Blaze)

Mitch McConnell, Olmsted Dam, and the Backstory of What Some Call the Kentucky Kickback (by James Bruggers, Louisville Courier-Journal)

Getting Paid during Government Shutdown is a No-Brainer for These Lawmakers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Conservative Activists Plotted Government Shutdown Shortly After Obama Reelection (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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