The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Community News Network

October 17, 2013

Shutdown deal's dam funding brings cry of favoritism, denials

WASHINGTON — A provision on page 13 of the 35-page bill to end the government shutdown would add a large amount of money — more than $2 billion — in funding authorization to an obscure waterway project in Kentucky and Illinois.

The project is called the Olmsted Locks and Dam. It is run by the Army Corps of Engineers and is supposed to help ease barge traffic on a busy stretch of the Ohio River.

Shortly after the bill was released late Wednesday, some critics looked at this provision and saw a favor for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., one of the two Senate leaders who negotiated the bill. He is up for re-election in 2014.

The Senate Conservatives Fund, which has targeted McConnell with attacks from the right, called it "the Kentucky Kickback."

"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," the group said in a news release. "This is what's wrong with Washington and it's what's wrong with Mitch McConnell."

It's true that McConnell had requested "earmark" funds for this project in the past, according to a database of such requests kept by Legistorm. Did he request that its inclusion in Wednesday's Senate bill?

"No, he did not," Don Stewart, McConnell's spokesman, said in an email message.

Instead, Senate staffers said there was bipartisan support for increasing the project's funding. The provision does not allocate $2 billion; rather, it raises the cap for the amount Congress could allocate later. President Barack Obama asked for it in his 2014 budget, and both the House and the Senate had passed bills allowing the increase this year. The House did criticize the Corps of Engineers, saying if it had managed the project better there would not be the need for the "massive increase" in funding authority.

The project, authorized in 1988, is intended to replace two locks and dams that were built in the 1930s.

In a gridlocked Congress, bills to increase the funding authorization have not become law. Senate staffers said the project was about to run out of money and would have begun shutting down in November. If the program had to be shut down and then restarted, one Democratic aide said, the "cost to taxpayers would be an additional $80 million over the next six months, and $160 million if the project were terminated for one year."

That pressing deadline was the reason that the funding was included in this bill. "Senator McConnell did not push for this provision," the Democratic aide said.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

  • A quarter of the world's most educated people live in the 100 largest cities

    College graduates are increasingly sorting themselves into high-cost, high-amenity cities such as Washington, New York, Boston and San Francisco, a phenomenon that threatens to segregate us across the country by education.

    July 18, 2014

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

  • Facebook tests button to let people shop from its website

    Members on desktop computers or mobile devices can click a "buy" button to make purchases through advertisements or other posts on the world's largest social network, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Thursday in a blog post.

    July 17, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 17, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • web_starbucks-cof_big_ce.jpg Starbucks sees more Apple-like stores after Colombia debut

    This week Starbucks opened its first location in Colombia — a 2,700-square-foot store with a heated patio, concrete columns, mirrors on the ceiling and walls of colorful plants.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo