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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
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    Mitch McConnell gets $3 Billion for Kentucky dam project in congressional deal

    Mitch McConnell gets nearly $3 billion for Kentucky dam project in congressional deal

    By Eric Pfeiffer, Yahoo News 17 minutes ago

    Mitch McConnell's home state won nearly $3 billion in new funding for a long-standing project (AP)

    Most experts agree that there were no real winners in the government shutdown debate. And many political forecasters say the brunt of fallout from the debate over the shutdown and the debt ceiling is likely to hurt Republican lawmakers.

    However, the nation’s leading Republican senator came out of the deal far from empty handed. That’s because it’s been reported that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell secured language in the new government funding bill that includes nearly $3 billion for a dam project in his home state of Kentucky.

    According to reports, a provision in the funding bill includes $2.918 billion in funding to the Army Corps of Engineers to install locks as part of the Olmsted Dam and Lock Authority Project on the Ohio River.

    A recent investigation by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch found that the project has run millions of dollars over budget and should have been completed “years ago.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the project will not be fully complete until 2024.
    McConnell’s spokesman dodged a question about the funding provision when asked by local radio affiliate WFPL.
    “Senators (Diane) Feinstein and (Lamar) Alexander, the chair and ranking member of the energy and water subcommittee, worked on the issue and can help you," spokesman Robert Steurer told the station.
    The Wall Street Journal says the funding is a substantial increase from the $755 million in funding initially designated for the project. They said the provision was the largest included in the government funding bill agreement reached on Wednesday, along with funding for a roads project in Colorado.
    For his part, Alexander said he supported the provision, noting the House and Senate had already approved it earlier this year.
    “According to the Army Corps of Engineers, 160 million taxpayer dollars will be wasted because of canceled contracts if this language is not included. Sen. [Diane] Feinstein and I, as chairman and ranking member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, requested this provision,” Alexander said in a statement to BuzzFeed.
    Alexander’s home state of Tennessee is also expected to benefit from the Olmsted dam project, along with Illinois.
    The provision is not technically an earmark, the now barred forms of special project funding that for years was added to larger spending bills in order to win the support of lawmakers.
    However, that didn’t stop the conservative watchdog site Senate Conservatives Fund from going after McConnell.
    “Well now U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has an Obamacare earmark of his own,” the site said in a post on Wednesday, comparing the provision to a funding provision won over by Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson in 2009 in exchange for his vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act.
    “This is an insult to all the Kentucky families who don't want to pay for Obamacare and don't want to shoulder any more debt,” the site says.
    McConnell faces a Republican primary challenge in his 2014 re-election race from Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin. Recent polls McConnell facing a potentially tight race against his likely Democratic opponent, Allison Lundergan Grimes.

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  2. #2
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    PARADISE (San Diego)
    Foes attack McConnell for $2.9 billion in dam money included in spending and debt bill

    Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA
    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, walks to Republican luncheons in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Oct. 15.

    By Tom Curry, National Affairs Writer, NBC News

    After Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell helped broker Wednesday’s deal that reopened the government, his critics found something in that agreement they’re using to attack him with -- a $2.9 billion locks and dam project.
    A conservative group has pounced on McConnell for what it calls a “Kentucky kickback” – money included in the legislation to finish a troubled infrastructure project on the Ohio River between Illinois and Kentucky.
    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney talks about President Obama's reaction to news of a Senate deal to reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling.

    But the builder of the infrastructure project, the Army Corps of Engineers, says it will bring huge economic benefits to shippers and other businesses in states from Pennsylvania to Louisiana.

    At issue is the Olmsted Locks and Dam, between Illinois and Kentucky on the Ohio River as it nears its confluence with the Mississippi River – a vital passageway for barge commerce in the middle of the country. More barge tonnage passes through that stretch of the Ohio than at “any other place in America’s inland navigation system,” the Army Corps says.
    The project will replace antiquated locks built in 1929, but the costs have soared since Congress authorized the replacement 25 years ago.
    Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins said in a statement that “in exchange for funding Obamacare and raising the debt limit, Mitch McConnell secured a $2 billion Kentucky kickback. This is an insult to Kentucky families who don't want to pay for Obamacare and who don't want to shoulder any more debt.”
    Hoskins added in an e-mail follow-up on Thursday that “the inclusion of the Kentucky Kickback shows that Mitch McConnell is willing to use the debt agreement to force taxpayers to fund one of his pet projects.”
    McConnell is facing a conservative primary challenger Matt Bevin.
    Hoskins said his group hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the Kentucky race and has not made any independent expenditures in the race.
    In a campaign video on Thursday, Bevin criticized the agreement which McConnell negotiated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but he didn’t specifically criticize the money for the Olmsted Locks and Dam.
    Bevin said the Reid-McConnell agreement not only did not defund or delay the Affordable Care Act, but “doesn't even put us on a path to financial sustainability.”
    As for the Olmsted project, Bevin campaign spokeswoman Sarah Durand said, "Matt does not support earmarks no matter who requests them, but more importantly, Obamacare is still fully funded and President Obama now has another blank check to spend more money we don't have. Mitch McConnell sold us out."
    The campaign for McConnell’s Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, did not return phone calls seeking comment on the money for the Olmsted Locks and Dam project.
    Politico Playbook: "Conservative groups ripped into Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell," writes Politico's Kevin Robillard. Mike Allen joins Morning Joe to discuss.

    After calling the inclusion of the $2.9 billion in funds “disgusting” on Wednesday night, Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., said on Twitter Thursday, “I do not believe that Senator McConnell was responsible for the ‘anomaly’ earmark for the Olmsted Dam project in last night's budget deal.”
    “Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Alexander have publicly stated that the project was through their (Senate Appropriations) subcommittee,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told
    In an investigation last year, Congress’s fiscal watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, found that the Olmsted project “is affecting the Corps’ ability to rehabilitate other navigation projects across the country as costs for the replacement have escalated from $775 million (in 1987 dollars) to the current project estimate cost to complete of $2.9 billion.”

    Adjusted for inflation, $775 million in 1987 dollars would be equal to $1.6 billion in today’s dollars.
    Through fiscal year 2011, the project had already gotten $1.4 billion in funding.
    The Army Corps of Engineers, which expects the project to be finished in 2024, said the costs have soared partly because the initial cost estimate was too low and because of daunting construction conditions, calling it “an extremely complex and challenging construction project that is located where the Ohio River elevation can fluctuate up to 50 feet annually.”
    The cost of the project is evenly split between taxpayers and the navigation industry which pays a tax on diesel fuel. The diesel tax revenues go to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.

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