Americans are learning Thursday morning that while the government shutdown is over for now, billions of dollars in “pork-barrel” projects went into the new stopgap spending bill passed by Congress Wednesday night.
The most expensive is the estimated $3 billion now going to fund a dam project on the Ohio River, “portions of which flow through Illinois and Kentucky, states represented by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky,” ABC News reported.
Dubbed by some as the “Kentucky kickback,” $2.2 billion is the amount now authorized for the river projects, up from the original $775 million allowed, bringing the grand total close to $3 billion.
According to CNN:
Sounds kinda fishy, but a Democratic senate aid and a Republican senator say it’s on the level. The aide tells CNN that McConnell didn’t push for the project to be included. And Sen. Lamar Alexander, who’s a key figure on the committee that oversees what water projects get what money, says he and another senator asked for the cash. He tells CNN’s Chris Frates the new money — which more than triples the original $775 million — will save the federal government many millions because contracts won’t be canceled due to work stoppages. Still, the Senate Conservatives Fund calls the money a “Kentucky Kickback.”
U.S. Sen. John McCain blasted the dam project, saying he never even heard of it before.
“These people are like alcoholics. They can’t resist taking a drink. It’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely ridiculous,” McCain told the Daily Beast, according to CNN. “It shows that there are people in this body who are willing to use any occasion to get an outrageous pork-barrel project done at the cost of millions and millions of dollars. It’s disgusting.”
Other pork-barrel provisions included death benefits for the widow of deceased U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, “$450 million for rebuilding projects in flood-struck areas of Colorado,” and the following reported by CNN:
There were more agencies that got big money in the bill. Agencies that fight wildfires could get as much as $636 million, depending on how bad it gets in the next year. The mine safety department is getting a bump in the fees it can keep, a $1 million increase to $2.49 million. A watchdog group meant to guard Americans’ right to privacy against overreach by government cyberintelligence will get $3.1 million, which they could use considering the year they’ve had dealing with revelations about the super-secret National Security Agency’s programs. The Hill, a political newspaper, reports that’s double the top amount the five-member panel has been given before.