The Senate-forged deal to reopen the government and avert a default on the nation's debts contains two unrelated provisions providing nearly $3 billion for a dam in Kentucky, as well as up to $450 million for roads in Colorado.
After learning about the billions of dollars secured for the Kentucky dam, conservative groups immediately condemned the project as an earmark for McConnell, which his office denied.
The White House had requested the money for the dam, and the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water had approved the money earlier this year. Still, the Senate Conservative Fund, which is affiliated with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, labeled the project the “Kentucky kickback.”
The recipient of the money is the Olmsted Lock and Dam Authority, which is building the project on the Ohio River between Illinois and Kentucky. The bill would provide $2.92 billion, up from $775 million, for one of the largest civil works projects the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has ever undertaken. It will replace two of the locks originally completed in 1929.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who sits on the Appropriations Committee, confirmed that the bill includes the funds for the project, telling reporters that she believes construction will come to a halt without more money.
Colorado also won a provision that lifts a cap on money a state can receive from the Federal Highway Administration's emergency relief program in relation to a single natural disaster. To help with further flood recovery, the language would allow the state to receive up to $450 million in emergency funds, up from the limit of $100 million.