Washington Bureau

10.16.13

McCain Trashes Part of Debt Deal

The Arizona senator described a provision inserted into the debt deal appropriating $2 billion for a Kentucky dam as "disgusting."

The final Reid-McConnell deal to end the government shutdown and avoid hitting the debt ceiling includes a few other provisions. One is mandating a budget conference, another sets new rules for income verification on Obamacare, and the third authorizes almost $2 billion in additional funding for a dam in Kentucky, the home state of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. And John McCain is not a fan of that one.

McCain trashed the provision to The Daily Beast: “These people are like alcoholics. They can’t resist taking a drink. It’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It should have gone through the normal legislative process. Its their legislative reputation even more and makes it even more difficult for me to vote for the overall bill—which I will. 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.”

The Olmsted Lock and Dam project would enable additional barge traffic on the Ohio River and would have a major impact on the regional economy. The Washington Post has reported that the bill is a longtime priority of the Kentucky delegation to Congress and has the support of President Obama. McConnell has long supported it as well and, in a 2011 statement to the Louisville Courier Journal, a McConnell spokesman emphasized “the importance of the Olmsted Locks and Dam project, not only to Kentucky’s economy, but the nation’s.”

In a statement after the Senate passed the Reid-McConnell deal by a vote of 81-18, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insisted that the funding for the dam “was not an earmark” and essential to saving $80 million in taxpayer money on the project.