A conservative group is accusing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report McConnell: Senate will pass short-term funding bill to avoid shutdown Lawmakers push one-week stopgap funding bill MORE (R-Ky.) of including an earmark for a water project in the deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.
The Senate Conservatives Fund tagged the provision the “Kentucky Kickback,” and said it would benefit the Olmsted Locks and Dam, which is under construction on the Ohio River between Kentucky and Illinois.
“In exchange for funding ObamaCare and raising the debt limit, Mitch McConnell has secured a $2 billion earmark,” the group wrote in a statement. “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 debt-ceiling bill legislation could be one of the last appropriations bill to pass before year’s end, and senators seized the opportunity to attach funding for projects and natural disasters in their home states.
Section 123 of the bill calls for increasing the authorized funding for the Olmsted Locks and Dam project to $2.9 billion.
McConnell’s office told The Hill on Wednesday evening that the senator was not responsible for the dam funding authorization increase, instead referring to the White House and leaders of the Senate committee that is responsible for appropriations.
“The process is that OMB (the White House) submits a list which is scrubbed by chair and ranker (Feinstein/Alexander) of each subcommmittee (energy and water in this case),” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, in an email. “We are not OMB or the chair/ranking member of the subcommittee.”
Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderTrump's FDA nominee clears key Senate committee Groups warn of rural health 'crisis' under ObamaCare repeal Trump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight MORE (R-Tenn.) said he was the one who requested the provision, and argued it was needed to ensure $160 million in contracts are not cancelled by the Army Corps of Engineers.
“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. It has already been approved this year by the House and Senate,” Alexander said in a statement to Buzzfeed.
The Senate Conservatives Fund bankrolled a campaign pushing lawmakers to initiate the shutdown and refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless President Obama agreed to make changes to the healthcare law.
The fund has been harshly critical of McConnell, who is up for reelection in 2014. Last month, the group spent more than $300,000 on ads that accused the GOP leader of abandoning the fight to defund ObamaCare.
McConnell reached an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.) on Wednesday on a bill that would reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling until Feb. 7.
The GOP leader touted that the agreement keeps the government funded at Budget Control Act levels, which he said was a victory for Republicans.
— Ben Geman and Alexander Bolton contributed to this report.
This story was last updated at 8:06 p.m.