So, the deal is done and the federal government went back to work this week. Contained within the deal that Republicans surrendered up to Harry Reid and Obama was a lovely little gem increasing the funding for a project that just so happened to seriously benefit the states of Kentucky, Illinois, and Tennessee – the states represented by Senators McConnell, Alexander, and Durbin, 3 of the rather large participants in making the deal in the first place.
In the immediate aftermath of the the deal and this separate funding inclusion, there were a number of outraged people and groups who looked at this as some kind of quid pro quo for McConnell – a sort of “grease this deal along and we’ll make sure Kentucky gets something out of this.” McConnell immediately denied making the request and both Alexander (R-TN) and even some Democrats leapt to his defense, confirming that this wasn’t at McConnell’s urging. In the days to follow, several people and groups (including the Army Corp of Engineers) brought out the hair-splitting point that this wasn’t an appropriation, it was just an increasing in the allowed level of funding. A mere technicality, I would propose, since there’s little reason to increase the permitting funding level if you aren’t going to increase the funding.
Whether you buy either point – that McConnell knew nothing of the inclusion of this item to the bill (something I, personally, don’t believe for a nanosecond) – or that the fact that it was just an authorization, not an appropriation, in either case this just looks bad. It looks like a case of the old Washington mutual back-scratch going on and just another example of people leveraging a crisis to funnel some cash back to special interests. If this dam project (and it’s actually a project related to a dam, that wasn’t a misspelled interjection!) is that important to the nation, then it was important enough to stand on its own and get voted on in the clear. There are those who are claiming that this matter was of grave importance. Fine – then debate it in the open, get the support needed, and put it into a bill authorizing this spending increase. Slipping it into what was supposed to be this “clean CR” at the last minute and trying to slide it past everyone quietly only gave the matter an appearance of impropriety.
Which brings me to my final point on the issue. The entire time we were involved in the “shutdown” the Democrats were screaming about how the Republicans just needed to pass a “clean CR.” That term was forced into the American lexicon through repeated insistence and the Democrats refused – and are still refusing – to negotiate any point whatsoever that involves anything other than this “clean CR.” So, if that was really so sacrosanct, where did this completely unrelated spending authorization come from? There was never, ever a requirement that the continuing resolution be “clean,” it’s that the Democrats just didn’t want to talk. It was they who had the my-way-or-the-highway approach and I do hope everyone enjoyed it because you’re going to get to see it again in a few weeks.
This whole thing was avoidable but the matter of the Kentucky Kickback was unnecessary. It’s a black eye and yet 1 more reason not to trust anyone currently in office.