Whenever Congress takes up major legislation, lawmakers just can’t resist tossing in scores of extra ‘sweeteners’ to help their states or allies. That was certainly the case Wednesday night, when the Senate and House finally passed a measure to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling through early next year.
Some of the amendments were run of the mill spending projects. Others provided an element of surprise. Here are eight of the many provisions that gave the legislation an extra push through Congress, culled by The Fiscal Times and The Washington Post:
- $2.9 billion for Kentucky dams and locks on the Lower Ohio River: Section 123 of the bill increases the amount of funding for two locks and dams on the river, which flows through Illinois and Kentucky – two states which happen to be the home to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, co-author of the deal to end the shutdown. Congress originally appropriated just $775 million for the project in 1986.
- $174,000 for Frank Lautenberg’s widow: Section 146 appropriates that sum -- the equivalent of a year’s salary for a rank-and-file senator — to Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, widow of the late New Jersey Democrat who passed away earlier this year.
- $636 million for fire suppression: After a worse-than-expected fire season throughout the Western United States, the Forest Service’s wildfire fighting budget has dwindled perilously close to zero, and the service has had to transfer money from other accounts to pay for firefighting activities.
- $36 million for wildland fire management during Fiscal Year 2014, and another $600 million that would go into a fire fighting account, to be available until it’s spent. The Forest Service spent more than $900 million fighting fires this year.
- Back pay for federally funded state workers: Tens of thousands of state employees around the country are paid through federal grants. Any states that used their own money to keep those employees on the job after the Oct. 1 shutdown, rather than sending them home on furlough, will be paid back.
- $450 million for emergency highway repairs in Colorado that were damaged by the floods that devastated towns in the Rocky Mountain foothills last month. The bill lifts a $100 million cap on emergency highway funds for Colorado to repair more than 200 miles of highway and about 50 bridges damaged or destroyed by the flooding.
- The bill allows the Mine Safety and Health Administration to collect $2.5 million in user fees, instead of the previous cap of $1.5 million.
- The Maritime Administration Security Program gets $186 million next year, up from $174 million that it received last year.