As appropriators get down to business on fiscal 2016 spending, one House Republican is asking key players in the deal-making process not to compromise on their proposal to strip funding for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., criticized the commission's approach to planning a memorial park on a four-acre site in Southwest Washington, D.C., as "deeply flawed and highly contentious," in a letter to House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and ranking member Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y. The Aug. 21 missive, obtained by CQ Roll Call, slams the 11-member commission — which includes three senators and four congressmen — for its "complete disregard of critics" to architect Frank Gehry's design. It was penned two days after a scathing column by conservative commentator George F. Will that characterized the project as a "monstrosity."
The House panel has urged a “reset” on memorial plans, while the Senate Appropriations Committee’s version of the Interior-EPA Appropriations bill would include $1 million for EMC staff salaries and operations.
"Almost 16 years since its inception, the Commission has managed to spend millions in taxpayer dollars all while creating more disagreement than consensus," wrote Sensenbrenner, who was elected to Congress in 1978. He cites objections from Eisenhower's heirs, though a spokeswoman said Thursday that, to her knowledge, Sensenbrenner had not met with the family.
A report on the House version of the spending bill encourages House and Senate committees with jurisdiction to work expeditiously on legislation that would direct appointment of a new EMC staff, and authorize an “open, public, and transparent new design process.”
But the Congressional Budget Office has estimated such a reset would cost $17 million.
Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., defends the current project and is a bullish proponent for seeing it built while World War II veterans who served under Ike are still alive to witness it.
Also weighing in Gehry's favor, the current design has cleared key hurdles with federal planning boards.
Whether the EMC will receive operating funds for fiscal 2016 remains uncertain. Sen. Pat Roberts , R-Kan., chairman of the EMC, told CQ Roll Call in July that he was still working with the family. "That's all I care about right now," he said in an interview.
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