Congress Zeroes Construction Funds for Eisenhower Memorial

Omnibus text cites ‘concerns’ from Congress, Eisenhower family

Design for the steel tapestry planned for the Eisenhower Memorial / eisenhowermemorial.gov

Congress zeroed all construction funds for the controversial project to erect a monument honoring U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 2016.

The so-called "omnibus" appropriations bill, expected to gain approval from Congress, would allow only $1 million for the operations of the commission overseeing the project in fiscal year 2016, which accounts for only half of its budget.

This is the third consecutive year that Congress has zeroed all construction funds for the memorial, which the 11-member Eisenhower Memorial Commission has been working on since 1999. The commission asked Congress earlier this year for $68.2 million in the fiscal year 2016 budget to help construct the project, which is priced at over $140 million.

The proposed design, from architect Frank Gehry, has sparked criticism from the Eisenhower family, members of Congress, and others. The text of the omnibus spending bill cites such concerns.

"The Committees strongly support the construction of a permanent memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Committees recognize the memorial has obtained the required approvals for the design and construction; however, concerns raised by Congress and the Eisenhower family regarding the memorial design still remain," the appropriations bill, unveiled Tuesday, reads.

"The Committees believe expeditious resolution of these issues between interested stakeholders to achieve consensus on the memorial design is critical."

The legislation would further mandate that the construction on the Eisenhower memorial cannot begin until all construction funds are appropriated, a requirement that the commission previously sought to eliminate.

The Gehry design was selected by the commission in 2009. A revised version features large steel tapestries and three bronze statues of Eisenhower at various periods in his life, including one of the former president as a teenager. Critics have argued that elements of the memorial are inappropriate and disrespectful.

In August, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.) penned a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Appropriations demanding that the commission be stripped of funding.

"The Commission’s complete disregard of critics to the design, among them Eisenhower’s own family, raises serious concerns about the process," Sensenbrenner wrote, accusing the commission of wasting "millions in taxpayer dollars all while creating more disagreement than consensus."