GOP Congressman Demands Ike Memorial Commission Be Stripped of Funding

Jim Sensenbrenner
Jim Sensenbrenner / AP

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wisc.) demanded the commission established to oversee the construction of a monument honoring U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower be stripped of funding in a letter penned to the chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Appropriations.

The 11-member Eisenhower Memorial Commission has been working on the project since 1999, though disputes regarding the design of architect Frank Gehry have resulted in no memorial yet being built.

"Though the Commission was established to erect a National Memorial to honor the former President and five-star general, its approach has been deeply flawed and highly contentious," Sensenbrenner wrote to Reps. Harold Rogers (R., Ky.) and Nita Lowey (D., N.Y.) on Aug. 21.

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

A revised design from the architect recently gained approval from the National Capital Planning Commission. Even so, congressional leaders have continued to cast doubt regarding the estimated $144 million project.

"There’s been some real conflict between the staff, the Eisenhower family and, to some degree, Congress," Rep. Mike Simpson (R., Idaho), the commission’s vice chairman, said in June. "In the end, what you’ve got to have is a design that’s supported by the Eisenhower family. They don’t have to have veto power, but they can’t oppose it. So, I think it’s best that they start over."

While emphasizing his "support" for the eventual completion of the Eisenhower memorial, Sensenbrenner in his letter called for the Gehry design to be "scrapped" and the process reset.

"Stripping funding for the salaries and expenses of Commission members will send a strong message that Congress expects a reset that calls for the selection and approval of a new design," Sensenbrenner declared.

Last month, chair of the commission Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) announced that Taiwan pledged $1 million toward the construction of the monument honoring the 34th president. Still, members of Congress and the Eisenhower family remain critical of its design.

"The big thing is the National Capital Planning Commission approving. But we’re still working with the family," Roberts admitted in July. "That’s all I care about right now."

Congress has not provided the project with construction funding since 2012, and backers of the memorial have thus been relying on private fundraising to support it. According to an investigation by the House Committee on Natural Resources in 2014, the commission had raised less than two percent of its $35 million fundraising goal since joining forces with a private fundraising firm in 2010.

The oft-disputed design features 80-foot steel tapestries and statue of Eisenhower as a teenager, a feature that members of the Eisenhower family and other critics have labeled disrespectful.