BOSTON – More than one out of every five dollars of the $126 million Massachusetts is receiving in earmarks from a $410 billion federal spending package is going to help preserve the legacy of the Kennedys.
The bill includes $5.8 million for the planning and design of a building to house a new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate. The funding may also help support an endowment for the institute.
The bill also includes $22 million to expand facilities at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum and $5 million more for a new gateway to the Boston Harbor Islands on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a park system in downtown Boston named after Kennedy's mother and built on land opened up by the Big Dig highway project.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Kennedy, who at 77 is battling brain cancer, said he hadn't requested the money for the library and institute, and that there are dozens of other earmarks in the spending bill for homeless services and community health centers.
The $22 million JFK library earmark was sponsored by fellow Massachusetts Democrat Sen. John Kerry, who is also a top sponsor for the money for the Kennedy Senate Institute. Kerry defended the library project, which he said is needed to upgrade the facility.
"This National Archives project will eliminate the worst archival storage space problem in the presidential library system and it will facilitate six years of work to expand the library," Kerry said in a statement. "This shovel-ready project will also bring much-needed jobs to the area."
A proposal to build a national institute on the U.S. Senate and to name it after Kennedy has been under discussion since 2003, but accelerated after Kennedy was diagnosed with cancer.
Local officials last year announced they were seeking up to $100 million to build the institute, which they said would focus on the Senate in general and Kennedy's more than four decades of service to the body. The facility will be located in Boston on a four-acre plot near the JFK library.
About $20 million has already been raised for the institute, including contributions from drug companies, insurance companies and hospitals. Tentative plans called for a replica of the Senate chamber itself, as well as programs to train new senators.
The list of earmarks provided by Kennedy, Kerry and the state's all-Democratic congressional delegation highlights programs throughout the state, including $3 million to preserve New England fisheries; $1.7 million for land acquisition at Cape Cod National Seashore; and $333,000 to study any links between environmental pollutants and breast cancer.
"These funds will create jobs that are desperately needed, and will provide lasting benefits for all our citizens long into the future," Kennedy said in statement accompanying a list of earmarks.
The billions in earmarks in the federal spending bill have been a source of contention.
President Barack Obama signed the bill which he described as imperfect. He said it must signal an "end to the old way of doing business."
Critics led by Republican Sen. John McCain have denounced the 8,000 pet project contained in the bill as pork.