White House backs House GOP's water bill

In a rare show of bipartisanship in the wake of a two-week government shutdown, the White House said Wednesday that it supports the House’s version of a new bill to boost ports and waterways.

President Obama will sign the House’s Water Resources Reform and Development Act if it is approved by the chamber in a vote that is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, the White House said.

The Senate has already passed its own version of the water bill, H.R. 3080, and the House is widely expected to approve its measure.

The two chambers would have to reach an agreement through a conference committee to a send a final bill to the White House for Obama's signature.

The White House said it preferred the Democratically-controlled Senate’s version of the bill, but it said Obama could also live with the GOP-led House’s approach.

“The administration supports House passage of H.R. 3080 as it would advance some of these policies and principles, but it should be improved with additional reforms and modifications of problematic provisions,” the White House said. 

The White House did criticize the House GOP bill for shortening environmental review periods for water projects.

“H.R. 3080 would enable non-federal parties to move forward with certain water resources projects on their own more easily. However, it would also weaken key reforms enacted by the Congress in the landmark Water Resources Development Act of 1986.”

Conservative groups have criticized the House version of the water bill for including funding for a Kentucky dam project that drew opposition when it was included in the bill to end the government shutdown.

Republican leaders in the House have sought to win support from conservative lawmakers by touting that the bill does not include earmarks like previous versions of the water legislation.

The White House said Obama “would like to work with Congress on authorizations of projects and studies that provide high economic and environmental returns to the Nation, or address a significant risk to public safety, within the Corps' three main missions: flood and storm damage reduction; commercial navigation; and aquatic ecosystem restoration.”

Supporters of the water bill have argued that it would improve shipping and create jobs.