Senate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill

Senate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill
© Greg Nash

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday unanimously passed its bipartisan water infrastructure bill, putting the biennial legislation on track in the upper chamber.

The panel’s bill, unveiled earlier this month, comes as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE’s sweeping infrastructure plan appears to be on ice.

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Lawmakers are now turning to their biennial pursuit of water infrastructure legislation, a bill Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Kelly lobbied Republicans to rebuke Trump after Putin press conference: report Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) referenced when discussing how Congress would work towards achieving the president’s rebuilding framework.

“Our committee has taken an important step towards improving America’s water infrastructure,” Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Senate adds members to pro-NATO group Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act MORE (R-Wyo.) said in a statement.

“This legislation will cut Washington red tape, create jobs, and grow our economy. America’s Water Infrastructure Act will increase water storage in the West, protect communities from dangerous floods, and upgrade old drinking water systems.”

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 calls upon the National Academy of Sciences to produce reports examining how the Army Corps of Engineers can improve transparency to work with stakeholders, Congress and local governments.

“Investing in our water infrastructure will grow our economy and help create jobs right here at home,” Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act Full interview: Democratic candidate Kerri Evelyn Harris discusses her Senate campaign in Delaware MORE (D-Del.), the committee’s ranking member, said Tuesday.

“While there is more work to do to move these bills across the finish line, today is an important first step, and if we continue to work in a bipartisan fashion, this legislation will serve as a model for the rest of Congress.” 

The bill calls for a drinking water pilot program, under the guidance of the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, in certain regions for Indian tribes. It also requests studies on the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, including one by the Governmental Accountability Office to assess how the law could be used better in both rural and small communities.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who chairs the panel's Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, and subcommittee ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced the legislation with Carper and Barrasso. 

Several senators in both parties have since signed on as sponsors, including Sens. John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Lobbying world 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families MORE (R-Ark.), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers eye ban on Chinese surveillance cameras | DOJ walks back link between fraud case, OPM breach | GOP senators question Google on Gmail data | FCC under pressure to delay Sinclair merger review Top Senate Republicans question Google over Gmail data practices MORE (R-Miss.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanDems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act GOP senator: NATO summit 'turned out well' Sunday shows preview: Trump readies for meeting with Putin MORE (R-Alaska), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoSenate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs America must act to ensure qualified water workforce Overnight Health Care: Big win at Supreme Court for anti-abortion centers | HHS chief grilled on migrant children | Boom time for ObamaCare insurers? MORE (R-W.Va.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Who is Andrew Wheeler, EPA's new acting chief? Congress can protect midterm elections with the Disclose Act MORE (D-R.I.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash Senate adds members to pro-NATO group Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act MORE (D-Md.). 

The House last week unveiled its own water resources legislation, which calls for a study to examine the effects of moving the Corps’ civil work out of the Department of Defense and to a wholly new entity or into another agency.

The lower chamber’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will mark up its bill Wednesday.