House panel unveils bipartisan water infrastructure bill

House panel unveils bipartisan water infrastructure bill
© Greg Nash

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Friday introduced its biennial water resources legislation, setting up potential action on infrastructure at a time when President TrumpDonald John TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty MORE’s broader rebuilding package appears to have hit a dead end.

Committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterEx-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties MORE (R-Pa.), ranking member Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump issues Taliban warning at Sept. 11 memorial Overnight Energy: Democrats call for Ross to resign over report he threatened NOAA officials | Commerce denies report | Documents detail plan to decentralize BLM | Lawmakers demand answers on bee-killing pesticide Oregon Democrats push EPA to justify use of pesticide 'highly toxic' to bees MORE (D-Ore.), and Reps. Garret GravesGarret Neal GravesCongress passes bill to begin scenic byways renaissance House committee forwards bills to bar offshore drilling across US Overnight Energy: Interior pick heads toward Senate confirmation | Dems want probe into nominee's role on pesticide report | House climate panel holds first hearing MORE (R-La.) and Grace NapolitanoGraciela (Grace) Flores NapolitanoLatina leaders: 'It's a women's world more than anything' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Muller testimony dominates Washington The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller day finally arrives MORE (D-Calif.) unveiled the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018 minutes after House Republicans failed to pass a five-year farm bill. Graves chairs the panel's Water Resources and Environment subcommittee, while Napolitano serves as its ranking member.

Shuster, who is retiring at the end of his term, said earlier this week that the committee plans to mark up the bill on Wednesday.

"This infrastructure is vital to moving goods throughout the country, from the products we all use in our daily lives, to the crops, resources, and goods we produce locally and send overseas in foreign commerce," Shuster said in a statement Friday.

"WRDA works because it improves critical water resources infrastructure, strengthens the economy, and protects our communities."

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The legislation comes a week after the Senate unveiled its own bipartisan version of a water reauthorization bill that aims to localize the budget for the Army Corps of Engineers. The upper chamber also plans to mark up its legislation next week.

The water infrastructure bill is one of several pieces of legislation Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea MORE (R-Wis.) has pointed to in discussing how lawmakers will bring about the president’s rebuilding blueprint.

The broader plan pushed by Trump appears to be on hold. Still, a senior House GOP aide told The Hill that Shuster summoned Republican members of the committee for a Friday meeting to discuss “ideas and priorities” for an infrastructure overhaul.

“We checked FAA, WRDA drops today and now we are pivoting towards an infrastructure package,” the aide said, referring to a reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The WRDA provides the Corps with the authorization to address and maintain America’s water infrastructure, including its ports, dams and flood resistance efforts.

It also includes numerous deauthorizations of idle infrastructure projects to offset the cost of newly authorized efforts.

In addition to the evaluation of the Corps’ budget and methods, the reauthorization calls for a study that would examine the effects of moving the Corps’ civil work out of the Department of Defense and into another agency or to a wholly new entity.  

The House in September of 2016 passed the last waterways bill, which included aid for the Flint, Mich. drinking water emergency.

The House's 2018 legislation calls for the National Academy of Sciences to produce a report on the Corps' methods and budget for water infrastructure efforts and provide the results to the House Transportation Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“Strengthening our water resources infrastructure is critical to our Nation’s economy and security, and we are glad to have again reached bipartisan agreement in this area,” Napolitano said in a statement.  “Our water agencies have been very supportive, and their continued input will be needed to ensure local needs are met. 

- Updated at 1:55 p.m.