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 TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE’s broader rebuilding package appears to have hit a dead end.

Committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterLobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests Ex-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR MORE (R-Pa.), ranking member Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioShould the United States withdraw from the WTO? OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House approves .5T green infrastructure plan | Rubio looks to defense bill to block offshore drilling, but some fear it creates a loophole | DC-area lawmakers push for analysis before federal agencies can be relocated Republicans score procedural victory on Democrats' infrastructure bill MORE (D-Ore.), and Reps. Garret GravesGarret Neal GravesOvernight Energy: Biden campaign says he would revoke Keystone XL permit | EPA emails reveal talks between Trump officials, chemical group before 2017 settlement | Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings Overnight Energy: Murkowski fumes over stalled energy bill | White House weighs help for oil, gas industry | Dem presses top Trump official on rollback of safety regulations MORE (R-La.) and Grace NapolitanoGraciela (Grace) Flores NapolitanoHispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs Hispanic Caucus asks Trump to rescind invitation to Mexican president Hispanic Democrats demand funding for multilingual coronavirus messaging 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 RyanBush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why Lobbying world 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.