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 TrumpTrump calls for Republicans to be 'united' on abortion Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution Facebook temporarily suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens MORE’s broader rebuilding package appears to have hit a dead end.

Committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterEx-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm K Street boom extends under Trump, House Dems Ex-GOP congressman heads to investment bank MORE (R-Pa.), ranking member Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Deadline approaches for 2020 Dems Dems eye big infrastructure package, with or without Trump Dems, Trump pull T surprise on infrastructure MORE (D-Ore.), and Reps. Garret GravesGarret Neal GravesOvernight Energy: Interior pick heads toward Senate confirmation | Dems want probe into nominee's role on pesticide report | House climate panel holds first hearing Newly-formed House climate panel holds first hearing Overnight Energy: Senate Dems introduce Green New Deal alternative | Six Republicans named to House climate panel | Wheeler confirmed to lead EPA MORE (R-La.) and Grace NapolitanoGraciela (Grace) Flores NapolitanoCongress: Pass legislation that invests in America's water future Live coverage: Senate Judiciary to vote on Kavanaugh confirmation House passes bipartisan water infrastructure bill 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 RyanDebate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 Liz Cheney faces a big decision on her future 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.