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 TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration 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 RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration 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 BarrassoDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Senators highlight threat from invasive species 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 CarperDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House 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 read Pence riot act before shutdown votes On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (R-Ark.), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerTrump signs executive order to boost AI technology Hillicon Valley: Feds looking into Bezos claims about National Enquirer | Amazon reconsidering New York City HQ2 move | Sprint sues AT&T over 5G marketing claims Senate to hold hearing on potential privacy bill MORE (R-Miss.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanAlaska in lockdown over leadership stalemate Bennet gives emotional speech ripping into Cruz over shutdown Trump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  MORE (R-Alaska), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants GOP senator: Border deal is 'a very good compromise' Push to include contractor back pay in funding deal hits GOP roadblock MORE (R-W.Va.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech MORE (D-R.I.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Senate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems 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.