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 TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage 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 RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate 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 BarrassoTo stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US GOP senator: Iran is behind attack on Saudi Arabia 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 CarperInstead of raising the gas tax, stop wasting money on frivolous projects To stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists 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 BoozmanVA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal There is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen MORE (R-Ark.), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerHillicon Valley: Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech | Senators call for better info-sharing on supply chain threats | Apple pulls app after Chinese pressure Key Democrat presses FTC over Facebook settlement's 'dangerous precedent' Cyber rules for self-driving cars stall in Congress MORE (R-Miss.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanOvernight Defense: Trump hits Iranian central bank with sanctions | Trump meeting with Ukrainian leader at UN | Trump touts relationship with North Korea's Kim as 'best thing' for US Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall MORE (R-Alaska), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGaetz: Some lawmakers reviewed transcript at White House On The Money: Trump takes aim at China in UN address | Consumer confidence fell as trade tensions rose | Senate proposes billion for Trump border wall Senate proposes billion for Trump border wall MORE (R-W.Va.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Trump DOJ under fire over automaker probe The Hill's Morning Report - Trump eyes narrowly focused response to Iran attacks MORE (D-R.I.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Democrats to offer resolution demanding Trump reverse Syria decision White House officials stand by Syria withdrawal, sanctions delay amid bipartisan pushback 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.