House passes bipartisan water infrastructure bill

House passes bipartisan water infrastructure bill
© Greg Nash

The House on Wednesday passed its biennial water resources legislation, providing the Army Corps of Engineers with the authorization to maintain the nation’s water infrastructure.

The bipartisan bill, titled the Water Resources Development Act of 2018, passed the lower chamber on a 408-2 vote.

Introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure 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.), Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves (R-La.), and ranking member Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), the bill authorizes the Corps to sustain the nation’s water infrastructure, including its dams, ports and flood resistance efforts.

"The water infrastructure bill is absolutely essential to our economy,” Rep. Sam GravesSamuel (Sam) Bruce GravesTrump administration to repeal waterway protections Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties Acting FAA chief defends agency's Boeing 737 Max safety certification MORE (R-Mo.) said in a statement after the bill's passage. Graves chairs the panel’s subcommittee on highways and transit and is eyeing the committee’s gavel after Shuster’s retirement.

“This bill provides protections to businesses and peace of mind to farmers, but more importantly, it ensures we can remain competitive in the global economy.” 

The reauthorization, which Congress has recently taken up every two years, specifically calls for an analysis of the effects of moving the Corps’s civil work out of the Pentagon and into another agency or to a completely new entity.

It also offsets the cost of newly authorized water infrastructure efforts by deauthorizing idle projects.

The Senate is expected to take up its version of the legislation this summer. The upper chamber’s Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved the bill last month.

While the House bill garnered bipartisan support at a time of heightened tensions in Congress over other policy issues like immigration, it received some pushback from the White House. In a statement of administration policy published Tuesday, the White House said “the bill could be improved.”

The White House, in particular, took issue with the number of analyses and projects the legislation would greenlight. 

“Given the large number of authorized projects that have not been started or completed, new project and study authorizations should be limited to those most likely to provide high economic or environmental returns to the Nation,” the statement said.

Still, the administration said President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE’s advisers would urge him to sign the legislation should it reach his desk. The White House also said it plans to work with lawmakers on revisions.

The bill's passage in the House comes as Trump's sweeping infrastructure proposal appears to have stalled in Congress. Republican leadership has not shown much enthusiasm for a large overhaul of U.S. public works.

Outgoing House 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.) referenced the biennial water reauthorization legislation earlier this year in describing how the president's infrastructure blueprint would come about in multiple bills.

But Shuster, who is retiring at the end of his current term, is still planning to unveil an infrastructure bill this summer.