U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Bill would authorize $1.9 billion to double length of 7 Midwest river locks
President Bush vetoed legislation Nov. 2 that would authorize $23 billion for more than 900 Army Corps of Engineers water projects across the country, but congressional leaders, including a key Republican, say they expect the House and Senate to override Bush's action.
The House passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) in August by a 381-40 vote and the Senate approved it in September, 81-12, majorities that are well above the two-thirds needed to overcome a veto.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that chamber will take up the veto on Nov. 6 and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) said, "I am confident that we'll have a veto override."
The White House has objected to the WRDA bill's price tag. Senate Environment and Public Works' Committee's top Republican, James Inhofe of Oklahoma said, "As a fiscal conservative, I certainly appreciate and share the President's concerns over 'excessive spending' by the federal government. The fact is, though, that the WRDA bill is not a spending bill; it is an authorizing bill. It simply sets out which projects are allowed to get in line for future funding." Inhofe expects Congress to override the veto.
The bill's supporters say that its size--$23 billion over 15 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office--is partly due to the long gap since the last WRDA was enacted, in December 2000.
One of the largest items in the legislation is $3.9 billion for the upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterways. That includes nearly $2 billion for seven new, 1,200-foot-long locks–double the length of locks now in place--and $1.7 billion for environmental restoration near those rivers.
The WRDA bill also authorizes more than $7 billion for Louisiana, according to CBO, including about $1.9 billion for coastal restoration. In addition, it would provide $1.8 billion for restoration in Florida's Everglades.
One senior member of Florida's congressional delegation, John Mica (R), noted the bill's Everglades provisions and said, "While I have supported President Bush on many occasions, I must respectfully disagree with his veto of this important and long overdue water resources development bill. It is too important to Florida and the nation."