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Congress Overrides WRDA Veto

On Tuesday, November 6, the House of Representatives voted to override the president’s veto of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA) by a vote of 361 to 54.

On Thursday, November 8, the Senate followed suit, overriding the veto by a vote of 79 to 14.

It is the first time a Bush Administration veto has been overridden by Congress.

Under the Constitution, a bill that has been vetoed by the president becomes law if two-thirds of the members in the House and Senate vote to pass the bill over the objections of the president, and thereby override the veto of the president.

“This is a great day for the House of Representatives, because we stood together – Democrats and Republicans – to do the right thing,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. “It is a great day for communities across the country, because they have been waiting for federal assistance to upgrade their water infrastructure systems. It is a great day for Gulf Coast residents, because they have been counting on President Bush to keep his promise that the federal government would help in the region’s hurricane recovery. It is a great day for Florida, because the state is one step closer to getting much-needed resources for Everglades restoration. And it is a great day for the Upper Mississippi River and the Illinois Waterway System, because the bill provides funding for a system of new locks and dams and environmental restoration.”

H.R. 1495 authorizes approximately $23 billion for more than 900 projects and studies for the Corps of Engineers within its existing missions of flood damage reduction, navigation, environmental restoration, water supply, hydropower, and environmental infrastructure.

President Bush vetoed the bill on November 2, contending that it would cost too much.

“Although the president said the bill is too costly, the funding level of this measure reached $23 billion because Republican Congresses have failed to pass a WRDA bill since 2000,” said Johnson. “In the past, Congress has enacted legislation every two years to authorize the Corps’ projects. But under President Bush’s watch, no water resources legislation has been enacted. As a result, WRDA 2007 is actually three bills rolled into one.”

The House adopted the WRDA conference report on August 1 by a vote of 381 to 40, and the Senate followed suit on September 27 by a vote of 81 to 12.

“The House and Senate previously passed this legislation by an overwhelming margin, which demonstrates the bipartisan, bicameral nature of the bill,” said Johnson. “Whether the issue is bridges that collapse in Minnesota or levees that fail in New Orleans, our nation’s infrastructure has reached a critical juncture and may be on the verge of failure. I am proud that a two-thirds majority vote of the House stood together to override the President’s veto and take another step toward enacting this critical legislation.”

“I am confident that the Senate will also override the president’s veto tomorrow,” concluded Johnson on November 6.

Rep. James L. Oberstar (Minn.), Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, was unable to vote on the override, because he is recovering from neck surgery at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Source, House Committee press release.

Port Group Applauds Override

The American Association of Port Authorities issued the following statement:

“AAPA and its U.S. member ports applaud the 361 members of the U.S. House and the 79 members of the U.S. Senate for their leadership and insight in voting this week to override the President’s veto of the Water Resources Development Act legislation. This is a crucial and long-delayed bill that will begin the process of addressing America’s water resources infrastructure needs, ranging from navigation system and flood control improvements to restoring wetlands and repairing the damage wrought by the 2005 hurricanes,” said Kurt Nagle, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Port Authorities.

“Now that this important legislation has become law, AAPA will continue to advocate for America’s critical water resources infrastructure, and we will continue to work with Congress to ensure that future WRDA bills get back on a biennial cycle so this nation is never again faced with a seven-year backlog of water resources projects waiting to be authorized,” Nagle added.

The 2007 WRDA authorizes the projects and policy revisions in the bill. However, funding appropriations for any of the WRDA bill provisions will require separate action and further review by Congress.

Full text of the bill:

In response to the veto, the Great Lakes shipping industry called on Congress to override, and approve legislation that will accelerate dredging and authorize construction of a second Poe-sized Lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. These provisions and others benefiting the Lakes are included in the bill.

“The nation has not passed a Water Resources Development Act in seven years,” said John D. Baker, President of Great Lakes Maritime Task Force. “It is high time America started reinvesting in our port and waterway infrastructure.”

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