House Rules Sets Debate Terms for Water Resources Authorization, Appropriations Bills

June 6, 2018

Political scientists often complain that the traditional authorization-appropriation process in Congress (which is supposed to work in that order) is broken. But last night, the House Rules Committee approved a procedure for the House of Representatives to debate the authorization bill for the water resources program of the Army Corps of Engineers today, followed immediately by debate on the fiscal 2019 appropriations bill funding that program.

Under the procedure recommended by Rules last night, once the House comes into session at noon today, the agenda will be:

  1. Debate and adopt last night’s Rules Committee recommendation (H. Res. 918) – one hour.
  2. Debate and concur in a Senate-passed bill for a Justice Department grant program – one hour.
  3. Debate the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (H.R. 8 – one hour) and then debate up to 52 amendments made in order by Rules (at up to 10 minutes per amendment, but many of them will be lumped into en bloc packages with little or no debate).
  4. Debate the first three-bill “minibus” FY 2019 appropriations package (one hour) and then consider up to 39 amendments to the Energy and Water Development portion of the minibus, some of which involve the Corps of Engineers.

House leaders have indicated that they expect the House will get through steps 1, 2 and 3 today and start step 4 today (maybe rolling some roll call votes on Energy and Water into tomorrow morning).

The Rules Committee document issued last night lists each of the amendments made in order to both bills, and clicking on the name of the amendment sponsor will take you to the final text of the amendment. Amendments listed in Part A are to the WRDA bill (page and line numbers are to this version of the text), and amendments listed in Part B are to the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill (page and line numbers are to this version of the text).

Not surprisingly, Rules did not allow the DeFazio-Shuster amendment adjusting the Budget Control Act spending caps so that spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (up to a certain annual limit) would no longer count against those caps.

Yesterday, the White House issued Statements of Administration Policy (SAPs) on both bills. The WRDA SAP says explicitly that the President would sign the House bill into law. No such promise is made in the minibus SAP. Where the Corps is concerned, the SAP says “The Administration appreciates the bill’s investments in the Nation’s water resources through the Corps of Engineers civil works program. However, the Administration also believes the bill should encourage a more modern approach to investing in the Nation’s infrastructure that would strike an appropriate balance in incentivizing and facilitating greater non-Federal participation in water resources projects while maintaining robust support for infrastructure where Federal investment is most warranted and needed.”


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