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House, Senate override presidential veto of water bill.

The House and Senate acted quickly to override President Bush's veto of the Water Resources Development Act (H.R. 1495). The House voted 361-54 on Nov. 6 and the Senate voted 79-14 on Nov. 8 to override the veto.

The veto is only the fifth of Bush's presidency and the first time Congress has been able to pass an override.

President Bush had said he "strongly opposes" the compromise version of the bill, which authorizes approximately $23.2 billion for Army Corps of Engineers water projects. This figure is several billion dollars more than separately approved by the House and Senate earlier this year.

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the top Republican on the House committee that drafted the measure, 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."

Noting that Congress has not passed such legislation for seven years, Mica added, "These improvements are critical to the nation's infrastructure and environment, and more delay will only ignore the problems and increase costs."

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, led the charge on the Republican side to override the veto.

"As a fiscal conservative, I certainly appreciate and share the president's concerns over 'excessive spending' by the federal government," Inhofe said. "The fact is, though, that the WRDA bill is not a spending bill; it is an authorizing bill." The funds would be subject to separate appropriations action.

H.R. 1495 would authorize more than 900 projects for navigation, environmental restoration and hurricane, flood or storm damage reduction in 23 states, including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

The bill would authorize $1.9 billion for the restoration of coastal Louisiana and $3.6 billion for projects on the upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway system. It would also authorize an Everglades restoration plan.

The bill would also create a new National Levee Safety Program with an authorization of $20 million per year for six years. The Army Corps of Engineers would be required to create a public database of all U.S. levees, including maintaining information on risk estimates for cities in the event a levee fails. The Corps would be required to inspect all federally constructed levees, regardless of whether they are federally or locally managed.

Additionally, the bill would increase oversight of the Corps for projects costing more than $45 million or that were deemed controversial. The conference report gives the Corps oversight over the review process, but in some cases allows projects to be exempt from review.

The conference report version of the bill was approved by the House on Aug. 1 by a vote of 381-40 and by the Senate on Sept. 24 by a vote of 81-12.
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Author:Berndt, Carolyn
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Nov 12, 2007
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