From Bloomberg BNA: Senator Boxer Claims Progress in Water Resources Bill Negotiations

Sen. Boxer Claims Progress In Water Resources Bill Negotiations

By Anthony Adragna and Heather Caygle

(BNA) — Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told Bloomberg BNA discussions are advancing on water resources legislation and hopes for a final conference report “as soon as possible.”

Boxer, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said she was “very glad” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) had announced he would make room for the legislation on the House calendar, adding that she was “sure” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would make time for its consideration as well.

There are no major obstacles to completing the conference report but Boxer said both chambers were removing earmarks. The California Democrat said Senate negotiators were working to ensure several regional programs from the Senate version of the bill made it into the final report.

While the Senate version of the bill did not include traditional earmarks, it did include provisions related to regional priorities such as Chesapeake Bay restoration, work on several interstate river systems, and restoration of storm-damaged beaches.

“So we’re looking at those things that senators really worked hard on because flood control is so essential, especially now with this climate change happening before our eyes,” Boxer said.

House members appear to be open to including many of those regional programs in the final conference report “and we’re just going back and forth now,” Boxer said.

Conferees are working to resolve differences in the Senate-passed Water Resources Development Act (S. 601), which passed in May by a vote of 83-14, and the House-passed Water Resources Reform and Development Act (H.R. 3080), which advanced in October by a vote of 417-3.

The legislation authorizes U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water projects dealing with environmental restoration, port maintenance and flood control. The last WRDA bill (Pub. L. No. 110-114) was enacted in 2007.

Increased Pace of Negotiations

Boxer said she had called Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, at the beginning of the holiday recess “and things started to move back and forth at that time.” Staff members also continued conference report negotiations during the recess.

“In the beginning it was going much more slowly,” Boxer said. “I wasn’t happy with it. We didn’t seem to get responses but now we are getting responses.”