May 29, 2018

A Model for Congress: The Water Resources Development Act

“Bill Dies in Committee”

“Partisanship Derails Reform Bill”

“Congress Passes Bill Authored Behind Closed Doors”


Are you tired of reading headlines like these? Thanks to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) and the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committees, you won’t have to – this time around, at least.

The Committees’ each passed a Water Resources Development Act of 2018 proving that Congress can do its job the right way: in a bipartisan fashion, through regular order, and in a timely manner.

The Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (WRD) authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain the nation’s water infrastructure. This means improvements to seaports, waterways, dams, flood protection systems, and more. The legislation, according to its House sponsor, T&I Chairman Bill Shuster, “is vital to moving goods throughout the country, from the products we all use in our daily lives, to the crops, resources, and goods we produce locally and send overseas in foreign commerce.”

The legislation comes at a critical time. With President Trump’s infrastructure plan stalled, Congress is using the committee process to ensure that progress is still made to protect our nation’s infrastructure, a process which was bolstered by the 2014 version of the bill.

In 2014, the WRDA included a transparent system for a true bottom-up approach to creating the legislation. First, infrastructure projects are proposed at the local level. The Army Corps of Engineers then weighs the proposals against congressionally required criteria and delivers a detailed report to Congress, laying out information on current proposals and providing analysis on what is still needed. This report, which is publicly available, is used by Congress as a roadmap to writing the new legislation.

Armed with input from the Army Corps of Engineers, both Committees held public markups of the bills, made changes from both sides of the aisle, and passed the measure out of committee. WRDA is a prime example of Congress working well with government groups, the public, and itself. Its use of carefully researched and well debated solutions makes it a model for the Congress of Tomorrow.

EPW Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) praised the bipartisan cooperation that made the bill possible.  “The bipartisan America’s Water Infrastructure Act makes long-overdue investments in the water systems that touch nearly every American community. Investing in our water infrastructure will grow our economy and help create jobs right here at home. I’m grateful to Chairman Barrasso, as well as Senators Inhofe and Cardin, for their work on this bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Army Corps and make smart investments for the future of our economy.”

The two proposals now move to their respective chambers and then, time permitting, into a conference committee to iron out differences between the House and Senate. We look forward to not just enactment of the proposal but further demonstration that Congress can function as its founders intended – through an open, collaborative and bipartisan process.

Is Congress Working for You?