Overwhelming Congressional Support of WRDA Sends Clear Message to President Bush: Don’t Veto This Important Infrastructure Bill

WASHINGTON, DC – Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, stated that today’s overwhelming bi-partisan vote in the Senate in favor of the conference report for the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA) (H.R. 1495) “sends a clear message to the President: don’t veto this critically important infrastructure bill.” The Senate vote of 81-12 follows House approval in August by a vote of 381-40. As the ranking member and former chairman of the Committee, Senator Inhofe has made passage of the WRDA bill a top priority. With Senate and House passage of the Conference Report, the bill now goes to the President for his consideration.
“Today’s overwhelming bi-partisan vote in favor of the WRDA bill in the Senate, and previously in the House, sends a clear message to the President: don’t veto this critically important infrastructure bill,” Senator Inhofe said. The WRDA bill, which is actually WRDA 2002, 2004, 2006 and now 2007 all rolled into one, is long overdue. I commend the hard work of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to complete work on this important bill that authorizes and modifies numerous critical projects in the areas of navigation, flood damage reduction, hurricane and storm damage reduction and environmental restoration in a reasonable and responsible manner.
“As the most fiscally conservative member of the United States Senate, as ranked by the American Conservative Union, I have long argued that the two most important functions of the federal government are to provide for the national defense and to develop and improve public infrastructure.  That means I am not shy about voting for increased authorization and spending on national defense needs or public infrastructure.  Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 was one wake up call as to the tragic consequences of ignoring or shortchanging our nation’s infrastructure needs.  The bridge collapse in Minneapolis last month is another example of why we cannot take our aging infrastructure for granted.  Investments in infrastructure prior to any disasters can actually save us money.  For instance, during this summer’s flooding events in the Oklahoma-Texas-Arkansas region, Corps of Engineers projects prevented an estimated $5.4 billion in damages. We must be willing to spend sufficient taxpayer dollars to properly maintain, repair and replace our critical infrastructure. 
“At the same time, we certainly must spend limited taxpayer dollars wisely.  The way to ensure wise use of taxpayer dollars is to follow the full authorization-appropriations process.  The issue here is not about the WRDA bill, it’s about the authorization process.  Authorization is the best tool we have for keeping discipline over the annual appropriations process.  Without regularly enacted WRDA bills, the Appropriations Committee faces enormous pressure to use the annual spending bills to authorize and fund projects that haven’t gone through a full Congressional review.  The authorization committees, such as the Environment and Public Works Committee, should provide the first Congressional review, and that is what we have done with the WRDA bill before the Senate today.  Most Members would be quick to tell you that we certainly did not include every project request we received.  We reviewed each request and made a determination as to whether it merited authorization.  This bill allows certain projects to get in line for funding; it does not actually fund any projects.  Every day that goes by without enacting a WRDA bill is another day we allow unnecessary pressure to build on the appropriators to short-circuit the authorization-then-appropriations process.”