A bill to allow private developers to expand the District of Columbia’s up-and-coming Southwest Waterfront neighborhood has hit a speed bump — and it’s not exactly clear why.
The legislation, by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), was withdrawn from the House agenda Monday. Lawmakers were set to clear the bill for the president’s signature under suspension of the rules, an expedited floor procedure typically reserved for noncontroversial measures.
But according to House GOP leadership aides, Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) requested that the bill be pulled.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which shares jurisdiction over the bill with Mica’s panel, said the Floridian wanted to take a closer look.
“Mr. Mica had some questions on whether it was an earmark or not,” Issa told Roll Call on Tuesday. “Mr. Mica had only seen the bill ... on Friday, so there hadn’t been time to vet his concerns. I talked to Ms. Norton, and I told her I expected we’d take care of it within two weeks.”
Mica didn’t publicly express a problem with the bill when it passed by voice vote in the House late last year, but Issa said the bill that the Senate passed in March included new language.
The amendment in question specifies that the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for upkeep of certain portions of the Southwest Waterfront, would be relieved of that duty should private firms develop those areas.
Norton, in a statement to Roll Call, said there’s no earmark. “The issue of earmarks has not been raised to us. ... The bill contains no spending authority, so there is no earmark,” she said.
Mica declined to comment.
The Southwest Waterfront is a burgeoning commercial and residential area that has been under D.C. jurisdiction since the 1960s. Because of pre-Home Rule Act restrictions, private developers have been limited in what they can do with the land.
Norton, who has described her legislation as “essential,” said it “updates outdated legislation and allows for the highest and best use of the land.”
It also would allow for the completion of a major redevelopment project that would create 2.5 million square feet of hotels, office space, retail and residences, a potentially significant source of revenue for the District.