Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

House Earmarks Ban May Be Tested in Writing Water Bill

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Shuster says the Senate water bill gives too much power to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Aides in both parties say many of the Senate’s legislative provisions work for them. House Republicans, in particular, like many of the provisions to accelerate the Army Corps of Engineers’ review and planning processes. They are less happy about the bill’s project-selection process, which focuses on the work by the corps in preparing chief engineer’s reports.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer agreed the solution her committee devised was imperfect, but said she blamed the need to comply with the ban on earmarks.

“I’m from California. I know every nook and cranny better than some bureaucrat in Washington,” the Democratic senator told the Transportation Construction Coalition this week. But she said she was resigned to working within the parameters set by the House leadership and agreed to by President Barack Obama.

At a hearing Wednesday by the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, Chairman Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, reiterated Shuster’s concern about ceding too much legislative authority to the executive branch. He worried that the ready-to-go water projects with chief engineer’s reports currently pending before the corps are too skewed toward environmental mitigation projects, rather than port maintenance and expansion projects.

Likewise, Rep. Timothy H. Bishop of New York, the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, expressed disappointment that the earmark ban has left Congress with little influence over spending by the corps.

“Nothing could be more important for us to do,” Bishop said. “We have to find a way to address specific projects.”

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