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Honorable Mark Sanford

Representing the 1st District of South Carolina

Vote Notes: H.R. 8, Water Resources Development Act of 2018

Jun 6, 2018
Blog Post

Two thoughts on the Water Resources Development Act of 2018, or WRDA, that passed just a few minutes ago.

It’s a bill that updates and modernizes our nation’s water infrastructure by making targeted changes to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It authorizes and deauthorizes water projects nationwide, and I voted yes on the bill that passed 408 to 2.

The bill is in fact one of the few remaining pieces of legislation handled through “regular order,” which means that it goes through the traditional subcommittee and committee structure in the formulation of the bill. It’s not an idea that’s handed down from on high with leadership; it begins with rank-and-file proposals and amendments to make the base bill. This alone is almost reason enough to vote for it, given the way that “regular order” has become an anomaly in the political process of Washington these days. Furthermore, the bill was actually offset - in plain English, paid for - by including deauthorizations of existing projects that had been on the books. 

My two thoughts are as follows:

One, I had an amendment that passed and was incorporated in the base bill that was important to us in South Carolina as taxpayers and the Port in Charleston in its work to complete the harbor deepening. I describe my amendment in the second half of the video, but the long and short of it is that if you put extra money in to a federal project, you shouldn’t be penalized for it at the state level. This amendment made sure that we were held harmless as South Carolina taxpayers in advancing money to speed the project and save federal and state taxpayers money in doing so.

Two, the bill had a number of reforms that I think are vital to improving the way in which we do water infrastructure projects going forward. I talk about these in the first half of the video.

One of these, in shortest form, entails a new look at the cost-benefit analysis that now goes into federal projects. As is currently configured, a project that receives 100% federal dollars is advantaged over federal partnerships with state and local governments. This makes zero sense if you want to leverage scarce federal dollars. 

It also takes a look at whether or not the Corps of Engineers even belongs in the Department of Defense. Think about that. General Mattis has to think about North Korea, China, Iran...and a wetland permit in Beaufort County. That last item doesn’t fit tightly within the scope of activity handled by the DoD...and I think it’s legitimate to ask whether or not the civilian function might be better handled by a civilian-driven cabinet agency like Interior or the Department of Transportation.

One other point worth noting is that the bill began to open up a variety of non-federal sponsors in originating these water projects, and I think that flexibility is important because the authorization process as it now stands has proven to be something of a bottleneck.

The bottom line is you can find details on the bill here - 
https://transportation.house.gov/uploadedfiles/wrda_packet_updated_6-6-18.pdf, and I think that we all ought to be looking for more in the way of bills that stick to the process of bottom-up legislating, are paid for, and are ultimately rooted in making our country more competitive as a nation.