Congress has overwhelming approved the $12.3 billion Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), with Senate approval coming on National Maritime Day (May 22). The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.
The compromise measure provides funds for a variety of waterway construction and repair projects, including dredging operations for several East Coast ports to prepare for the larger vessels expected when the Panama Canal expansion opens sometime next year. The measure also provides dollars for badly needed dredging and other efforts along the Great Lakes.
“This is good news for us,” proclaimed MTD Vice President Scott Winter. “The bipartisanship demonstrated by our elected officials to advance a WRRDA bill is clear victory for organized labor, which will maintain approximately 30 million U.S. jobs and will facilitate future job growth in the maritime industry.
“WRRDA and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund provide good-paying jobs with benefits, which will cultivate a robust future economy and maritime industry,” added Winter, who also serves as president and business manager of IUOE Local 25 Marine Division. “Additionally, WRRDA saves American tax dollars by controlling cost by means of eliminating government waste through responsible reform.”
Many on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress praised the bipartisan nature of the bill. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said the measure “will help create jobs, will help strengthen our economy.” From the Democratic side, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia stated, “This legislation is a reminder that given a chance to work together in a bipartisan fashion, we can produce results for the American people.”
In the Senate, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who was the lead sponsor of the measure, noted, “This is a bill that rises above partisan politics.” She was joined by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who said, “It’s a jobs bill that is very much needed in our weak economy. It’s what we need to do more of.”
The House voted 412-4 in favor of the measure on May 20. The Senate followed with a 91-7 vote two days later.
WRRDA would fund approximately 36 projects across the country that includes dredging, flood control, hurricane recovery and environmental restoration. The bill changes the way major U.S. shipping projects can be funded by allowing ports to pay the cost to deepen harbors, then seek reimbursement from the federal government once that project is authorized by lawmakers. It also frees some of the dollars in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for its intended use. WRRDA is the first major waterways bill passed by Congress in seven years.