Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Water Resources Development Act Uncertainty

Another legislative effort important to the waterways industry was waylaid by the House Republicans’ weeks-long failure to fill the vacant speaker post.
The latest casualty was work on the next Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

A key House subcommittee did not conduct its first hearing ahead of its WRDA effort as Republicans remained behind closed doors trying to nominate a speaker who could follow up with a victory on the House floor.

“The topic will be revisited at a later date,” stated the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Republican website.

Michael Connor, the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, commanding general and chief of Engineers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, were the two witnesses scheduled to testify at the hearing.

Announced by the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, the hearing was to have focused on evaluating past iterations of WRDA and determine the needs of future legislation.

Citing uncertainty, the National Waterways Conference advised its members interested in submitting studies, projects or policy proposals for consideration to initiate discussions with House members regarding their office’s process for vetting WRDA 2024 proposals.

In early October, H.R. 4394, the Energy and Water Development spending bill was teed up for House action when the unprecedented ouster of then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) brought legislative activity to a halt.

Speaker Elected

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), a relatively unknown four-term member of Congress, was elected the 56th speaker of the House, ending a chaotic three weeks that saw three previous Republican nominees fail.

“The urgency of this moment demands bold, decisive action to restore trust, advance our legislative priorities and demonstrate good governance,” Johnson said.
“Let’s get back to work.”

In addition to a daunting task of setting up an office and staff for the nation’s No. 3 constitutional official, the 51-year-old clearly faces a packed legislative schedule.
Both the House and Senate are behind schedule on the 2024 appropriations cycle, and the current stopgap funding measure keeping federal agencies open expires November 17.

After congratulating Johnson on his election, President Joe Biden called for swift action on his “historic” supplemental funding package that includes aid for Israel and Ukraine as well as money for border security.

Key Republicans have signaled Biden’s request for additional funding for Ukraine may have to be handled separately.

Johnson received 220 votes to become speaker compared to 209 for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

Previous Republican nominees for speaker include Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), both of whom dropped out before receiving a floor vote, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who failed three times to win a majority vote on the floor to take the gavel.

2024 Appropriations

Fiscal year 2024 appropriations finally took center stage again in both houses of Congress.

In the House, H.R. 4394, the Energy and Water and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which was delayed three weeks earlier with the ouster of then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), was taken up on the floor.

In the Senate, a bipartisan agreement was reached to proceed

with a three-bill minibus that includes Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Agriculture and FDA and Transportation and HUD measures.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicted his chamber would take about a week to work through as many as 40 amendments.

Schumer said senators already worked through the “vagaries” on “poison-pill amendments.”

Key House Democrats have warned the energy and water development bill in their chamber includes numerous poison pill policy riders and fails to provide adequate funding.

As currently written, they said, the measure will never receive bipartisan support and be signed into law.

Republicans defended their approach, calling it fiscally responsible.

NMSAC Meeting

The National Maritime Security Advisory Committee is scheduled to conduct a virtual meeting December 5 to discuss final recommendations on enhancing cyber security information sharing between the Coast Guard and Marine Transportation System (MTS) stakeholders.

Open to the public, the virtual meeting is set to begin at 1 p.m. EST.

A limited number of virtual lines will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, and pre-registration is required.

Comments should be submitted by December 1 to ensure they are received before the meeting and may be submitted via the preferred method at https://www.regulations.gov under docket number USCG–2023–0823.

For additional information on other methods to submit comments, preregistration and special accommodations, contact Ryan Owens at 202-302-6565 or ryan.f.owens@uscg.mil as soon as possible.