WASHINGTON - After weeks of intense partisan fights, the House is showing it can come together on major legislation after all. Voting on its first big bill since the end of a 16-day partial government shutdown, House Republicans and Democrats acted in near unison, voting 417-3 to pass an $8.2 billion bill that sketches out plans for dams, harbors, river navigation and other water projects for the coming decade.
WASHINGTON — After weeks of intense partisan fights, the House is showing it can come together on major legislation after all.
Voting on its first big bill since the end of a 16-day partial government shutdown, House Republicans and Democrats acted in near unison, voting 417-3 to pass an $8.2 billion bill that sketches out plans for dams, harbors, river navigation and other water projects for the coming decade.
In doing so, the House brushed aside criticism from outside conservative groups, many of which backed the shutdown and opposed the water bill.
Lawmakers praised the legislation as a potential job creator and said it would allow vital infrastructure upgrades in waterways across the country to move forward.
“It’s a testament to the greatness of our system of government, despite what’s happened the last several weeks, that we can still work together on something like this,” said Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which wrote the bill.
Added House Speaker John Boehner, “It’s another example of the People’s House focusing on ways to strengthen our economy.”
To pass the bill, many conservative Republicans had to ignore FreedomWorks, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Heritage Action for America and seven other outside groups that wrote lawmakers in opposition to the bill, saying that it didn’t do enough to cut spending or block unneeded projects. Both FreedomWorks and Heritage Action had whipped up support for the government shutdown.
Some of the most-conservative members of the House not only voted for the measure but spoke on its behalf. They included Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who last week opposed a deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.
“Transportation is one of the few things Congress should actually spend money on,” said Massie, who was elected in the tea party wave of 2010.
Business groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, had pressured lawmakers to vote for the bill and highlighted its potential to create jobs.
The bill touches virtually every aspect of U.S. waterways. The legislation will allow work to advance on 23 shipping-channel, flood-management and other water projects that the Corps of Engineers already has studied, although money for the work will have to be provided in future legislation.
Among other projects, the bill gives the go-ahead to a more than $800 million flood-protection project in Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn.; a $461 million expansion of the Savannah, Ga., port; and spending up to $43 million for the San Clemente, Calif., shoreline.
The measure also increases the share of federal dollars for the Olmsted Lock and Dam project on the border between Illinois and Kentucky.