House passes water projects bill with Savannah funds in it

The U.S. House passed an $8.2 billion bill Wednesday evening to authorize funding for water infrastructure projects that include the dredging of the Savannah harbor, a project for which Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed have been lobbying the Obama administration.

The House will now have to work out differences between its measure and the version of the water bill passed by the Senate, which totals $12.5 billion, before it could go to President Obama for his consideration.

Georgia has already committed $231 million toward the Savannah project and the bill passed Wednesday would authorize $662 million for the harbor dredging, which would mean a federal contribution of $431 million.

The vote to pass the bill was 417-3, with all of the state’s Republican and Democratic House members voting in favor of it.

Georgia’s Republicans voted for the massive spending bill just one week after they voted against a resolution that authorized funds to stop the government shutdown – in part because they said the measure would result in too much spending and add to the federal deficit.

One of the most dramatic reversals was that of Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger), who emphasized his opposition to budget earmarks that fund pork barrel projects when he was first elected to Congress in 2010.

Graves said this in November 2010 about the use of earmarks to pay for federal projects: “Tainted by backroom corruption and reckless expenditures, the earmark process has churned up cynicism and distrust for far too long. My constituents in Georgia deserve better.”

More recently, Graves said: “It is time Congress lived within its means and made the tough decisions to balance this nation’s checkbook — the same way everyone else does — don’t spend more than you take in.”

The water projects bill, however, could be considered a classic example of the kind of pork barrel spending on special projects that Graves was denouncing just three years ago.

Here’s what Graves said after voting Wednesday to pass the bill that could add anywhere from $8.2 billion to $12.5 billion to the deficit: “I applaud the Georgia delegation for working together to secure this victory for our constituents.”

A similar change in attitude towards federal spending was expressed by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Sharpsburg).

After voting last week against the bill to reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling, Westmoreland said: “I have made it clear I would not support any legislation to raise the nation’s debt ceiling unless it included significant and immediate cuts to federal spending or real reforms to our entitlement programs that are the true drivers of our debt. We cannot continue to ignore the problem of spending that has led to a $17 trillion debt.”

After voting Wednesday for a bill that would add at least $8.2 billion in new federal spending, Westmoreland said: “I am so proud that our state’s delegation worked tirelessly together to make sure that the Water Resources Reform and Development Act included funding to deepen the Savannah port so we can remain an integral part of our country’s shipping industry.”

Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Gwinnett County) said this after voting last week against the bill to end the shutdown: “American government will continue without change, federal spending will continue on without change, and federal borrowing will increase to more than $17 trillion. Our children deserve so much better.”

He was singing a different tune after voting to spend at least $8.2 billion on water projects: “Today’s bill is not perfect, but it absolutely moves us in the right direction for water infrastructure planning. The bill is critical to Georgia because it both clears the final hurdles for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project — arguably the largest economic development and job creation initiative in the state.”

© 2013 by The Georgia Report


Tags: Lynn Westmoreland , Nathan Deal , Rob Woodall , Savannah harbor , Tom Graves , water projects bill