Let us examine the WRDA Bills of 2000 and 2007. WRDA 2000 contained 247 projects at a score of $5.1 billion over 15 years. WRDA 2007 contained 751 projects at a score of $23.2 billion over 15 years. WRDA 2000 contained 39 new project authorizations. WRDA 2007 contained 47 new project authorizations. WRDA 2000 was a one-year bill, just as Congress had passed a one-year bill in 1999. WRDA 2007 now accounts for seven years worth of infrastructure authorizations. WRDA 2000 contained 29 new projects. WRDA 2007 contains an average of seven new projects over 15 years.
The point is that the WRDA Bill, which is an authorization, contains a whole series of strict criteria which the appropriators must consider. Projects must have a favorable report from the Army Corps of Engineers. This is known as the Chief’s Report. The Chief’s Report demonstrates that a project is:
a) Technically feasible.
b) Economically justified.
c) Environmentally acceptable.
d) Projects must not waive the local cost sharing.
e) A Senator from the State receiving the project must request the project.
70% of the Chief’s Reports authorized projects in WRDA 2000 received funding but many received far less than was authorized.
This is the critical matter. Without WRDA, the Appropriation Committee maintains the power to legislate on appropriations measures without almost no restraint. Language in the WRDA Conference Report provides the basis to challenge unauthorized earmarks by simply enforcing Senate rules. This authorization legislation is an important discipline against uncontrolled earmarking.
Senator James M. Inhofe (R-OK) is a dynamic leader in supporting the 2007 WRDA Bill, which the Senate passed 81-12, the House 381-40. He wants to preserve the authorization and appropriations system which has worked well since inception. Some conservative and other organizations are against the Conference Report because of its projected expense. President Bush has stated that he would veto the Bill. These and other conservative groups applaud the President. That is most unfortunate. If President Bush cares about how Congress operates, he would not veto the Bill. By vetoing this measure Bush would set a precedent for a disaster in this Congress and in Congresses to come.