by Carlo Salzano
An hour after the Senate override, Dana Perino, White House press secretary, was asked for President Bush’s reaction to his first override. She said the White House “anticipated the override and we expected it, and the President is fine with being overridden on this bill.”
Perino said that the WRDA is “an authorization bill; not a penny goes out of the coffers to pay for any projects. It is a chance for members of Congress, from all areas of the country, from both sides of the aisle to come forward with their ideas for what they think would be the best project.”
In his veto message to Congress, Bush said that the bill lacked “fiscal discipline” and did not set “priorities.”
Bush said the House took a $15 billion bill into negotiations with a $14 billion bill from the Senate “and instead of splitting the difference, emerged with a Washington compromise that costs over $23 billion.” The president said that the bill’s “excessive authorization for over 900 projects and programs exacerbates the massive backlog of ongoing Corps (of Engineers) construction projects, which will require an additional $38 billion in future appropriations to complete.”
Several senators speaking in support of the override before the vote sought to make it clear that the bill merely authorized projects for which appropriations may or may not be approved some time in the future. No senator took the floor to speak in favor of the veto.
“The president’s veto was ill-advised,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The bill doesn’t spend a penny. It is not a spending bill.”
Sen. Kent Conrad, (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, repeated that the bill is “just an authorization bill. It’s not a bill that can spend a dime.”
Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) said the president had made “a mistake” by vetoing the bill. “It is not a spending bill,” Domenici added. The president will have an opportunity to veto funding for a project when it comes through in an appropriations bill.
After the House override vote, which Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, missed because he was recovering from neck surgery, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chairwoman of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, said, “This is a great day for the House of Representatives, because we stood together — Democrats and Republicans — to do the right thing.”
Oberstar and Johnson said the president’s veto was “simply irresponsible.” They said that the United States “cannot afford more setbacks on water resources issues and projects that are critical to our nation’s economy.”
Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, “respectfully disagreed” with the president’s veto.
Among other things, the bill authorizes about $1.9 billion to restore the Louisiana Coastal Area impacted by Hurricane Katrina and to help prevent future damage from hurricane and storm surge.
Furthermore, the bill authorizes $2 billion for small-scale and non-structural navigation improvements as well as $11 billion worth of navigation and other river projects, including construction of seven new 1,200-foot locks on the upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway System.
Several policy provisions, including independent peer review, are addressed in the bill. WRDA-2007 directs the Corps to undertake independent peer review of any project estimated to cost more than $45 million, or when a governor of an affected state requests it, or if the Chief of Engineers determines that the project will be controversial. WRDA-2007 also directs the Corps to update its Principles and Guidelines.
The Transportation Security Administration has begun enrolling applicants for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC).
The enrollment process began Oct. 16 at the Port of Wilmington (Del.). Enrollments began Nov. 1 in Corpus Christi; Nov. 7 in Honolulu, Baton Rouge and Tacoma; and Nov. 8 in Beaumont and Oakland.
The U.S. Coast Guard will publish a separate notice in the Federal Register indicating when port area facilities’ enrolling applicants must comply with the requirement that TWIC must be used to control unescorted access to a maritime facility. That notice will be published at least 90 days before compliance is required.
The House of Representatives has given unanimous approval to a resolution supporting America’s Waterway Watch program conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The program is designed to encourage a heightened sense of awareness among America’s 70 million boaters and others who live, work or engage in recreational activities around the waterways. The program urges waterway watchers to report suspicious and unusual activities to the Coast Guard National Response Center and other appropriate law enforcement agencies.
Among other things, the program educates the public on what is meant by suspicious activity and provides a toll-free telephone number, 877-24-WATCH, for the public to report such activity to prevent terrorism and other criminal acts.
The National Maritime Center has begun approving designated examiners for a period of five years instead of two to assess the competence of candidates for towing vessel licenses. The change, intended to help reduce the burden on the towing industry and the Coast Guard, applies to all original approvals and renewals that occurred on and after November 1, 2007.
The Center has approved almost 2,500 mariners to act as designated examiners since 2001. Mariners seeking approval to serve as designated examiners should send a written request to the National Maritime Center, 4200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 630, Arlington, Va. 22203. For information about what the request should include, contact the Center at 202-493-1159.
The Homeland Security Secretary has renewed the charter for the Towing Safety Advisory Committee for a period of two years, from Aug. 30, 2007 until Aug. 30, 2009.
The committee advises the U.S. Coast Guard on matters related to shallow-draft inland and coastal waterway navigation and towing safety.
For more information, contact Gerald Miante at 202-372-1401.
The Environmental Protection Agency and port officials in Seattle and Portland, Ore. lauded the Foss Maritime Co. for switching its tugs to ultra low sulfur diesel fuel from low sulfur diesel fuel to reduce air emissions in Elliott Bay, Puget Sound and the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
Gary Faber, president and COO of Foss Maritime, said that the fuel switch will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by about nine tons per year in the Seattle/Puget Sound region and eight tons per year in the two rivers, including Portland. Use of ultra low sulfur diesel by Foss also will reduce particulate matter by about a half ton a year in the two areas.