What: All Issues : Environment : Clean Water/Water Conservation : Water Resources Development Act (H.R. 1495)/Motion to recommit with instructions to amend the bill to require the secretary of the Army to promote the use of hydroelectric power and prevent the removal of dams for environmental purposes
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Water Resources Development Act (H.R. 1495)/Motion to recommit with instructions to amend the bill to require the secretary of the Army to promote the use of hydroelectric power and prevent the removal of dams for environmental purposes
house Roll Call 233     Apr 19, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Progressive

This vote was on an amendment to legislation authorizing almost $15 billion over the next five years for backlogged Army Corps of Engineers public works projects. Republicans sought to amend the bill to require the secretary of the Army to inventory, develop and maintain hydroelectric projects and make it difficult to remove hydroelectric dams for any reason, including for environmental purposes.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) proposed the amendment in the form of a motion to recommit. A motion to recommit with instructions seeks to send the bill back to committee for the purpose of making specific changes, in this case adding language requiring the secretary of the Army (who oversees the Army Corps of Engineers) to prioritize the development and maintenance of hydropower.

Walden said he offered the proposal because of "the issue of global warming and America's energy independence," as hydropower creates virtually no greenhouse gas emissions.

The amendment would require the Army secretary to quantify the effects of removing a particular dam on the costs of energy to consumers, as well as how much energy would need to be imported in order to replace it.

Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) rose to oppose the amendment on several grounds, the first of which being an agreement between Democrats and Republicans within his committee to not take action on new items that were not already included in a version of the legislation that was proposed in the previous congressional session.

"This proposal is not only new, but it is massive, it is huge, it is not a study of potential effects," Oberstar continued. "The language at the very outset prohibits any action that may be proposed, as is being considered along the Snake River, to remove dams for environmental purposes.

"This motion goes well beyond the intent of the Water Resources Development Act. It goes beyond the bipartisan agreement we have in bringing this bill to the floor. It authorizes unlimited projects without consideration of environmental impacts or consideration of taxpayer expense," Oberstar concluded, adding that the committee could consider Walden's proposal in future legislation.

A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's last chance to make substantive changes to a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. As such, votes on motions to recommit are usually party-line affairs, and this was no exception. Republicans unanimously supported the motion, and Democrats unanimously opposed it. Thus, on a vote of 194 to 226, the House rejected a Republican move to send a water projects infrastructure bill back to committee with instructions to include an amendment that would have required the secretary of the Army to prioritize hydropower projects, and a bill to authorize almost $15 billion worth of public works projects by the Army Corps of Engineers went forward without the requirement that would have prevented the removal of dams for environmental purposes.

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