This vote was on passage of H.R. 965, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network Continuing Authorization Act. The Chesapeake Bay Network was characterized by Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ), who was leading the support for making it permanent, as a “highly successful” program. It had been described by the Bush Administration as a “cooperative conservation success story.”' More than 10 million people annually visit one of the 166 gateway sites supported by the program. They kayak, canoe, hike, bike, picnic, hunt, fish, watch wildlife, or visit one of its maritime museums or historic sites.
The program had originally been authorized for funding for a five year period, and had received additional federal monies subsequent to that initial five year period. Rep. Grijalva noted that “a National Park Service special resource study concluded that a permanent commitment to the program would ensure its long-term viability and enhance the Chesapeake's status among America's national treasures.” He argued: “(K)eeping people connected and concerned about the Bay is vital to each step in restoring that great estuary . . . The Gateways Network does just that. This program is a proven success and should be permanently authorized.”
Rep. Hastings (R-WA) led the opposition to the measure. He first acknowledged that the gateways and watertrails program had “bipartisan support from the states surrounding the Chesapeake Bay.” Hastings then claimed that the bill “would extend the current Chesapeake Bay program forever without any constraints or limits on how much money can be spent on the program. (It) may be a popular program in the mid-Atlantic region of our country; yet I don't believe the Natural Resources Committee and this Congress should be in the habit of granting eternal life and unlimited sums of money to government programs.”
Hastings argued: “(B)ills creating or renewing government programs are typically renewed for a set period of time, usually 5 years, to ensure that there is accountability in these programs, there is a review of these programs, and to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not being misused, wasted, or unnecessarily spent. There is simply no reason to exempt this Chesapeake Bay program from a periodic review of 5 years . . . .”
The legislation passed by a vote of 311-107. Two hundred and forty-six Democrats and sixty-five Republicans voted “aye”. All one hundred and seven “nay” votes were cast by Republicans. As a result, the House passed and sent on to the Senate the bill providing for a permanent federal commitment to the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network.