What: All Issues : Labor Rights : General Union Rights : H. Res. 229, providing for consideration of a bill (H.R. 720) to authorize funds for state water pollution control/On agreeing to the resolution (2007 house Roll Call 132)
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H. Res. 229, providing for consideration of a bill (H.R. 720) to authorize funds for state water pollution control/On agreeing to the resolution
house Roll Call 132     Mar 09, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Win

The resolution outlined the rules for debate for legislation to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to authorize $14 billion over the next 5 years to local agencies to fight water pollution, and an additional $2 billion from fiscal 2008 through 2012 for three other existing clean-water Environmental Protection Agency programs.

State and locals governments pressed Congress to reauthorize the revolving fund, which matches federal and state contributions to provide low-interest loans for construction of wastewater treatment facilities and other projects designed to reduce pollution.

The rules for debate include how much floor time is granted to each side and which amendments are considered in order. The resolution is thus commonly known as the rules package.

Republicans opposed the rules package because the Democratic-controlled Rules Committee proposed what's known as a "closed rule," meaning that only the amendments pre-approved by the panel would get an up-or-down vote on the floor. The six amendments pre-approved by the Rules Committee included three each to be offered by Republicans and Democrats.

The bill was opposed by the White House and many House Republicans because it included language expanding the scope of federal prevailing-wage requirements. Republicans wanted to offer more amendments than were allowed to strip or alter this provision. Republicans opposed Democratic attempts to expand the scope of the Davis-Bacon wage law, which mandates that workers on federally-funded construction projects receive locally prevailing wages and benefits. The legislation would expand the reach of that law to include wastewater construction projects paid for with non-federal funds. The White House threatened to veto the bill because of the wage provision.

Democrats said the language was pro-family and pro-worker, and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said the provision was "fair and appropriate."

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said the provision would actually hurt the very people Democrats said they were trying to protect - the least advantaged - because their communities would not be able to afford the projects with the Davis-Bacon wage requirements. "If you support fiscal responsibility, small business, States' rights, rural communities, women- and minority-owned businesses, and the environment, you will join with me in opposing this rule," Sessions said.

Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) complained that the Rules Committee did not allow his amendments to exempt certain rural and disadvantaged communities from the Davis-Bacon requirements and to give "our small communities a chance to access these funds."

"Sure, we don't agree on Davis-Bacon, and having an up-and-down vote is fine, but that is a political vote. We are all frozen in our positions," Boustany said. "But we could have taken a chance to protect our small and disadvantaged communities by creating some exemptions.

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) said that just the opposite is true. "The Davis-Bacon Act prevents lower-cost out-of-state contractors from having an unfair ability to compete for local publicly funded construction, which protects local interests and construction workers."

The rules for debate passed on a party-line vote, 229-179, with nine Republicans joining all but two Democrats present in voting for the resolution. Thus, a measure outlining the rules for debate for a bill to authorize funds for state water pollution control passed the House, making way for the legislation to move to the floor.

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