This vote was on a motion by Rep. Hastings (R-WA) to recommit to committee H.R. 965, the bill providing for a permanent federal commitment to the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network. The motion would also have added language to the bill preventing it from becoming effective until the deficit is less than $1 trillion.
The Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network was characterized by Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ), who was leading the support for the bill, as a “highly successful” program. The Network 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.
Rep. Hastings, speaking in support of his motion to recommit the bill, acknowledged that the program had “bipartisan support from the states surrounding the Chesapeake Bay.” Hastings said that the additional language he proposed was intended to add “a small, small measure of fiscal discipline.” He also argued that “with unemployment approaching 10 percent, with upside-down mortgages and with homeowners facing foreclosure, I think it is hardly time to add eternal life and unlimited money to a very nice but unnecessary federal program at a time when we are contemplating adding several massive new government programs such as health care . . . .”
Hastings added, “it might be time to pause and consider the difference between things we need and things that we merely want. Of course, additional water trails and interpretive centers are nice to have, but increasing their numbers is not a necessity at this time. I am not opposed to them, by the way, but I am not prepared to support a law that says that this particular earmark program must be extended for all time with unlimited funds regardless of the deficit . . . I think that restraint is badly needed.”
Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) opposed the motion. He first argued that its wording “doesn't tell us who would have the certification power or how we would meet the standard that the (deficit is one trillion dollars) . . . It's like saying we on the Republican side ran up a huge deficit. Now we want to penalize this one little program until you clean up the mess.” Grijalva then asked, rhetorically, “(W)hy this program? Why not a program that was done this morning during the Natural Resources Committee meeting where the sponsor of the motion to recommit (Rep. Hastings) had legislation that passed for a road which runs through his district? Should we put the same standard on that legislation?
Grijalva concluded his remarks by arguing that the additional language the motion was attempting to add “is arbitrary . . . While it attempts to score political points, it also, if passed, jeopardizes a very valuable resource that, if not restored and protected through the legislation, will cause disastrous economic, environmental, cultural, and health consequences--bad consequences for the Mid-Atlantic and for the nation as a whole.”
The motion was defeated by a vote of 194-229. One hundred and seventy-five Republicans and nineteen Democrats voted “aye”. All two hundred twenty-nine “nay” votes were cast by Democrats. As a result, the House moved immediately to vote on final passage of the bill providing for a permanent federal commitment to the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network.