This was a vote on passage of legislation to ratify a water rights settlement between the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the state of Arizona, and local governments. The bill was one of three water settlement measures considered by the House as a package. As part of the settlement, the bill would authorize federal funding for the construction of a rural water system to deliver water to tribal lands.
While an "authorization" of funding is part of the process by which the government spends money, it cannot actually result in an expenditure without further Congressional action. After funding is authorized, it must then be "appropriated." Only after appropriations legislation is enacted can the government actually spend money.
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) praised the bill, arguing it would end decades of litigation and provide a stable water supply for tribe: "The waters of the White Mountain Apache Reservation feed to the Salt River of Arizona. The Salt River is a primary water source for the metropolitan area of Phoenix, Arizona, along with thousands of acres of agricultural land. Coming to closure on water rights is imperative to protect the water supply for thousands of people in Arizona. Equally important is the fulfillment of commitments made to the White Mountain Apache people to provide them a clean reliable water supply, and to repair their irrigation system, which has fallen into disrepair."
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) argued that the bill was fiscally irresponsible -- particularly when considering the total cost of all three bills combined: "I will just add one other point. And that is that these three bills have a cost to the taxpayer of a half a billion dollars, $500 million. And there certainly is an unrest in this country as to what this Congress has done in a fiscal manner. This is small. We are talking about millions, when other programs we are talking about in this Congress unfortunately total trillions. But if we need to get our house in order, this is simply something that we need to have more information on before we pass judgment on it."
The House passed the bill by a vote of 262 to 147. 243 Democrats and 19 Republicans voted "yea." 143 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House passed legislation to ratify a water rights settlement between the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the state of Arizona, and local governments.