H.R. 1145, the National Water Research and Development Initiative Act of 2009, was designed to promote the coordination of various federal research, development, and management efforts in dealing with national water needs. The Act had bipartisan support. This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Roskam (R-IL) that would have directed the General Accountability Office (“GAO”) to identify whether there is duplication in federal water research and development programs. It also would have suspended the implementation of any programs created by H.R. 1145, which GAO identified as duplicating other federal water efforts, pending the final results of that study.
Rep. Roskam (R-IL) claimed he was “trying to follow up on President Obama's inaugural address where he really challenged Congress and the American people to go through the Federal budget line by line, looking carefully at programs.” Roskam said that he thought the President wanted Congress to “look where there is possible duplication, and that's what this amendment seeks to do.” Roskam went on to say that the intent of the amendment is to bring clarity to the coordination of federal water programs.
Rep. Hall (R-TX), who supported the Water Research and Development Initiative Act, but had previously raised some concerns about it, spoke in support of the amendment. He said it focuses on “the duplication that exists among Federal agencies involved in water research efforts . . . to streamline these efforts. “
Rep. Gordon (D-TN), who was leading the support for H.R. 1145, opposed the amendment. He said Rep. Roskam was “well-intended”, but argued that the bill already included provisions to accomplish what the amendment would do. Gordon noted that the bill “looks at the 20 (federal) agencies that invest in water research, and it coordinates them so we can get our best bang for the buck. It also helps to do away with . . . duplication.” As a result, claimed Gordon, passage of the amendment “would only slow down the process of this coordination and slow down the process of better utilizing our resources and saving that money.” He emphasized that this delay could cause severe problems because 40 states were currently facing, or were projected to be facing, severe water problems over the next five years.
Roskam responded that his amendment was not meant to impede action and added: “(I)n the great scheme of things, the pace at which Congress is moving and the pace at which programs are being put in place, let's hit the pause button here, and let's have the GAO go out and really span the spectrum because, in the underlying legislation, it is absolutely silent as to duplicative efforts. “
The amendment failed by a vote of 194-236. All one hundred and seventy-five Republicans and nineteen of the Democrats voted “aye”. All 236 “nay” votes were cast by Democrats. As a result, language was not added to the Water Research and Development Initiative directing the General Accountability Office to identify whether there is duplication in federal water research and development programs.