This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) that would increase funding by $6.36 million for dredging activities by the Army Corps of Engineers (in which sediment is removed from waterways in order keep them navigable)—and would simultaneously cut $6.36 million from the Corps’ administrative expenses account. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Energy Department programs and the Army Corps of Engineers in fiscal year 2012.
Scalise urged support for his amendment: “Why is this important? Number one, it's a critical jobs issue. Because as we just saw a few weeks ago, prior to some of the record levels of flooding…we saw they had to roll back, just in my region of the New Orleans area, they had to roll back some of the depth that they were allowed to transport on the Mississippi River. This cost about $1 million per vessel, added costs to move commerce throughout our country. Not only does that cost jobs, but it also increases the cost of goods for Americans who buy those products. But it also increases the costs of exporting. And it makes our American companies less competitive in the world. And of course right now this Congress, the President, we're working together to try to reach trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. And I support more trade, free trade, the ability for more American employers to be able to sell their goods throughout the world, to actually create more jobs in America. But if we're going to do that, we've got to have the proper dredging going on to allow for that commerce along our waterways.”
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) opposed Scalise’s amendment: “I share the gentleman's concern for sufficiently maintaining our waterways as necessary to realizing the national economic benefits of efficient cargo transportation. Representing, as I do, part of New Jersey, which is highly dependent on the Port of New York and New Jersey, I am well aware that navigation and money for navigation and dredging is absolutely essential, and I am highly sympathetic to the gentleman from Louisiana for all of the historical things that have impacted Louisiana's economy and so many people down there….Navigation needs are not the only important issues addressed in our bill, however. Increased funding for this programmatic line even further would upset the careful balance of priorities that I have spoken of earlier, including national defense, which is a major component of why we even have a Department of Energy, and nuclear safety, energy innovation and, of course, the great work of the Army Corps, the water resources needs. So, therefore, reluctantly I must oppose the gentleman's amendment.”
The House agreed to Scalise’s amendment by a vote of 241-168. Voting “yea’ were 182 Republicans and 59 Democrats. 118 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 50 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would increase funding by $6.36 million for dredging activities by the Army Corps of Engineers--but would cut $6.36 million from the Corps’ administrative expenses account. In order for this amendment to become law, however, it would have to pass the Senate.