WASHINGTON – A bill authorizing $475 million for waterway projects in Maryland will become law after the Senate voted Thursday to override President Bush’s veto of the legislation.
The Senate voted 79-14, well more than the two-thirds majority needed to override, in favor of the nationwide $23.2 billion plan. The House overwhelmingly voted to override Tuesday, 361-54.
Maryland Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin both voted to save the bill from a veto.
“By a strong bipartisan majority, this Congress has stood up to the president and said we need to reinvest in America,” Cardin said in a joint statement with Mikulski. “This bill will help protect our nation against devastating floods, authorize new pollution control programs and restore important natural habitat.”
Maryland waterway projects are now authorized for future Army Corps of Engineers work, including $30 million to reduce nitrogen flow into the Chesapeake Bay from the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant and $10 million for the restoration of Smith Island.
The law also opens the door to funding increases for Cumberland flood control, restoration of the C&O Canal and environmental and protection programs for the bay.
“This bill provides a significant federal investment in flood protection and stands up for the lives and livelihoods that depend on the waterways of Maryland and the nation,” Mikulski said in the statement.
Proponents of the Water Resources Development Act repeatedly reminded opponents Thursday that the water bill only authorizes projects, but doesn’t provide money.
“We will have fights over the appropriations bill about how much money should be spent, but we should never fight,” over authorization, said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.
About 70 percent of projects will receive funding, said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe promised to fight against some of the appropriations to keep spending conservative.
The vote was largely nonpartisan. Two Democrats voted against overturning the veto with 12 Republicans.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., voted to uphold the veto because he wanted more oversight for the Corps. Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri also voted for the veto because she said Senate funding of Corps projects is too secretive.
This was the fifth veto issued by Bush, and the first override of his tenure. The last override came in 1998, when Congress overturned President Clinton’s veto of a military spending bill.