The House resumed debate on a FY 2012 appropriations bill funding the Army Corps of Engineers’ civil works program, with the expectation of passage in the next day or so. As reported by the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, the legislation (H,R. 2354) would provide $4,768,406,000 for construction and rehabilitation, operation and maintenance, and other Corps programs – $88,807,000 less than appropriated for FY 2011 but $195,406,000 more than the President requested.
When the legislation was marked up in the full Appropriations Committee, it approved an amendment by the subcommittee chairman, Congr. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (New Jersey), to add $1.028 billion in emergency funding to repair damages on the inland waterways system caused by recent flooding and to prepare for future disasters.
The cost of the Frelinghuysen amendment would be offset by the recission of “all unobligated balances of funds” previously approved for high-speed rail corridors and intercity passenger service. Congr. Peter J. Visclosky (Indiana), the subcommittee’s ranking minority member, objected to using the rail funds as an offset, but his counter-amendment was rejected.
As in previous years, the House report lists its recommendations for investigations, construction, O&M, and MR&T program, but because of the current earmark ban, the report included funding only for projects in the President’s budget – trimming funds for many of these projects without increasing spending for any projects.
To advance its “programmatic priorities,” the committee set up several reserves – or “pots of money,” as some are calling them – with funds trimmed from the President’s budget requests: $3.65 million from the investigations account, $243 million from construction (with $118.4 million allocated for “additional navigation” and $124.6 million for “additional flood and coastal storm damage reduction”) and $133.7 million from O&M (with $123.3 million allocated for additional navigation and $10.4 million for additional flood/storm damage reduction.
The committee provided criteria “by which the Corps is to evaluate and select specific projects” (within 45 days after enactment of FY 2012 appropriations) to fund within these allocations.
So far, there has been no action in the Senate on its companion appropriations bill. This is only the second time in the last four years that annual energy and water development appropriations legislation has reached the House floor. The House failed to consider bills funding the civil works program for FY 2011 and also for FY 2009.
As a result of the lack of Senate action and also because of fundamental differences between the House and Senate, many Washington observers believe Congress will fail to pass a FY 2012 civil works appropriations bill before the end of the current fiscal year, necessitating one or more “continuing resolutions” and perhaps ultimately an omnibus spending measure.