By Bobby Frederick, Director of Legislative Affairs and Public Policy
The House passed legislation (H.R. 2740) on June 19 combining four appropriations bills — commonly referred to as a “minibus” — totaling nearly $1 trillion in spending. The bill would fund the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Defense, State and Energy. The legislation passed by a vote of 226-203, with no Republicans supporting the measure.
The bill includes critical funding for the inland waterways transportation system, including $7.36 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This amount includes a record $2.34 billion for inland waterway project construction and $3.92 billion for operations and maintenance. With respect to funding for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), the legislation also goes above and beyond the spending levels set by the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRDA) of 2014. The House-passed bill includes $1.697 billion for harbor dredging and maintenance work at U.S. ports. The legislation also allows for full use of the receipts the U.S. Treasury estimates will be collected by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.
Finally, the committee report accompanying the legislation included language recognizing the importance of advancing the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) for the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway. The NGFA will continue to actively communicate with both Congress and the Corps about the importance of ensuring that NESP receives critical preconstruction engineering design work necessary to bring the project and its expanded 1,200-foot lock capacity to fruition.
The House continues work today (June 21) on a second minibus appropriations bill that includes funding for the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Transportation. Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to mark up any of its 12 appropriations bills, as it is in a holding pattern to see if a budget agreement materializes in ongoing negotiations between congressional leaders and the White House.