The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), or H.R. 1495, offers
more evidence that Members of Congress have abandoned their pledge
to get spending under control. Due to egregious spending and a
plethora of new earmarks, the conference report inflates the bill's
price tag by 53 percent.
Former Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman
promised that a presidential veto would result from these excesses.
Though the conference report passed both chambers with a high
margin of votes, the President should remain firm. By vetoing the
bill, he would save taxpayers money while sending Congress an
important message about fiscal responsibility.
A Bad Bill Made Worse
The bill has two key problems that merit a presidential veto:
excessive spending and the use of federal tax dollars to fund state
and local responsibilities.
The original House and Senate versions of the bill would have
cost taxpayers $15 billion and $14 billion, respectively, and
included a slew of pet projects. Both amounts vastly exceeded the
President's original request of $4.9 billion. Rather than split the
difference, creative conferees threw open the barn doors to even
more egregious spending and "airdropped" earmarks. The final bill
now costs more than $23 billion.
The larger price tag is largely the result of a slew of
questionable earmarks. While most projects in the Army Corps of
Engineers budget undergo a thorough cost-benefit analysis, many of
the earmarks were won by lobbyists working on behalf of special
interests representing beach-front property owners. The WRDA includes
the following "beach nourishment" projects: $63 million for Lido
Key Beach in Sarasota, Florida; $21 million for Imperial Beach,
California; and $10.6 million for Pawley Island, South
In addition, many of the projects in the bill fall outside the
primary mission of the Army Corps of Engineers and ought to be
rejected. While the Corps is intended to pursue projects such as
facilitating commercial navigation and mitigating storm damage, the
bill would spend: $20 million for sewer overflow infrastructure in
Atchison, Kansas; $15 million for wastewater infrastructure in
Willmar, Minnesota; and $5 million for drinking water
infrastructure for the Village of Kyrias-Joel, New York.
Wastewater, drinking water, and sewer infrastructure projects
are ordinarily funded at the state and local level. WRDA shifts
these costs onto federal taxpayers, most of whom will never see,
use, or benefit from the projects.
Why the President Should Veto the Bill
Congress started the year with a pledge to uphold fiscal
discipline. WRDA is yet another abandonment of that pledge-along
with the farm bill, the fiscal 2008 appropriations bills, and the
dramatic expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance
With a showdown looming between Congress and the White House
over appropriations bills, a veto of WRDA would send an important
signal: True fiscal responsibility requires spending discipline on
every piece of legislation, not just the 12 annual spending bills.
WRDA is a prime example of legislation run amok; it is filled with
excessive spending that is outside the scope of the legislation.
Federal taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for the demands
of special and parochial interests. A veto would affirm the
President's commitment to spending discipline and would remind
Members of Congress about their promises of fiscal
Nicola Moore is Research Coordinator for, and Alison
Acosta Fraser is Director of, the Thomas A. Roe Institute for
Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
Utt, "The Water Resources Development Act of 2007: A Pork Fest for
Wealthy Beach-Front Property Owners," WebMemo
May 15, 2007, at www.heritage.org/Research/Budget/wm1458.cfm.