(As Prepared for Delivery)

Mr. President, I rise today to oppose the President’s veto of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007.  I will be voting to override this veto and urge my colleagues to join me.  As everyone might imagine, I don’t take the decision to support overriding a veto by a President of my own party lightly.  So let me explain why I came to this decision.

As a staunch fiscal conservative, I have long argued that the two most important functions of the federal government are to provide for the national defense and to develop and improve public infrastructure.  That means I am not shy about voting for increased authorization and spending on national defense needs or public infrastructure.

This WRDA bill authorizes and modifies numerous critical projects in the areas of navigation, flood damage reduction, hurricane and storm damage reduction and environmental restoration.  The bill also includes many important policy provisions for the Army Corps of Engineers to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the current process.

The President’s veto message asserted that the bill “lacks fiscal discipline.”  In fact, enactment of this bill will constitute our best tool for enforcing fiscal discipline.  Let’s be clear – the WRDA bill is not a spending bill.  It is an authorizing bill that establishes which projects and programs are eligible for future funding, thereby setting a maximum limit on what can be appropriated in the future. 

There is a significant different between authorizing and appropriating.  In the Senate, there is a long history between the role of the authorizing committees and appropriations committee. 

The responsibilities of authorizing versus appropriating have actually been the subject of debate in the Senate since 1816, and the Senate has handled it in different ways which provides a good insight into what has worked and not.

In 1816, the Senate created the first 11 permanent standing committees to handle all legislative proposals.  It was not until 1867, that the Senate created the Appropriations Committee.  This was the first step the Senate took to separate authorizing and appropriating. 

In 1899, the Senate adopted a change to Rule 16 to remove most of the appropriation bills from its jurisdiction because the Appropriations Committee was enacting policy on how federal agencies internally operated.  Some senators argued that the Appropriations Committee was legislating on appropriations bills.  The Senate directed that certain authorizing committees would handle appropriations legislation for the issues within their jurisdiction.  This diminished the role of the Appropriations Committee in a number of areas.

In 1922, the Senate changed course again and adopted another change to Rule 16 to restore all general appropriations back under the Appropriations Committee, however, Senators adopted the text of Rule 16 which is intended to keep the Appropriations Committee from reporting an appropriation bill containing new or general legislation.  The Senate also created a point of order against legislating on appropriations bills. 

Let me give an example.  In the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which I am honored to sit, we go through all types of items, such as missile defense.  In these programs there is a boost phase, the midcourse phase, and the terminal phase.  We also may have two systems on each one. They are not redundant, but there are many people who say, maybe we should do away with that system because we can save this much money.

These systems are not redundant because they take care of an incoming missile from different areas with different technologies.  The authorizing committees are designed to have the professional staff to know the details of these systems and others. 

The same principle is true in my other committee, the Environment and Public Works Committee.  As it applies to this particular bill, the WRDA bill, we reviewed all project requests, numerous times in most cases, and concluded that these are the project that are legitimate needs that deserve to be allowed to get in line for future federal funding.

Authorizing performs a vital function.  In fact, I believe it can serve as the first line of defense on superfluous types of earmarking.  The importance of authorizing committees lies in their role as screeners of federal priorities.  The screening sets the priorities for future spending.

Without regularly enacted WRDA bills, the Appropriations Committee faces enormous pressure to use the annual spending bills to authorize and fund projects that haven’t gone through a full Congressional review.  The authorization committees, such as the Environment and Public Works Committee, should provide the first Congressional review, and that is what we have done with this WRDA bill. 

Mr. President, members throughout Congress liberal, conservative, Democrats, Republicans have come together on this bill.  I will close by reiterating my strong support for overriding the veto of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007.  I urge my colleagues to vote to enact this critically important infrastructure authorization bill.