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National Water Research and Development Initiative Act of 2009

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC




Mr. ROSKAM. Mr. Chairman, in a nutshell, it's a fairly straightforward amendment. To briefly put it into context, it's trying to follow up on President Obama's inaugural address where he really challenged Congress and the American people to go through the Federal budget line by line, looking carefully at programs. I don't want to put words into the President's mouth, but if I were to paraphrase, I would say that part of the subtext of the challenge is to look where there is possible duplication, and that's what this amendment seeks to do. It respects the underlying legislation and says, well, if we're going to be doing this program--in other words, if we're going to be coordinating the Federal Government's approach to water problems--then let's do it in the context of clarity.

So here is what it says: We're going to have an amendment, and we're going to direct the GAO to do a study about the possible duplication of programs. In the interim, notwithstanding the passage of the bill, it's going to suspend the implementation date of the program to wait until the GAO comes back with the study. If the President finds that there are duplications, he can move forward and waive the underlying findings, but he has got to do it in a declarative way. In other words, he needs to affirmatively move forward and say, ``Look, I've evaluated these duplications, and on balance, I think we should do this,'' or maybe in the alternative he'll say, ``Let's not do it that particular way.''

There are only two programs that are specifically cited as sort of a heads-up to the GAO that they need to take a look at. One is the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which is a current program that the GAO says take a look at or that we tell the GAO to take a look at. The other is the State Water Resources Research Institute Program, which again is flagged, but notwithstanding that, it says to take a look at the other programs that are out there. If there is a duplication, bubble it up to the surface, and let's make a decision from there.

At this point, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. GORDON of Tennessee. Mr. Chairman, I claim time in opposition to the amendment.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Tennessee is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. GORDON of Tennessee. Mr. Chairman, I certainly appreciate the thrust of the gentleman from Illinois' amendment in terms of trying to stop the duplication of programs to save money. We need to be doing that every day. The irony is that this is what this bill does. This bill looks at the 20 agencies that invest in water research, and it coordinates that so we can get our best bang for the buck. It also helps to do away with that type of duplication.

So, as well-intended as the gentleman is, his amendment, I'm afraid, would be contrary to what he wants to accomplish. It would only slow down the process of this coordination and slow down the process of better utilizing our resources and saving that money. So it really is, again, with the best of intentions, but this amendment, I think, would counter that.

Not being a member of the committee, he did not have the benefit of the hearings that we had, of the roundtable discussions that we had, of all the input that we had, and I think that's the reason that he also might not be aware of the wide endorsements of this bill. This bill is endorsed by the National Beverage Association, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Water Innovation Alliance, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Water Environmental Research Foundation, the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, the Food and Water Watch, the Water Research Foundation, and the Alliance for Environmental and Clean Water Action.

Again, we tried to follow his advice and accomplish that, and I think this bill does and has, really, wide and active support. His amendment would only stop that implementation or it would slow it down, which would certainly be counter to his intentions.

I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. ROSKAM. Well, I thank the gentleman for his comments, Mr. Chairman.

I would just go to the underlying purpose of the legislation, as it's sort of the declared statement of the committee, which is to improve the Federal Government's role in designing and in implementing Federal water research, development, demonstration, data collection and dissemination, education, and technology transfer activities to address changes in the water use, supply and demand in the U.S., including providing additional support to increase water supply through greater efficiency and preservation.

There is one word that isn't in there, and that is the word ``duplication,'' and I think sometimes we all benefit from another perspective coming in. I respect greatly the expertise of the committee, but every once in a while, there's maybe another perspective that could come along that will say: You know what? In the great scheme of things, the pace at which Congress is moving and the pace at which programs are being put in place, let's hit the pause button here, and let's have the GAO go out and really span the spectrum because, in the underlying legislation, it is absolutely silent as to duplicative efforts.

So I accept the criticism at face value. It's a valid argument, but I think that this is an improvement. It's not meant to be an impediment, and clearly, it empowers the President of the United States to waive the finding. I think it's a simple, straightforward type of thing that's in spirit with the inaugural statement of the President.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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