Mr. SCALISE. Mr. Chairman, this is a bipartisan amendment, worked on with Mr. Richmond and others, and it deals with dredging. You know, we've seen over the last few months a shift in the Corps of Engineers' policy. In years past, they've always reprogrammed millions of dollars, in many cases tens of millions of dollars, from other areas within their agency because they inadequately had initially funded dredging of our waterways. And of course, this is the lifeblood to moving commerce
throughout not only much of our country, but as we export to other countries throughout the world.
For whatever reason, the Corps made an internal decision earlier this year that they would no longer do that reprogramming, which jeopardizes much of the movements that we have along our waterways. This amendment is revenue-neutral. It doesn't add anything to the cost of the bill. But what it does is it takes money out of the general administration account, which actually saw an increase this year, moves it over into the general operations and maintenance section of the bill so that it allows
us at least additional revenues to go and properly dredge our waterways.
Why is this important? Number one, it's a critical jobs issue. Because as we just saw a few weeks ago, prior to some of the record levels of flooding, Mr. Chairman, we saw they had to roll back, just in my region of the New Orleans area, they had to roll back some of the depth that they were allowed to transport on the Mississippi River. This cost about $1 million per vessel, added costs to move commerce throughout our country. Not only does that cost jobs, but it also increases the cost of goods
for Americans who buy those products. But it also increases the costs of exporting. And it makes our American companies less competitive in the world.
And of course right now this Congress, the President, we're working together to try to reach trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. And I support more trade, free trade, the ability for more American employers to be able to sell their goods throughout the world, to actually create more jobs in America. But if we're going to do that, we've got to have the proper dredging going on to allow for that commerce along our waterways.
So if the Corps is allowed to go through with their policy of no more reprogramming, we know from what they've said, we know from what history's shown us that in years past they didn't have adequate amounts in their operations and maintenance for dredging, and so they have reprogrammed. Every year for years now that's been going on. And they've said this year they're no longer going to do it. So we would be sitting in a situation where we have to wait until some of our waterways are shut down
or until you saw vessels grounded, like we just saw a few weeks ago just in the New Orleans area because of their lack of dredging. And then we would lose more jobs, we would lose our ability to export more.
So what we are saying is, there is additional money in this fund, in the general administration fund. We know this is a looming problem if we don't address it. So let's move it somewhere where it will actually help us create jobs and remain competitive. And hopefully as those trade agreements move through Congress, where we now have more opportunities if those trade agreements move through to trade even more and to create more jobs in America, then our ability to move those goods through our
waterways would still be there. Because they won't if we are not properly dredging our waterways. So this amendment addresses that problem. And it's a problem we know is coming because the Corps themselves have said this is looming. So let's address it head on. Let's not wait until it's a crisis before we do something about it. That's why I bring the amendment, again an amendment with bipartisan support.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Unfortunately and reluctantly, I must oppose the gentleman from Louisiana's amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I share the gentleman's concern for sufficiently maintaining our waterways as necessary to realizing the national economic benefits of efficient cargo transportation.
Representing, as I do, part of New Jersey, which is highly dependent on the Port of New York and New Jersey, I am well aware that navigation and money for navigation and dredging is absolutely essential, and I am highly sympathetic to the gentleman from Louisiana for all of the historical things that have impacted Louisiana's economy and so many people down there.
In fact, a major factor in developing the recommendation for the Army Corps of Engineers' budget this year was to focus proportionately more funds on the projects and activities that contribute most to the economy and job creation, including dredging and other navigation improvements.
The underlying bill does not include, as we are aware, any congressional earmarks. Oftentimes these issues were dealt with through the earmark process. Rather, our bill provides the Army Corps of Engineers the flexibility to allocate programmatic funds to those navigation and flood control projects that it deems most critical, and we have the ability as individual Members of Congress to help the Corps focus on what we feel is most critical for their attention.
The Corps is required to report to Congress in our bill, within 45 days of enactment, on which projects were deemed most critical and why. Navigation needs are not the only important issues addressed in our bill, however. Increased funding for this programmatic line even further would [Page: H4806]
upset the careful balance of priorities that I have spoken of earlier, including national defense, which is a major component of why we even have a Department of Energy,
and nuclear safety, energy innovation and, of course, the great work of the Army Corps, the water resources needs.
So, therefore, reluctantly I must oppose the gentleman's amendment.
I withdraw my point of order.
The CHAIR. The gentleman withdraws his point of order.
Mr. WELCH. All right. I will just say it's news to most of us in Vermont. And, in fact, there is a big dispute about the relicensing of the current nuclear reactor we have.
But I appreciate the gentleman. Thank you.
I yield back the balance of my time.
The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Vermont (Mr. Welch).
The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes appeared to have it.
Mr. RICHMOND. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment of my colleague from across the aisle, in fact, my colleague from across town and our great State of Louisiana.
Not only is this amendment on time; it's on target, in terms of job creation and job retention in our great country.
The current cargo activity at the Port of New Orleans alone generates $2.8 billion in Federal taxes. The future and livelihood of farmers and manufacturers in 30 States that depend on the Mississippi River to get their goods to market, that's 60 percent of all U.S. grain exports in this country flows through the Port of New Orleans.
Our industrial heartland desperately needs the Mississippi River. The steel, rubber, copper, aluminum, and lumber that they need to use in manufacturing comes up the mouth of the Mississippi.
So although it's two colleagues from the great State of Louisiana, we are not here specifically talking about one thing that's important to Louisiana. This is important to 30 States in this country. It's important to the entire country.
According to customs, $85 billion to $104 billion a year is attributed to trade through the Mississippi River. So when you talk about how we keep this country going, how do we grow this country, it's through making wise investments.
And right now, in these tough times, the American people want us to use every dollar that we have very wisely; and I will say that according to the Port of New Orleans, every dollar that this country spends on dredging the Mississippi River, we get a 35-1 return. So the $6.8 million that my colleague from New Orleans and the metropolitan area is talking about diverting creates $238 million in this country.
I would say what's happening in this country is that we should look at return on investment. We should look at how we spend money wisely to create more income, create more jobs, and make this a better country. That's what this amendment does.
And for all of my colleagues in those 30 States that depend upon the Mississippi River, I would just say think about your farmers, think about all of your industrial employees because they need these goods to come up the river so that they can continue to compete. I will just tell that you if you look at a Panamax vessel, the 5 feet of draft--of the difference it would make if we don't dredge the Mississippi River would cost us $3.2 million per voyage.
That makes us noncompetitive in the world. So they can get their grain from the United States or they can go to Brazil to get their grain. And I would just suggest, Mr. Chairman, if they start going to Brazil to get their grain, then they will never come back to the great country that we live in. So we have to use our money wisely.
I think this is a very prudent use of $6.8 million and that the American people, if they knew they could spend $6.8 million to generate $238 million, everybody would support it, and that would be the reason why I would ask my colleagues to support it.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
The CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Scalise).
The question was taken; and the Chair announced that the noes appeared to have it.