WASHINGTON — Congress sent the White House a $12.3 billion water projects bill half the size of its last one seven years ago — before the economy sank into a deep recession that helped swell the government's debt and before lawmakers swore off cherry-picking pet projects for folks back home.
With a 91-7 vote Thursday, the Senate passed the bill authorizing 34 new projects over the next 10 years. The House passed it Tuesday after key lawmakers spent six months blending separate House and Senate versions approved last year.
The bill authorizes big new flood control projects for Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Fargo, N.D., and dredging and harbor expansions in Boston and Savannah, Ga. But it also puts an end to $18 billion in dormant projects that Congress had passed before the last round of $23.3 billion in water projects was approved in 2007.
The new measure's reduced cost reflects a conscious effort by lawmakers to rein in spending, particularly in the House, where Republicans first elected in 2010 or 2012 balked at new spending. All of the projects included in the legislation came at the recommendation of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Some conservative and watchdog groups complained the bill was still bloated with unnecessary spending. But it had widespread support from state and local officials and business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as legislation that will produce jobs and enhance commerce.