Language that could have led to congressional involvement in Georgia’s ongoing battle with Florida and Alabama over water rights was removed in the final version of the 2016 omnibus appropriations bill that was passed by the House and Senate today and signed into law by President Obama before he left for a Christmas vacation in Hawaii. Both Senator Johnny Isakson and Senator Perdue voted to approve the measure. Earlier, the House approved the measure with only Reps. Hank Johnson and Jody Hice opposing.
Republicans and Democrats in the Georgia delegation, along with Governor Deal, united to oppose language in the original omnibus that could have brought federal intervention into the negotiations over the state’s water rights, rather than the present method of trying to secure an interstate compact resolving the issue.
A spokesperson in Senator Perdue’s office said that while the Senator didn’t appreciate the way the massive bill that covers $1.1 trillion in discretionary spending came to the floor, he voted in favor because the water language was removed. In a statement, the senator said, “When it came to funding the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2016, I’m proud the Georgia Delegation stood together to advance Georgia priorities. The Georgia Delegation along with Governor Deal worked to stop the latest political attempt to intervene in our state’s water supply.”
Senator Isakson also noted the efforts of the delegation to remove the water wars provisions, saying in a statement, “In particular, thanks to the efforts of a united Georgia Congressional delegation, I am pleased we were able to thwart efforts by one member of Congress to insert language in the omnibus that was designed solely to harm the state of Georgia while helping the states of Alabama and Florida in the tri-state water dispute.”
14th District Congressman Tom Graves offered similar praise for the removal of the water language: “The number one issue for Georgia in this legislation was stopping an assault by other states on our water rights,” said Rep. Graves. “These other states were trying to use a government funding bill to circumvent the legal process and restrict Georgia’s access to its own water. I’m grateful to every member of the Georgia congressional delegation, Republicans and Democrats, for working around the clock to secure this major victory for our state.”
11th District Congressman Barry Loudermilk, whose district contains the Lake Allatoona reservoir explained why he voted for the measure:
“The provision that was slipped into the end of year funding bill would have been disastrous to Georgia and especially devastating to the 11th Congressional District. Access to our water resources is critical to sustaining our quality of life and our economic growth. In a case like this, where the questionable provision was inserted in a must-pass piece of legislation, a simple no vote would have been insufficient. We had to act; and, thanks to the immediate action of a unified Georgia delegation and Governor Deal, we were able to protect our state’s water resources.
“The new leadership in the House has committed to change the culture in Washington DC, and their quick and helpful response to this last minute attempt to circumvent access to Georgia’s water is evidence that backroom deals are no longer accepted as the way we do business.”
Loudermilk is a member of the House Freedom Caucus. Members of the Freedom Caucus were instrumental in removing former Speaker John Boehner and replacing him with Paul Ryan. As for Ryan, this tweet from National Journal reporter Daniel Newhauser says it all.