(H.R. 3342) On passage of legislation to ratify a water rights settlement agreement between the Pueblos of Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque; the state of New Mexico; and local governments
This was a vote on legislation to ratify a water rights settlement agreement between the the Pueblos of Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque -- known as "the Four Pueblos" -- and the state of New Mexico, as well as local governments. The bill was one of three water settlement measures considered by the House as a package. As part of the settlement agreement, the bill would "authorize" the federal funding for the construction of a regional water system in the Rio Grande River Basin.
While an "authorization" of funding is part of the process by which the government spends money, it cannot actually result in an expenditure without further Congressional action. After funding is authorized, it must then be "appropriated." Only after appropriations legislation is enacted can the government actually spend money.
Rep. Nick Rahall, the chairman of the committee that drafted the bill, argued that it would bring an end to decades of litigation: This legislation would settle the water rights of four pueblos in New Mexico under an agreement with the State of New Mexico, Santa Fe County, the city of Santa Fe, and individual water users. It would end 44 years of active litigation involving over 2,500 defendants by ratifying the settlement agreement and funding a regional water system for all water users in the valley."
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) -- echoing the sentiments of other Republicans -- contended that the cost of a settlement should not fall to taxpayers: "I believe, and we believe on this side, that settlement agreements are in the best interests for all parties involved. But there is an element that needs to be highlighted because settlement agreements generally at the end cost money, and the missing part of these agreements on these three bills that we are considering today is, What is the cost to the taxpayer?"
The House passed the bill by a vote of 249-153. 234 Democrats and 15 Republicans voted "yea." 149 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House passed legislation to ratify a water rights settlement agreement between Four Pueblos, the state of New Mexico, and local governments.