This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) that would increase funding by $1.75 million for the maintenance of levees in areas at risk of flooding, but would cut $1 million from the Missouri River Recovery Program, which funds projects that restore the habitat of species that live within the river’s ecosystem. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Energy Department programs and the Army Corps of Engineers in fiscal year 2012.
Graves urged support for his amendment: “…Basically what I'm trying to do here is to point out the absurdity and misalignment of priorities which have become clear in this appropriations bill. I live along the Missouri River in Missouri, and we've had families that have been inundated by the flooding that has taken place this year with no real end in sight, to be quite honest with you. This underlying bill provides $73 million for the Missouri River Recovery Program which is used to fund habitat creation projects. Unfortunately, the underlying bill only provides slightly more than $6 million for the maintenance of the levees all the way from Sioux City, Iowa, to the mouth of the Missouri, where it meets up with the Mississippi. So essentially we are spending nearly 12 times more to buy land for the betterment of fish and birds than we are to protect farmers, businesses, and homes that are being flooded right now….While I believe conservation is important, we should not overlook what it is we sometimes sacrifice to achieve conservation. In this case, we are sacrificing the livelihoods of businesses and farmers and are destroying homes.”
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) opposed Graves’ amendment: “I am very sympathetic to those that have been devastated by floods in Missouri and in other states across the nation. It's a very personal thing for many members of Congress who look to their congressional districts and see the loss of life, and livelihoods, and jobs, and devastation to family farms and to small towns. One of the things we did in our bill of course, and I am sure the gentleman would recognize this, we came up with a billion dollars of emergency aid, which hopefully will be of assistance. I know he doesn't speak of that in this amendment. But certainly all members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, are committed to help those whose lives have been unalterably changed because of the devastation. My concern with his amendment is that the [Army] Corps [of Engineers] has said this construction funding is necessary to avoid jeopardy under the Endangered Species Act. If the river system jeopardizes species, it could have great effect on the operations of the river. So speaking to my earlier point, we want to be helpful, but we also look to the Corps for some direction on this point. As a consequence, I oppose his amendment.”
The House agreed to Graves’ amendment by a vote of 216-190. Voting “yea” were 204 Republicans and 12 Democrats. 164 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 26 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would increase funding by $1.75 million for the maintenance of levees in areas at risk of flooding, but would cut $1 million from the Missouri River Recovery Program. In order for this amendment to become law, however, it would have to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the president. At the time this vote occurred, the Senate had not acted on the amendment.