AMWA: Water Policy Landscape Won’t Change Post-Election

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The water policy landscape in Congress is not expected to dramatically change next year, according to the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies.

Coming into the 2016 Election, Democrats were widely expected to achieve considerable gains on Capitol Hill. But in addition to Donald Trump’s surprise victory for the presidency, Republicans also came out of Election Day comfortably in control of their existing House and Senate majorities. As a result, the water policy landscape in Congress is not expected to dramatically change next year, according to the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA).

Republican Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire were the only senators to lose their re-election bids. Republicans are therefore expected to hold a 52 – 48 majority in the Senate next year, assuming an anticipated Republican victory in an open-seat Louisiana race that will finish with an early-December runoff. The Republican majority will allow Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell to keep his post as Senate Majority Leader, while Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York is expected to take over as Minority Leader from the retiring Harry Reid of Nevada.

Pre-election predictions for the House of Representatives suggested Democratic gains of as many as 15 – 20 seats, but this groundswell never materialized.

With Republicans in control of the presidency and both houses of Congress for the first time since before the 2006 elections, action is possible next year on GOP priorities such as comprehensive tax reform and reigning in EPA regulations such as the Clean Water Rule. Conversely, other issues that are popular with Democrats – such as addressing global climate change, increasing chemical facility security regulations and easing EPA’s process for issuing new drinking water regulations – seem to have a difficult path forward on Capitol Hill for at least the next two years.

Will Water Infrastructure Be On Trump’s Agenda?

An “America’s Infrastructure First” policy plan developed by the campaign of President-Elect Donald Trump pledges to “make clean water a high priority” while calling for tripling funding for the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs. This could bode well for the inclusion of water in any comprehensive infrastructure financing proposal put forward during the early days of his administration.

While the campaign document does not put a price tag on his infrastructure proposal, other reports have suggested it could be as high as $1 trillion and Trump’s new presidential transition website suggests spending $550 billion on transportation infrastructure alone. As a candidate, Trump often pointed to the need for investment in the nation’s infrastructure, and part of his post-election victory speech included a pledge to make American infrastructure “second to none.”

In addition to calling for tripling SRF funding, the campaign document said as president, Trump would “develop a long-term water infrastructure plan with city, state and federal leaders to upgrade aging water systems.” Other parts of the infrastructure plan would “end needless red tape,” increase the use of public-private partnerships “through a deficit-neutral system of infrastructure tax credits” and encourage the use of American steel in domestic infrastructure projects.

While renewed infrastructure investments represent one area where Congress may be able to work in a bipartisan fashion next year, it remains to be seen where the topic will fall in terms of the Trump Administration’s other legislative priorities.

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