1997 Scorecard Vote
Following a series of disastrous floods in California, Reps. Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Wally Herger (R-CA) introduced H.R. 478, the "Flood Prevention and Family Protection Act of 1997," to exempt nearly all flood control activities from compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA requires that flood control projects undergo a review to ensure they do not harm endangered plants, fish, or wildlife. The review can be expedited in the case of an impending emergency. Despite the lack of any credible evidence linking the floods to ESA requirements, Reps. Pombo and Herger claimed that the ESA review process caused levee maintenance delays that contributed to levee breaks during the floods and, consequently, such maintenance should be exempted from the ESA review process. However, H.R. 478 was written so broadly that it would exempt virtually any project related to flood control, including levees, canals, dredging, draining wetlands -- even massive dams in the West -- from the requirement to consider impacts on endangered species. Because many endangered species live in or along waterways, the bill would substantially undermine the Act.
On May 7, 1997, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) offered an amendment that significantly narrowed H.R. 478 to exempt only project repairs in federally declared disaster areas or when there is a substantial threat to human lives and property. The exemption would expire at the end of 1998. Rep. Boehlert's amendment was supported by a bipartisan coalition similar to that which defeated numerous anti-environmental measures in the 104th Congress. The House approved the Boehlert amendment 227 - 196. YES is the pro-environment vote.
Before H.R. 478 could come to a final vote, its supporters pulled the amended bill from the floor rather than see it pass. This would allow them to consider the bill later if they could convince enough of their colleagues to change their vote so that Reps. Pombo and Berger's version of the bill would pass. However, in the Senate, Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) inserted language similar to H.R. 478 into S. 672, the Emergency Supplemental appropriations bill, to provide disaster relief for flood victims. After several Senators expressed concern over the Craig provision, a narrower version -- similar to the Boehlert language -- was accepted by unanimous consent (without a vote) in the Senate. S. 672 passed Congress and was signed into law by President Clinton on June 12, 1997.