1994 Scorecard Vote
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure that all Americans have access to safe, clean water. While the law helped make drinking water safer, it has failed to protect millions of Americans -- particularly in rural areas and small towns -- from dangerous pollutants. In part, this is because the federal government has failed to set adequate standards for some pollutants; in part it is because the law hasn't been adequately enforced. According to EPA studies, for example, millions of people still get their drinking water from systems that don't comply with the law; more than 100,000 violations of the Act are reported each year (few result in fines or other enforcement action). Sometimes, these violations can have deadly consequences: in 1993 and 1994, for example, more than 120 people in Milwaukee and Las Vegas died after drinking contaminated water from municipal water systems. Despite the obvious need for a stronger Safe Drinking Water Act, some lawmakers introduced amendments designed to weaken the law when the Senate considered reauthorization this year. Recorded votes were taken on three amendments:
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) offered an amendment designed to prohibit EPA from enforcing clean drinking water standards unless federal taxpayers paid public water systems for all of the costs of compliance. Under this approach, EPA could not protect consumers from even the most dangerous pollutants -- such as lead or deadly parasites -- unless federal taxpayers paid thousands of water systems to follow the law.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. John Chafee (R-RI), the committee's ranking Republican, and other lawmakers opposed the amendment, arguing that it would open a massive, potentially budget-busting loophole. Opponents also noted that the Gregg amendment attacked a fundamental principle of the law: that all Americans, regardless of where they live, deserve equal protection from unsafe drinking water. By crippling EPA's efforts to enforce clean water standards, the Gregg amendment attacked a fundamental principle of the law: that all Americans, regardless of where they live, deserve equal protection from unsafe drinking water. By crippling EPA's efforts to enforce clean water standards, the Gregg amendment would have exposed many unlucky citizens to dangerous drinking water.
On May 17, 1994, Sen. Baucus offered a motion to table (kill) the Gregg amendment. The Senate agreed to the Baucus motion by a vote of 56 - 43. YES is the pro-environment vote.