With Congress struggling over the intractable federal budget in an unusual weekend session, reauthorization of the Central Utah Water Project continued to hang precariously between the House and Senate.
CUP passed the House early Tuesday and must get Senate approval before Congress adjourns for the year. The legislators have already stayed later this October than at any time since World War II. The chances that a tired Congress will return for a lame-duck session after the election is anybody's guess.The House-passed CUP bill also contains a package of stringent reforms of reclamation law, including strict limitations on the acreage that a single farm may irrigate with federal water, plus a number of other projects, some of them opposed by the Bush administration. One, in South Dakota, is deemed unacceptable by environmentalists.
The worst problem CUP faces, however, is reclamation reform. Many Western senators oppose it, and Sen. Jim McClure, R-Idaho, has threatened to block passage of CUP as long as it is associated with the "reform" language. Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, was trying last week, to line up a compromise.
In the House, which was meeting Saturday and Sunday, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., is the author of the reforms. He has said he will block CUP unless the reforms are included.
As of Saturday, staff aides thought progress was being made toward a compromise over the reforms, but no settlement was in sight. Complications over other, non-CUP portions of the bill continued to generate argument on the Senate side of the Capitol, with no more talks planned until the Senate returns on Monday.
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, said he is growing edgy over the delays, which are likely to endanger passage on the CUP bill as time grows short next week.