This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed S. 641, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act by voice vote. The bill, introduced by Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., has broad bipartisan support in the Senate. If enacted, the bill would provide better access to clean water and sanitation to the world’s poorest communities through an efficient and cost effective strategy. The bill will next be considered on the Senate Floor, but has yet to be scheduled.
During consideration of the bill, the lead sponsor, Senator Durbin (D-IL) noted,
“Water access is no longer simply a global health and development issue; it is a mortal and long-term threat that is increasingly becoming a national security issue. The United States needs to do much more to ensure that global water access is protected and expanded.”
The lead Republican on the bill, Senator Corker, highlighted the cost effectiveness of the bill and the value it has to American foreign policy interests by explaining,
“I’m a fiscal conservative and want to see each of our foreign aid dollars go as far as possible, and I believe water is one of the wisest places we can invest.”
Almost 1 billion people around the world still lack access to safe drinking water, and 2 billion do not have access to basic sanitation services. Such access is critical to promoting healthier communities, better educational opportunities for children and ensuring economic stability in these communities. According to the bill sponsors, sick children miss nearly 300 million school days a year as a result of water-related illnesses, and an estimated 320 million work days are missed by adults who are either are sick themselves or have to care for sick children. Sadly, 5,000 children needlessly die every day in the developing world because they do not have clean water to drink. It shouldn’t be that way.
While a similar bill did pass the Senate in the last Congress, it was not taken up in the House of Representatives. This time, we have the opportunity to get this important legislation through both Houses and then signed into law. To do this, we must continue to build support among our senators and urge them to vote in favor of the bill when it comes to the Senate Floor. At the same time, we must ask our House Members to engage Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Ranking-Member Howard Berman, D-Calif., of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to take action on H.R. 3658, the bipartisan House version of the Water for the World Act in their Committee and send it to the House floor for a vote before the end of this Congress in December.
Please contact your senators to urge quick passage of the bill in the Senate. Follow that contact with one that urges the House to consider the bill and quickly pass it as well. Millions of lives are counting on us, we cannot let them down.