Even with near-universal support from state officials, who have allotted more than $300 million in spending for the project, it took years for Georgia lawmakers to secure steady funding commitments from Washington.
The state’s congressional delegation stepped up its lobbying efforts during the final years of the Obama administration and again as President Donald Trump started his tenure with an infrastructure funding push.
The entire delegation wrote to White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney in November hyping the project's benefits, and several Republicans extended an invite to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to visit the site last year.
“We have fought tirelessly for this federal support, and we will continue this work until it becomes a reality,” said U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, who represents Savannah.
Over the past two years, the Army Corps of Engineers has set aside a combined $186 million for the project, which seeks to make way for bigger ships coming from the recently expanded Panama Canal.
The project managed to escape the deep cuts that the Trump administration has proposed for the corps, which builds and manages the country’s locks and dams. The White House envisioned cutting the agency’s funding by nearly one-third and focusing on projects where construction is currently underway.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson attributed the good Savannah news to a “deal” he cut with Mulvaney last year.
That’s when the White House was seeking Senate confirmation for Mulvaney deputy Russell Vought, a conservative firebrand whose nomination was nearly sidelined because of past comments he made about Muslims. Isakson and fellow Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue ultimately backed Vought, who was confirmed after Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.
“We found mutual ways to help each other,” Isakson said of Mulvaney.
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