Wednesday: Partisan bout over California drought

The House returns in the afternoon to take up a bill that Republicans say would help ease drought conditions in Central California.

Republicans will call up the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act, H.R. 3964. The bill is meant to reverse an Obama administration decision from 2009 that limited water supplies for homes and businesses to help protect the Delta smelt, a three-inch fish.

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Most Democrats are known to oppose the bill, and will criticize it as an effort to override federal environmental protections. When the House passed a similar bill two years ago, only 10 Democrats voted with the GOP to pass it.

Republicans have said Obama's decision has created a man-made drought, and say the bill will revert to the status quo that was achieved in the 1994 Bay-Delta Accord. That agreement was a compromise on water access struck between environmentalists, businesses and residents.

The House will start by approving a rule for the bill; later in the afternoon, it will debate the measure and up to eight Democratic amendments.

That same rule governs floor consideration of H.R. 2954, which would authorize Escambia County, Fla., to convey land to Santa Rosa County.

Along the way, the House will also pass H.R. 3590, the Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act. This bill is aimed at ensuring that federal lands are open for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting.

On Tuesday, the House debated 10 amendments to the bill, and just has to vote on two Democratic proposals before passing the bill.

The Senate is out all day, to allow both parties to hold retreats. Senators return Thursday for a procedural vote on a new Democratic proposal to extend unemployment insurance, and a confirmation vote on the nomination of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to be ambassador to China.