Senator blasts GOP push for California drought language in water bill

Senator blasts GOP push for California drought language in water bill
© Getty

Outgoing Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTime is now to address infrastructure needs Tom Steyer testing waters for Calif. gubernatorial bid Another day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs MORE is slamming a push by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to attach California drought language to a waterways bill, calling the provision a “poison pill.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Boxer, a California Democrat, said the inclusion of the drought language would jeopardize bipartisan efforts to finalize the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which McCarthy said would be posted on Monday.

The underlying legislation authorizes dozens of water-related infrastructure projects around the country and is expected to include emergency funding for the lead-contaminated community of Flint, Mich.

“I was stunned to see comments made by Kevin McCarthy that the outrageous poison pill that he is trying to place on WRDA is ‘a little small agreement’ on California drought,” Boxer said in a statement.  “I will use every tool at my disposal to stop this last minute poison pill rider.”

McCarthy and other California Republicans have been pushing to divert more water to the drought-stricken areas in central and southern California.

Critics like Boxer worry the proposed move would harm fish, reduce fishery jobs, roll back the Endangered Species Act and remove Congress’s authority to approve new dams.

McCarthy said the drought language “will bring more water to our communities and supports critical storage projects,” while also providing resources for Democratic drought priorities like conservation, efficiency and recycling efforts.

“This is an important moment for California, and the timing of this deal is critical — we cannot afford to miss capturing water from storms during this wet season,” McCarthy said in a statement, adding that the deal “signals that there is a path to getting more done to restore California’s greatness.”

The Republican told reporters during a pen-and-pad briefing on Monday morning that lawmakers were "close to having a little small agreement" on the issue, but said a long-term drought bill would have to wait until next year.

"Whatever we get would be bipartisan," he said.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinThe case for protecting America's intelligence agency whistleblowers Senate confirms Trump's first lower-court nominee Feinstein: Comey memos 'going to be turned over' MORE (D-Calif.) broke with Boxer, her colleague, saying she supports the House’s proposal.

“This bill isn’t perfect but I do believe it will help California and it has bipartisan support including Republicans and Democrats in the House, and that’s why I’m supporting it,” she said in a statement.

If that language doesn’t pass, Feinstein said Republicans next year are far more likely to pass "even more harmful drought legislation.”

The issue is just the latest sticking point to emerge in the WRDA debate. Democrats have also ripped Republican leadership for stripping a so-called “Buy America” provision from the water legislation at the last-minute.

Democrats are now calling on President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDNC calls for suspension of Kushner's security clearance amid FBI scrutiny Reporter assaulted by GOP candidate: Most 'surreal experience' of my career Lawyer: Kushner to cooperate on all probes of Russia meetings MORE to support the language, which would require American iron and steel products be used in certain drinking water projects.

The push comes days after Trump promised that his own infrastructure plan would “buy American and hire American.”

“If President-elect Trump is serious about keeping his promise to build a 'Made in America' manufacturing economy, he needs to take a stand against this threat from Speaker Ryan and House Republicans,” said Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinDem senator presses Trump for combat ship funding Congressional Democrats going the wrong way on carried interest tax Dems request insider trading investigation into top Trump adviser MORE (D-Wis.) in a statement Monday. “American workers should build our infrastructure with American products, and taxpayers' money should not be spent on Chinese iron and steel.”

-Scott Wong and Timothy Cama contributed to this report, which was updated at 5:28 p.m.