Senator blasts GOP push for California drought language in water bill

Senator blasts GOP push for California drought language in water bill
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Outgoing Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerFour more lawmakers say they’ve been sexually harassed by colleagues in Congress California Hispanics are the vanguard for a new political paradigm Trump riles Dems with pick for powerful EPA job 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.”

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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 Emiel FeinsteinSenators push mandatory sexual harassment training for members, staff Bipartisan group of lawmakers aim to reform US sugar program Senate panel to hold hearing on bump stocks 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 John TrumpDems win from coast to coast Falwell after Gillespie loss: 'DC should annex' Northern Virginia Dems see gains in Virginia's House of Delegates 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 Suzanne BaldwinNo room for amnesty in our government spending bill Bipartisan lawmakers can rebuild trust by passing infusion therapy bill Dem super PAC rolls out seven-figure ad campaign defending Baldwin in Wisconsin 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.