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GOP blames Dems for failed Calif. drought fix

GOP blames Dems for failed Calif. drought fix
© Greg Nash

Congressional efforts to help California through its historic drought have died, and Republicans are blaming Democrats.

At a somber news conference Friday declaring the end of months of negotiations, California’s 14-person Republican House delegation accused the state’s two Democratic senators and the Obama administration of not cooperating in recent talks.

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They also accused Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) and the White House of walking back on their opinion that the measures would not compromise endangered species protections.

“I am so disappointed to be here today. I was hopeful that we would get a deal done,” said Rep. Ken CalvertKenneth (Ken) Stanton CalvertMORE (R), the leader of the delegation and a key negotiator for the efforts.

“Unfortunately, we could not get the senators to accept a good, reasonable compromise. All 14 members of our delegation got to ‘yes.’ Our two senators could not.”

“We put proposals up to provide solutions to the tremendous drought bearing down on our state,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyRocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire Trump is out of touch with Republican voters on climate change The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Iran, Russia election bombshell; final Prez debate tonight MORE (R). “Sadly, our senators have once again failed to rise and meet the challenge with us.”

The GOP had planned to include some provisions on the drought in the government funding bill that is under negotiation and due to be introduced and passed next week.

It would have been the result of years of efforts by the state’s lawmakers to help California through the worst drought in centuries.

Republicans have consistently pushed for expedited approvals of new water infrastructure in California, and to allow the existing infrastructure to direct more water to farms and other users instead of release it to waterways. Many of those waterways host endangered fish, and water managers must protect them, often to the anger of residents and the GOP.

The House passed a bill to that effect in July, with mostly Republican support.

Feinstein has been negotiating behind the scenes with McCarthy and others on a bill that answers some of the Republican concerns while also mandating more water conservation, reuse and desalination, among other measures.

“Our bill reflects compromise, priorities from our negotiations, such as promoting desalination, water reuse and recycling, habitat protection, relief for drought-stricken communities,” McCarthy said.

“Are we disappointed? Absolutely, we are,” said Rep. Jeff Denham (R). “We expected an honest negotiation. We expected this to be done in the light of the public. But we at least expect our Senate colleagues to work together and to provide relief for California.”

The state’s Democratic lawmakers have largely distances themselves from the Republican efforts. Meanwhile, newspaper editorial boards across the state have slammed the GOP, saying it is trying to weaken endangered species protections and use other ineffective tactics.

In response to the news conference, Feinstein said she did not endorse the efforts to put this language into the must-pass government spending bill.

“The bill that Republicans tried to place in the omnibus last week — in my name and without my knowledge — hadn’t been reviewed by me, Sen. Boxer, the state or the White House,” she said in a statement.

“There were at least a half-dozen items in the bill that I had rejected and that would have drawn objections from state or federal agencies — some of them would likely violate environmental law. Several more provisions were still being negotiated and hadn’t been reviewed by state or federal stakeholders.”

That clashes with the Republican delegation’s claim that Feinstein herself suggested attaching the provisions to the government spending bill.

Still, Feinstein said negotiations are close to being finished, and she expects to have a bill ready early next week for Senate consideration that the Obama administration can sign off on.

Feinstein’s colleagues aren’t holding their breath.

“I wish her luck,” Calvert said. “If she can pass a bill in the United States Senate, God bless her.”