Keeping Track of DiFi's Drought Bill
Looks like more of the same from Dianne Feinstein who has a way of looking like she's getting things done without ever getting them done.
Mar 03, 2014
After the House of Representatives passed a drought relief bill, there was pressure on the Senate to put something on the table. On Tuesday, February 11th Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer introduced their Senate version of drought relief as DiFi said, ""The House took its best shot. I hope they realize (ours) are specific actions that can work." According to the Fresno Bee article, "one Democrat who represents a Delta-area district, Rep. John Garamendi, cautioned that it will 'take time to understand what the implications are' if the bill passes." It looks like it will also take time for the bill to pass.
According to Southern California Public Radio, "there has been no commitment from Senate leadership for a vote or even to assign it to a committee." Looks like more of the same from Dianne Feinstein who has a way of looking like she's getting things done without ever getting them done. The Senate's inaction also flies in the face of all the ag supporters who welcomed with open arms Feinstein and Boxer's legislation as the moderate way to get things done. As Barbara Boxer said, "the goal of this (Senate) bill is to bring us together to address this crisis, rather than divide us."
The Bee article had encouraging words from the Westlands Water District, saying "in another telling political signal, the Senate bill secured the support of Westlands Water District, the nation's largest water district. In a statement issued within minutes of the Senate bill's introduction, Westlands said it was "encouraged" by the bill and said it would "provide much needed relief" for water agencies." The California Farm Bureau Federation was also on board, issuing a statement from President Paul Wenger saying "drought hits farmers and ranchers first and hardest, so we support a bill that addresses the immediate needs of those facing critical water shortages", as he offered his organization's support. We wonder if Feinstein and Boxer have the same definition of 'immediate' as the Bureau? Is Westlands seeing the 'much needed' relief? Well, we did get rain.
Although some of the ag groups apparently find hope for West Side water interests from the Senate bill, for the East Side, there is not even hope. Any change to the heavily flawed San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement has already been declared ‘off the table’ by Feinstein, Boxer, and even Valley Congressman Jim Costa to appease NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). Remarkably, NRDC has failed to honor its commitments to the Settlement or to the Blood Oath that Feinstein required all Parties to sign. Nevertheless, Feinstein, Boxer, and Costa continue to ignore those violations and the devastating effects on the Valley and its citizens.
John Garamendi offers some insight into the Democrat's thinking when he says of Republicans, "they want the opportunity to merge some of their language into the compromise measure that would come out of a conference committee. That process would probably bring into the drought bill issues that are not directly related to the drought, and probably lead to the delay or the demise of the bill.” So, they introduce a bill that theoretically leads to a conference committee, but don't want to go to a conference committee because Republicans would be able to get some of their language into the bill. Isn't that the purpose of a conference committee? Not for the Democrats, who always promote compromise but are never willing to do it.
Our recommendation: don't hold your breath.
House Republicans from California’s farm country are pressuring the Senate to pass Dianne Feinstein’s drought bill. But one House Democrat says there’s a reason the Senate bill appears to be stalled.
Earlier this month, the GOP-led House passed a 70-page drought relief bill; a week later, Feinstein introduced a Senate bill that doesn’t include the House language, which puts habitat restoration projects on hold and upends existing water agreements. But there is no word on what happens next. There has been no commitment from Senate leadership for a vote or even to assign it to a committee, something that has House Republicans frustrated.
On Thursday, Central Valley Republican lawmakers met to talk about how to move drought legislation forward. House Whip Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield called on Majority Leader Harry Reid to put the Feinstein bill on the Senate floor for a vote, saying he looks forward to finding "areas of common ground." Tulare Republican Devin Nunes called Feinstein’s bill “weak,” but said passage would allow Congress to begin negotiating a solution to “this unmitigated disaster.” Granite Bay Republican Tom McClintock doesn’t like the Senate bill either, but he wants it to pass so "we can begin the conference process without further delay.”
There’s a reason Republicans from the Central Valley are pushing Feinstein’s bill, at least according to Walnut Creek Democrat John Garamendi. He says they want the opportunity to merge some of their language into the compromise measure that would come out of a conference committee. Garamendi says that process would “probably bring into the drought bill issues that are not directly related to the drought, and probably lead to the delay or the demise of the bill.”
Garamendi prefers the House version of Feinstein’s bill, introduced by Fresno Democrat Jim Costa, which he describes as “clean.” Costa’s measure was referred to several committees with little hope of a hearing in the GOP-led House. On Friday, Costa introduced a new water infrastructure measure to speed up reservoir and other storage construction.
Expect Central Valley lawmakers to keep up the pressure in this election year, taking the drought debate back to California. They promise to hold a field hearing and to tour areas affected by the drought to demonstrate their “commitment to educating Congress.” No date has been set for that hearing.
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