House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) says Republicans will try again to pass federal legislation to ease the effects of the California drought, a natural problem that the GOP says was made worse by President Barack Obama's decision to impose federal water restrictions on homes, companies and farms in California's Central Valley.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Wednesday imposed state-wide water restrictions for the first time in the history of the state, and said drastic cuts in water use are needed in light of the dramatic shortages seen for the last several years.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) says the California drought has a man-made component, in the form of Democratic policies that have overly restricted water access in order to help save the Delta smelt, a tiny fish. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
But Republicans say the Obama administration has made this natural disaster worse, by cutting off water to the Central Valley in order to protect several species of fish, including the tiny Delta smelt. In 2009, Obama invoked the Endangered Species Act and started holding back water from the valley to ensure protections for these fish, a move that Republicans say has caused significant injury to that region of the state.
"Today's order is the culmination of failed federal and state policies that have exacerbated the current drought into a man-made water crisis," McCarthy said Wednesday. "Sacramento and Washington have chosen to put the well-being of fish above the well-being of people by refusing to capture millions of acre-feet of water during wet years for use during dry years."
"These policies imposed on us now, and during wet seasons of the past, are leaving our families, businesses, communities, and state high and dry," he added.
As early as 2012, House Republicans passed legislation that would reinstate the Bay Delta Accord, a compromise between environmentalists, farms, residents and both the state and federal governments. That compromise, Republicans say, was a more balanced approach to apportioning water resources than Obama's solution, and is one that should be reinstated as California continues to suffer from a record-low snowpack and ongoing drought conditions.
Like so many other bills passed by the House, however, the House legislation was ignored by the Democratic Senate. That was true when the House passed similar legislation in early 2014, and the Senate also ignored a temporary solution that was aimed at boosting access to water by people and companies in hard-hit areas of the state.
McCarthy blamed Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for ignoring these efforts to make the situation better over the last few years, and the Obama administration for opposing these bills. But he said Republicans would try again, and this time around, the bill has a much better chance of success if only because it has a chance of being considered at all in the Senate.
"I'm from the Central Valley and we know that we cannot conserve or ration our way out of this drought," he said. "It is time for action, and House Republicans are developing another legislative proposal to help put California water policy back on the path to commonsense."
"Given today's announcement, this time I hope Governor Brown, Senator Boxer, and Senator Feinstein will join my colleagues and me in this effort," he added.