“Some believe that our way of life has to change—that it’s time to focus on conservation above all and manage our decline. I reject that…. Now, we have a bill before us today that rejects the idea that we’ve reached the heights of our shining city on a hill and that it’s time to come back down to a world of limits and uncertainty”
Washington, D.C. – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) spoke on the House floor today on the Western Water and American Food Security Act (H.R. 2898), which offers drought-stricken California and the entire west the best hope for a future of renewed prosperity:
McCarthy’s full remarks are below, or watch them online here:
“I thank the gentlelady for yielding, and I thank my colleague on the other side, Mr. Costa (CA-16), for his work on this in the bipartisan bill. And I thank Congressman Valadao (CA-23) for bringing it to the floor.
“You see, Mr. Speaker, I come from a place that is called, for a very good reason, America’s salad bowl. We produce the vegetables, we produce the fruits, and we produce the nuts that feed the nation. And the nation should know what the people in my district know. ‘Food grows where water flow.’ ‘No Water Equals Higher Food Costs.’
“That’s what the signs read across the district if you drive down the highways. But you can see trouble in more than just the signs you read. You can see it in the parched farmlands, in the reservoirs that are all but empty, and in the faces of those whose jobs have dried up with the water.
“Now, I’m talking about this as a Californian, a native of Bakersfield. But this isn’t a local problem. Half of the produce we eat in America is grown in California. And California is the eighth largest economy in the world. When California hurts, the entire nation hurts as well. But this is even bigger than just California. Almost 40 percent of the west is facing a severe drought.
“And it undeniably clear that the status quo is unsustainable. If we do nothing, people will lose their livelihoods, water prices will continue to go up, and America will have to rely more and more on foreign food, perhaps from countries that don’t have the same labor or environmental laws that we do.
“Now, we can’t make it rain, but we can’t give up either.
“Some people want to do just that. Mr. Speaker, some believe that our way of life has to change—that it’s time to focus on conservation above all and manage our decline. I reject that. If California is in decline, then the American west is in decline, and the hope of so many generations is in decline. We will lose the pioneering spirit that will lead us in the 21st century.
“Now, we have a bill before us today that rejects the idea that we’ve reached the heights of our shining city on a hill and that it’s time to come back down to a world of limits and uncertainty. We have never accepted failure, and nothing—not even this historic drought—will make us start now.
“Here in the House, we have tried time and again to address this problem. This Congress—the last two Congresses—have addressed it before we hit a historic drought. Let’s not forget just five years ago we had 172 percent of snow pack.
“We talk a lot about desalination, and I support it. Because what does desal do? It takes salt water and makes it fresh water. But why in California do we allow our fresh water to become salt water? Shouldn’t we protect that first?
“So this bill takes ideas from both sides, as we just heard from Congressman Costa and from this side. We designed the bill to move as much water down south to our farms and to our cities as possible without making any fundamental changes to the environmental law.
“In reality, this bill is very simple. It does four things in California. We allow water to flow through the delta. We create a process to build more storage that has been promised so many years before but has been held in bureaucratic red tape. We’ll increase the reservoirs, and we’ll protect senior water rights and the California State Water Project.
“But this drought also extends beyond California. That’s why this bill includes so many provisions to help our friends in the western states through their tough times as well.
“You see, Mr. Speaker, we have a challenge before us. It is a challenge of nature, yes. But it is also a challenge of policy, foresight, and plain commonsense. For decades our state and country have faced droughts. For years, Californians have endured this drought. But now, we are here today to move forward towards a solution. It is a solution built upon ideas from, yes, Democrats and Republicans. It is a solution that rejects the idea of decline and failure and says with a clear voice, ‘we will not let this drought defeat us.’
“California is better than that. The west is better than that. And, Mr. Speaker, America is better than that. We will not lose hope. We will solve the problem with or without you.
“I yield back.”