Water policy has vexed lawmakers in Congress for years. I understand that as much as anyone. But as elected legislative leaders for Californians, we must rise to the occasion and give Californians policies that will offer genuine drought relief.
The House passed a drought relief bill in late July and urged the Senate to act. And despite the Senate not passing its own bill, California Republicans and Democrats have still been negotiating water legislation in my conference room for months.
More progress has been made this time than in years past. But with the calendar racing toward the rainy season, it is clear we are still a ways out from a long-term solution.
Time is of the essence.
Our neighbors have been suffering under epic drought conditions for years. So when Mother Nature presents an opportunity to ease this pain with El Niño storms, we must act.
That is why California Republicans have done everything we could to get a short-term, emergency bill signed into law before the new year that achieves the very real goal of capturing the excess water from the coming storms. And this short-term, emergency bill reflects a compromise of different priorities from our negotiations, such as promoting desalination, water reuse and recycling, and the conservation of habitats, as well as offering relief for drought-stricken communities. These are all items reasonable-minded folks, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, can agree to.
This is why the response from Sens. Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to our plan is so disappointing. For members of a chamber known as the “saucer to cool the hot cup,” Feinstein and Boxer have instead turned a prudent approach into a poison pill.
We know that legislative action is needed, which is why I tried to put drought relief in legislation that could pass Congress and be signed into law before the year ends. Because we need to get on with it. No more delays, no more moving the goalposts, no more prolonging the devastation in our state’s communities.
Perhaps another four months of negotiating is needed before Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Boxer can give their blessing, although another four months would cause us to miss El Nińo’s brief window of wetter weather.
While I remain open to continued talks, with the legislative session ending, I believe we need to get on with it. We cannot continue to wait like years past and let partisanship once again stand in the way of progress — especially when the stakes are so high for so many.