H.R. 3964, Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act, was approved by the House on Feb. 5, 2014, on a party line vote (2 Republicans voted No while 7 Democrats voted Aye). According to opponents, this law is misnamed — it does nothing to assist California with the current drought. Tom Reed voted Aye; we many never know his reasons — Tom seldom explains his votes.
Tom probably isn’t greatly concerned about water rights in drought-stricken California; most likely he simply voted with his party. Perhaps it was enough that President Obama opposes H.R.3964 to win his vote.
However, here is what Tom’s colleague, Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) has to say:
Insuring that communities have access to water which originates in their region is the most fundamental of all water rights. A key component of this bill is an entire chapter reinforcing Northern California’s absolute, inviolable access to the rivers which begin in and flow through our area,” said LaMalfa. “We’ve worked as neighbors with our friends around the state to end the overreaching environmental rules that are literally turning the Central Valley into a new dust bowl and driving up unemployment. As Moses parted the Red Sea, we need to part the red tape that has held up California’s water supplies for so many years.”
For Rep. LaMalfa, local water rights are paramount; LaMalfa voted AYE.
Libertarian Justin Amash (R-MI) explains his NO vote:
… the bill pre-empts (overrides) the State of California’s environmental regulations as they apply to the federal government’s Central Valley Project (CVP) and the state government’s State Water Project. It also changes a federal law passed in the 1990s that requires a certain amount of water flowing through the CVP to be used to preserve wildlife.
I support the legislation’s reduction of federal restrictions that have impeded California’s ability to address its own water supply problems; however, the Constitution doesn’t grant the federal government power to pre-empt state water laws.
The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” I may not support California’s water laws, but it is not for me or for any of my colleagues in Congress to dictate to California.
Rep. Amash, one of two Republicans voting NO, is concerned about “States Rights.”
John Garamendi (D-CA) writes:
“Today feels like groundhog day. Once again, the House of Representatives is wasting time on a bill that validates water theft. It rips up California water contracts and state law. If enacted, this extreme bill would cause an ecological disaster for the San Francisco Bay and an economic crisis for California.”
Evidently, Rep. Garamendi favors working with others for justice; Garamendi voted NO.
Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) writes:
On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 3964, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act. This legislation is being described as an effort to alleviate severe drought in California. In fact, it does nothing to address this problem. H.R. 3964 repeals existing water use laws in California, a troubling precedent for states. For almost 100 years, the federal Bureau of Reclamation has deferred to the states when it comes to the use of irrigation water. This legislation ends that practice. It also makes water for agriculture a priority over all other uses, such as municipal or environmental or conservation purposes. Finally, the legislation would completely waive the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, while preventing California from implementing any further environmental protections on their own.
Rep. Capuano, looking out for “state’s rights” and the environment, voted NO. Tom Reed is for states rights except when he isn’t; certainly not when states rights involve protecting the environment.
The Obama Administration opposes H.R. 3964 for reasons explained in the link below and threatens a veto. So again, locked in a partisan struggle over a doomed bill, fighting to pick winners and losers, and ignoring more pressing matters like immigration reform and debt ceiling, Congress wastes time.
© William Hungerford – February 2014