House GOP Pushes California Drought Measure

House GOP pushes California drought measure

04/12/2016 03:11 PM EDT

House Republicans are pushing their California drought language at the start of the appropriations process, upping the ante in an ongoing battle with Senate Democrats over how to balance environmental protections and water needs in the parched state.

A spending bill for the Interior Department, Department of Energy and Army Corps of Engineers unveiled today includes language drawn from California Republican Rep. David Valadao‘s drought measure. That bill passed the House last summer on a largely party-line vote, with Democrats arguing it would gut endangered species protections.

In the Senate, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein has taken a harder line on protections for endangered species.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, whose district has been hit hard by the drought, backed today’s move.

“It is the duty of our state’s leaders to pursue every possible avenue of relief for our struggling communities to get the water we desperately need,” he said.

For the last several years, California lawmakers have negotiated to include compromise drought language in an end-of-year spending measure, but each time talks have fallen apart. Last December’s collapse turned particularly ugly, with Feinstein accusing House Republicans of misrepresenting her position to colleagues, and Republicans blaming her for letting the heavy rains from an El Niño year be wasted.

McCarthy said he is “hopeful this time will be different.”

The House panel marks up the measure tomorrow, while the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, where Feinstein serves as ranking member, marks up its spending bill tomorrow, too.

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