These votes were on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation that would alter the management of one of California’s largest waterways to favor agribusiness over environmental and conservation interests. The first of these two votes was on a procedural motion known as the “previous question" -- which would effectively end debate and set up an immediate vote on the resolution setting a time limit for debate and the amendments that can be offered to the California water bill. The second vote was on passage of the resolution.
At issue was a Republican bill that would alter agreements that guide the management of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers in northern California. Proponents of the bill sought to divert more water resources for agribusinesses and cities in central California’s San Joaquin Valley. They also sought to override state and federal laws that protect the environment. Opponents objected that this would upend hard-fought local agreements and harm the environment in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and downstream.
Republicans argued that under current rules for managing the waterways, environmental regulations were doing little good for wildlife but hurting farmers suffering from drought-like conditions.
“The movement for stronger environmental protections began over legitimate concerns to protect our vital natural resources; but like many movements, as it succeeded in its legitimate ends, it also attracted a self-interested constituency that has driven far past the borders of common sense and into the realms of political extremism and outright plunder,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) said. “This debate will determine if we are about to enter a new era when common sense can be restored to our public policy and when a sensible balance can be restored between environmental and human needs.”
Democrats argued that the bill represented needless meddling in an issue that should be decided at the state level. They also criticized Republicans for bringing up the bill instead of focusing on legislation that would address rising gasoline prices or the need for jobs.
“This bill is a blatant attempt to do two things: one, steal 800,000 acre feet of water and transfer it to heavily subsidized farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley; and, secondly, completely overrule and override state law,” Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) said. “This is a terrible precedent. If you care anything about your state's ability to control its own destiny insofar as water is concerned, you do not want this bill to pass because it is a blatant attempt by the Westside Farmers to simply grab water and take total control of the California water system.”
The House agreed to the previous question motion by a vote of 241-178. Voting “yea” were 235 Republicans and 6 Democrats. Voting “nay” were 177 Democrats and 1 Republican. As a result, the House proceeded to a final vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to the California water rights bill.
The House then agreed by a vote of 245-173 to the resolution setting a time limit for debate and amendments that could be offered to the California water bill. Voting “yea” were 236 Republicans and 9 Democrats. Voting “nay” were 173 Democrats. As a result, the House proceeded to formal floor debate on legislation that would alter the management of one of California’s largest waterways to favor upstream agribusinesses over downstream environmental and conservation interests.