H.R. 2442 contained six new projects to be part of the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program that were expected to save 2.6 billion gallons of water annually. This was a vote on a motion to suspend the usual House rules and pass the legislation.
Rep. George Miller (D-CA) was a leading supporter of the bill. He described the projects it authorized as being part of an “innovative new program . . . that reduces (California’s) demands for fresh water from the (San Francisco) Bay-Delta. California had been experiencing a long period of water shortage problems. Miller argued that the six water projects in the bill “add enough water to the system to meet the needs of 24,225 households” in the San Francisco Bay area. He added, “more importantly, these water projects will help the state as a whole . . . We cannot solve California's water situation without a significant investment in recycling wastewater and putting it to beneficial use. This program is a smart and efficient way to conserve water supplies, lessen our impact on our natural resources, and create jobs and support local businesses.”
Miller concluded his remarks by saying the bill “authorizes cities across the Bay Area to join in a strong federal-state -local partnership that is providing our region a sustainable and reliable clean water supply.”
Water issues in California had become controversial matters. There was an ongoing drought in the state, and a court decision had limited the flow of water in certain of the state’s rivers to protect the habitat of certain fish. The combination of these events had caused problems for the farmers in the Central Valley of California. Earlier in the session, Rep. Nunes (R-CA) had unsuccessfully offered an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have overcome the court decision and increased the flow of water to the Central Valley.
In response to a request from Rep. Nunes, Republicans decided to oppose any California water-related bill, including this one, that did not allow for a vote on an amendment to deal with the issue. H.R. 2442 was being debated under a procedure that did not permit such an amendment. That procedure suspended the usual House rules, and limited the time for debate as well as preventing any amendment to be offered. The procedure also required a two-thirds vote for passage, rather than the usual majority.
The vote was 240-170 along almost straight party lines. Two hundred and thirty -eight Democrats and two Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and sixty-nine Republicans and one Democrat voted “nay”. Since the two-thirds vote required for passage under this procedure was not achieved, the Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program Expansion Act was not approved. The failure to achieve the necessary two-thirds vote did not prevent the bill from being reconsidered under regular House rules that require a simple majority for passage.