WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican members of California’s congressional delegation on Tuesday celebrated GOP control of Congress, pointing to passage of drought relief legislation for the San Joaquin Valley as one possible benefit.
Still, GOP lawmakers weren’t promising any breakthroughs, knowing that it may be difficult to overcome filibusters or presidential vetoes without significant help from Democratic lawmakers.
There are 14 Republicans in California’s 53-member House delegation.
“We will send bills to the president, including the water bill,” said Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican who represents a Central Valley district that includes Modesto. “If he’s going to allow the state of California to suffer through another drought and high unemployment, he’ll have to explain that to (Gov.) Jerry Brown and the state of California.”
A Republican-led House passed two drought relief bills in the last congressional session. But the Senate opted not to take up either bill, with opponents saying the bills essentially took water from some constituencies and gave it to others without solving the real problem — a lack of water due to extreme drought.
Democratic Rep. John Garamendi said a better course of action would be to align federal policy with elements of a $7.5 water bond that California voters approved in November that calls for building two new reservoirs, investing in conservation measures, water recycling and groundwater cleanup.
But did he really expect that to happen? Garamendi sounded a bipartisan note on the session’s opening day. “It’s a new year and it’s a new Congress,” Garamendi said. “We have an opportunity to really do some positive work.”
Republican control of both chambers also will likely mean no federal funding for California’s high-speed rail system for at least the next two years.
Californians in 2008 approved a nearly $10 billion bond for the train, and in 2012 the Obama administration dedicated $3.3 billion in stimulus funds. GOP leaders in the House have since worked to block further federal funding for the project.
Despite opposition from many in Congress, state and federal officials participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the project Tuesday in Fresno.
“These political tricks are exactly what the American people are tired of and what the new Republican Congress is committed to ending,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield said about the ceremony.
McCarthy said the House also will push early for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would move tar sands oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.
“The more American becomes energy independent, the more job creation there is.” McCarthy said.
The White House said Tuesday that President Barack Obama would veto a bill that allows for construction of the pipeline.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who represents a largely rural district north of Sacramento, said he’s hoping Republican control enhances prospects for new water storage projects and greater timber harvesting on federal lands.
“In California, every summer we get to watch our forests burn instead of managed. They need to be managed,” LaMalfa said. “That means removing trees and planting back.”
Immigration will keep generating significant debate. The Senate passed an immigration overhaul last Congress, but conservatives ensured the bill went nowhere in the House. Denham said GOP control of both chambers could lead to some legislative breakthroughs.
“House leadership continues to be supportive of an immigration overhaul, but certainly wants to do it one bill at a time,” said Denham.