Drought creates political divide

The drought brought President Obama to Fresno for the first time and he called for a truce in the political water war.
February 17, 2014 8:26:40 PM PST
The drought brought President Obama to Fresno for the first time and he called for a truce in the political water war.

"It can't just be a matter of there's going to be less and less water so I'm going to grab more and more of a shrinking share of water. Instead we all have to come together," President Obama said.

But it's been a battle between democrats and republicans from day one. On his visit to the Valley the president was accompanied by California Governor Jerry Brown who's initial response to the drought was, "Governors can't make it rain."

That lead Republicans to attack the Democratic Governor for not immediately declaring a drought emergency, and prompted a massive rally at the capitol. The next day Governor declared a drought emergency. It laid the groundwork the state and federal assistance.

But Republicans said it wasn't enough. The Valley's Republican Congressmen brought House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio to a dusty Kern County farm field. There he blamed Democrats and their support of environmental regulations for the drought.

"How you can favor fish over people is something people in my part of the world can never understand." Boehner exclaimed.

A short time later a Republican drought relief bill, aimed at overturning environmental restrictions whizzed through the House. Democratic Congressman Jim Costa of Fresno voted for the measure, but noted its major limitation, a lack of support from outside the Central Valley.

"We have to be mindful we are one state. While something may be politically popular here in the Valley it may not be able to gain support in Southern California or the Bay Area," Costa said

Costa then drafted his own measure in conjunction with Senate legislation drawn up by Senator's Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. All accompanied the President on his visit to the Valley, and the President made it clear their legislation has his support.

"A bipartisan bill written by your outstanding senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer as well as your own outstanding representative and almond farmer Jim Costa," President Obama said.

The legislation provides hundreds of millions of dollars in immediate assistance but no long term solutions, like dams, and it's not enough for Republicans.

In a written statement Republican Congressman Nunes said, "President Obama could have taken the lead in solving this crisis, but he is apparently more concerned with placating his radical environmentalist allies"

Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield also criticized the President's drought relief plans, but did agree it was time to work together. Democrat Jim Costa sees that as an encouraging sign.

"Kevin McCarthy indicated that with the President's visit and the legislation Senator Feinstein and I introduced we ought to figure out where we can find those compromises and I think Senator Feinstein and I would like to sit down with Congressman McCarthy and see what can be done," Costa said.

Just as the Governor's options are limited, the President can't make it rain, but with his visit to the Valley, President Barrack Obama made it clear, he wants to help.

"This is something I'm very committed to. We are going to make sure to get it done," President Obama said.


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