Water issues in California had become controversial matters. There was an ongoing drought in the state, and some federal actions and a related court decision had limited the flow of water in a few of the state’s major rivers to protect the habitat of certain fish. The combination of these events had caused problems for the farmers in the San Joaquin Valley of California.
The House was considering H.R. 2442, which expanded the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program. Prior to its consideration, Rep. Nunes (R-CA) had unsuccessfully attempted to have an amendment to the bill relating to the water flow in the San Joaquin Valley made in order. The language of that amendment would have overcome federal actions and a court decision that limited the water flow to the San Joaquin Valley. Since that effort failed, he moved at the conclusion of debate on the bill to send it back to committee and add the language of his amendment. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who supported the federal actions and court decision, successfully requested a procedural ruling that the Nunes motion was out of order because the subject of the San Joaquin Valley water flow was not related to the San Francisco Bay Recycling Program. This vote was on an appeal of that ruling.
Rep. Hastings (R-WA) was leading the debate on H.R. 2442 for the Republicans. He had said during the debate that “there is an economic disaster occurring in the San Joaquin Valley . . . (because) man-made and government-enforced drought has dried up farm after farm in that valley, with 40,000 workers unemployed, standing in food lines and being ignored by the leadership in this House, when solutions to bring water and relief to this area have been blocked and stymied again by the leadership in this House . . . .” He noted that H.R. 2442 “provides millions . . . for the Bay Area while tens of thousands of their fellow citizens suffer economic devastation just a few hours south and inland in the San Joaquin Valley.”
Hastings argued that: “(A)ll that was sought by (Rep. Nunes) . . . was to a have a chance . . . to make the case on the House floor and to (get a) vote for a solution to this disaster in the San Joaquin Valley. . . (He) just asked for the ability to be heard so (he) could persuade others . . . that chance has been denied .”
Rep. Nunes noted that San Francisco had previously “exempted environmental laws to build a new airport in the beautiful San Francisco Bay” and “used their muscle in the past to actually get by other environmental laws” when they succeeded in having a dam built in the Yosemite Valley to provide water for the city.” He added that “despite their own record, when folks a mere two hours away are bled dry of water, they have opposed a temporary waiver to allow not 2 billion gallons of water like this (bill) does, but 200 billion gallons of water.”
Rep. Rahall (D-WV) is the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee that developed H.R. 2442. During debate on the bill, he described the proposals of Rep. Nunes as being “not germane to the subject matter of the bill before us, nor . . . very thoughtful or realistic solutions to the crisis before us.” He added: “If opponents to this legislation want to work towards solving California's water woes, then I suggest getting real about finding solutions and stop the partisan political attacks . . . The only reason we are here today debating this legislation is because one Member thinks a solution to a severe drought is to gut environmental laws and overturn court decisions. Perhaps that Member should propose a rain dance as well.”
The appeal of the ruling was killed by a vote of 237-176. All two hundred and thirty-seven “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Eight other Democrats joined all one hundred and sixty-eight Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House effectively decided not to have a vote on whether to send the bill back to committee and order that language be added requiring the resumption of the previous water flow. The House instead moved to a vote on final passage of H.R. 2442 as it was written.