California drought legislation has been left high and dry in the U.S. Senate. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein says she's still shy of the 60 votes needed to move her California Emergency Drought Relief Act forward.
The bill would would allow regulators to “provide the maximum quantity of water supplies possible” to where it’s most needed and boost existing federal drought programs by $200 million.
“After speaking with 25 Republican senators, only some have agreed to vote for cloture on the bill," Feinstein says. "In times of disaster, the Senate has set aside its differences, come together and worked to help the country. This is such a time."
Earlier this month, Feinstein amended her measure to include storage for Colorado River water in Nevada, which just happens to be the home state of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The bill qualifies under Senate rules to come directly to the floor for a vote without committee hearings. But it still needs a filibuster-proof 60 votes.
Feinstein says her staff has been working "around the clock" to find the five Republicans votes necessary to reach that number. "We are very close to 60, but we’re not there yet."
In her April revision, Feinstein shrunk the amount of federal money in the bill from $500 million to $200 million. That dollar amount still doesn't please House Republicans, who in February passed their own bill, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act. But lawmakers are willing to debate the particulars if Feinstein can get her bill through the Senate and into a conference committee.
Feinstein says more than 800,000 acres of California farmland will likely be fallowed and the state’s economy faces a $7.5 billion hit. "This is an emergency," she says, "and this bill deserves a vote."
The House has left Washington for a two week recess; the Senate is expected to adjourn as early as Thursday night with no vote scheduled on drought legislation.