Just before leaving town last week, the U.S. Senate passed the amended version of California Democrat Dianne Feinstein’s drought relief bill. The House passed its own version in February. Now lawmakers begin the process of compromise.
The House returns to Washington Wednesday night and lawmakers from California’s Central Valley — plus the head of the Natural Resources Committee — will meet to discuss how to reconcile Feinstein’s measure with the more expansive bill passed by the House.
Central Valley Republican Devin Nunes says Congressional rules allow several options: a formal conference committee where the two bills would be debated; amending Feinstein's bill; or even introducing a new bill. "At the end of the day," says Nunes, "it doesn’t matter how it’s set up, you just need to sit down and negotiate and see what you can come up with."
Nunes, who wrote the last House drought bill two years ago, wouldn't say what he'd be willing to give up to as a compromise. "We’ve agreed to negotiate, so we’ll go from there."
There are several differences between the bills, primarily the time frame for storing additional water in reservoirs. Feinstein's measure would expire whenever the Governor lifts the emergency drought designation.
Environmentalists are unhappy with both bills, saying the House measure sets aside historic water agreements and environmental regulations and that the Senate bill allow greater water exports from the Sacramento Delta to growers in the Central Valley.
Feinstein says she hopes negotiations can "proceed quickly and bypass many of the controversial issues that have been raised in the past."
If the House amends Feinstein’s drought bill, it would return to the Senate for a vote.