House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants federal mediation of port dispute

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) speaks to a lunch audience Feb. 6, 2015 at Town Hall Los Angeles, a nonpartisan public affairs group.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) speaks to a lunch audience Feb. 6, 2015 at Town Hall Los Angeles, a nonpartisan public affairs group. Sharon McNary/KPCC

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Friday that the federal government should intervene in the drawn-out labor negotiations at the ports of Los Angeles  and Long Beach.

McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said he has received calls for help from small businesses in other states complaining their imports were stuck in a backlog of unloaded container ships stalled offshore during the labor slowdown. Dockworkers and shippers group the Pacific Maritime Association have been in contract talks since May.

"This is a place where Washington could step in, which I've requested, is to have a mediator and settle this problem," McCarthy said. "This is a loss for all of California."

McCarthy spoke in Los Angeles at the City Club as the guest of the nonpartisan public affairs group Town Hall Los Angeles.

McCarthy said President Obama should deal with the new Republican majority in both houses the way Ronald Reagan dealt with Democrats and Bill Clinton with Republicans -- finding areas of agreement.

"Historically, in America, we have achieved some of our biggest accomplishments in divided government," he said.

McCarthy said he saw the greatest potential for accord in tax reform, infrastructure funding, improving cyber-security and streamlined drug approvals.

He said he came to Los Angeles with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) to speak with the FBI about the crime of human trafficking.

He pledged to work with Sen. Dianne Feinstein on finding ways to ease the effects of a historic drought on California.

"You didn't feel it in Southern California, the drought we had last year, but you'll feel it this year," McCarthy said. He said he favors lifting some environmental regulations in order to get more water flowing to Central and Southern California.

McCarthy defended a recent move by Republicans to undo President Obama's executive order deferring deportation of unauthorized immigrants who are the parents of citizens or legal residents.

"Whatever action he takes on immigration, he can't solve the problem. But he creates a situation that makes it harder to get an immigration solution," McCarthy said.

In comments after his speech, McCarthy said he wanted to pull the plug on California's  $68 billion high speed rail, the LA to SF bullet train which recently began construction in Central California. He said he didn't want to sacrifice taxpayer spending on higher priorities like education to pay for high speed rail.

McCarthy isn't against all rail projects, though. He said he could support added federal funding for Los Angeles's Purple Line subway extension.

"Investing in infrastructure is important. You win on the merits itself. There's a good opportunity it could be part of a highway bill. It's on the merits of where we need to move."

Obama's budget, introduced last week, included $100 million for  constructing the second phase of the Purple line subway extension from Wilshire and La Cienega to Century City. The amount came as a surprise to Los Angeles officials, because it had not previously been subject to a federal funding commitment, said Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Rick Jager.

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