The Senate rejected an amendment proposed by Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, to send more water to struggling farming area of California’s Central Valley through pumps that were shut down earlier this year to save a three-inch fish.
This is the latest in a series of efforts in recent weeks to undo a biological opinion from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that required water to be cut off to the valley to protect the Delta Smelt, a small fish that resembles a large minnow.
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who represents some of the valley, has been trying to reverse the measure but has been unable to convince Democrats in the House to hold the floor vote neccesary to do so. For their part, many Democrats attribute the area’s farming woes to recent droughts and say giving the valley more water isn’t the right solution.
Fox News personality Sean Hannity took his highly-rated prime time television program there earlier this month to interview the farmers who were asking the government to get the water back. This brought national attention to a problem that had only been covered by a few outlets, like the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Hannity called his program “The Valley that Hope Forgot” and slammed the Democrats in power for protecting fish at the expense of suffering farmers.
Mr. DeMint put the question to a test on Tuesday evening by proposing adding a measure to the Senate’s Interior spending bill to prohibit any federal funds from being used to restrict the water supply in that area.
It was voted down 61-36.
California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein voted against it and likened Mr. DeMint’s amendment to let more water flow in her state to the sneak attack the Japanese made on Pearl Harbor.
“I don’t quite understand what is going on here,” she said on the floor of the Senate. “And that is the reason for my objection. I’m not going to put the state of California and the Bay Delta in the threat of another lawsuit. We have enough already and water is a huge, difficult and complicated issue…in a way this a kind of Pearl Harbor, when everything we are trying to do, to work together, to put Interior in the lead, not to handcuff Interior and that is the reason I object to the amendment.”
A video of her statement, posted by Mr. DeMint’s office can be viewed HERE.
Mr. DeMint seemed to think she was making it too complicated. “Unlike most of the big government solutions coming out of Washington that cost taxpayers billions, this amendment doesn’t cost a single penny,” said Mr. DeMint in statement. “We can turn the water on so thousands of Central Valley farmers can get back to work without creating another federal program or bailing out another industry.”