Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
12/11/2014 7:19 PM

As the most severe winter storm in at least a half-decade bore down on California on Tuesday, 3,000 miles away in Washington, the House voted, largely along party lines, for a California drought relief bill.

It was immediately declared dead on arrival in the Senate, and President Barack Obama threatened to veto it.

It is, in other words, gridlock as usual in the nation’s capital and, it would appear, gridlock as usual in the nation’s largest congressional delegation.

Led by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, Republican members, along with San Joaquin Valley Democrat Jim Costa, voted for the bill, while other California Democrats opposed it.

Afterward, not surprisingly, harsh words were exchanged between the two factions. McCarthy, et al., pointed out that much of the measure mirrored a plan that Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein had floated, while Democrats said it was a secretive water grab that would damage the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

It was, in effect, Washington’s version of California’s internal – and eternal – battle that predates the drought by decades: How much Northern California water should flow southward to San Joaquin Valley farmers and Southern California cities?

The in-state version is over the plan, championed by Gov. Jerry Brown and water users south of the Delta, to bore tunnels beneath the Delta to make such shipments more reliable. Most environmental groups oppose the project as creating the plumbing that could be used to divert so much water that the Delta’s fragile environment would be irreparably damaged.

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