California Tea Party activists have long battled the bureaucrats and politicians over policies related to water.

One of the most well-known of the myriad of issues is the diversion of water from farms in the Central Valley (a major source of this nation’s fruits and nuts….outside of San Francisco, that is). One goal of this reallocation of a prime agricultural resource is the protection of a bait fish known as the Delta Smelt.

Last week, the House of Representatives easily passed a major water bill that includes emergency aid for Flint, Mich., and boosts U.S. ports, dams and waterways. This bill, known as the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), was initially co-authored by the notorious Senator Barbara Boxer, who infamously derided a Brigadier General for referring to her as “ma’am”.

However, Boxer’s California compatriot in the Senate decided to include a Christmas bonus for the state’s farmers in the final piece of legislation:

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) successfully slipped in long-desired language to provide drought relief to central and southern California. It would temporarily relax environmental standards and instruct federal officials to divert more water to farms and other users in the federal water infrastructure in the Golden State.

Boxer spend 90 minutes denouncing the bill on the floor of the Senate, saying the revised rules would undermine the Endangered Species Act.

“I ask a no vote on a bill that would undo the entire salmon fishery on the West Coast. Don’t drop this in at the last minute,” Boxer said about amendments that were added at the last minute to an $11 billion water infrastructure bill with projects across the nation.

She then attempted to block it with a unanimous consent request to offer an amendment that would strip the drought provision. Her motion was swiftly rejected.

Our other Senator had an entirely different, and far more rational, viewpoint.

Feinstein said Friday that she came on board with the new policy after tracking daily water levels “and seeing where, if it were possible, we could have saved water without impacting fish.”

The bill states more than 30 times that the new policy does not supersede existing environmental laws, and Feinstein disagrees with Boxer’s insistence that it weakens the Endangered Species Act.

Dawn Wildman, a leading organizer for the California Tea Party Groups, offered this assessment of Boxer’s senatorial antics.

“Boxer should ask the farmers if they support this bill or the consumers that will be people who are fed by the bread basket of America our Central Valley. What exactly is this “big agriculture” that she keeps talking about? The small multi-generation farms in this state are not that, many many are dried-out, fallowing lands thanks to the ignorant failed policies of the progressives. When she is gone, I look forward to true reform for our farms. California farmers are starving for real reform.”

The bill actually passed the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly. The legislation is now heading to President Obama for signature, and Boxer is unhappy.

Feinstein and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, and their staffs, crafted the final water package, which the Senate approved on a 78-21 vote. They also made the hard-ball tactical choice to fold it into a widely popular infrastructure bill, which eased Senate passage while it left retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer fuming.

“I think it is absolutely a horrible process, a horrible rider,” Boxer said during floor debate Friday.

This is a fitting end to the career of California’s most notorious U.S. Senator. I only wish I could assure you her replacement would be better.


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