I’d like to talk about two pieces of legislation that were voted on last week, the final week the House was in session during 2014. The Rep. David Valadao water bill, which he called “The Drought Relief Act of 2014,” and the “CRomnibus” appropriations bill. I voted against Rep. Valadao’s bill for quite a few reasons. First off, it would have terrible consequences for the people I represent and for our environment. The bill would allow environmental law to be suspended so that new water flowing to the California Delta could be shipped south of this region, negatively affecting the families, farmers, and small businesses that depend on this invaluable resource. The California Delta was originally fed by two mighty rivers: the San Joaquin and the Sacramento. The San Joaquin River is now a dry riverbed because the water has been diverted south for decades, and much of the Sacramento River is now diverted south.
The Valdao bill does not incorporate input from stakeholders here in the the Delta itself – the fishermen who depend on Delta salmon, the farmers whose water is threatened by saltwater intrusion, the marina owners whose business will suffer, and other interests of the north and central Delta. This issue should be decided in California by all stakeholders, not in Washington. In fact, the state is already taking action on the drought – including passing a water bond and working in real time to determine water distribution in the state. Even though Rep. Valadao’s bill passed the House, it thankfully did not pass the Senate or get the President’s signature.
The second bill that Congress voted on was the “CRomnibus” appropriations legislation. I would have supported this bill if it had contained only government funding, because that part of the bill represented a legitimate compromise between conservative and progressive interests.
Unfortunately, Republican Senators inserted two provisions that I found completely unacceptable: One was a provision inserted by Senator Mitch McConnell that will allow wealthy people in this country to have even more influence over our elections- it increases the individual contribution level to campaigns ten times- from $35,000 to $350,000 per person.
This is an outrageous move by Sen. McConnell to tap into the wealthiest donors to get ahead of party campaign funding following the disastrous Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that allowed unlimited and anonymous money to flow into campaigns. This is another step toward big money controlling the media in elections and is a dangerous departure from representative one-person-one-vote democracy toward a one in which a few wealthy people control this country.
Another unacceptable provision inserted in the CRomnibus would allow big banks to trade derivatives under the protection of the federal government. This activity is exactly what caused the financial crash of 2008. The Dodd-Frank Law, which passed as a result of the crash of 2008, prohibits this activity, forcing banks to trade derivatives in subsidiaries, which are not protected and are not “too big to fail,” so taxpayers would not be liable.
The result of this trading pre-2008 was that the big banks were bailed out at taxpayer expense and the top executives got enormous bonuses while millions of jobs were lost and home values plummeted. This is one of the root problems that led to San Joaquin County and parts of Contra Costa County having some of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation over the past seven years. The Republicans who represent the interests of the big banks instead of the American people have been trying to repeal this prohibition since it passed and they have now succeeded, putting our entire economy at risk. This provision is unacceptable. Due to these two provisions, I determined that it was in the best interest of our nation to oppose the CRomnibus.
This legislation ultimately passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by the president.