Republicans were hesitantly optimistic about passing a water infrastructure bill on Tuesday, despite promises from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on Monday to block the bill due to a provision she opposes on California drought.
House Republicans included language on Monday in the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act that Boxer said would bypass the Endangered Species Act to pump more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to California’s Central Valley. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) support the bill with the added language.
The rest of the bill focuses broadly on water infrastructure, and includes $170 million in funds for Flint, Mich., and other cities with lead pipes.
Boxer told reporters at a press conference on Monday she didn’t expect Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring the bill up because there would be enough opposition to impede the Senate’s progress on other priorities, including the wide-ranging energy bill.
“I don’t think he’ll bring it up,” Boxer said. “And if he does, we’ll be here through Christmas.”
Boxer didn’t explicitly say there would be Republican opposition to the measure in the Senate, but she indicated some Republicans might side with her, including Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).
“Sen. Inhofe deserves my thanks. He is not a party to this,” Boxer said. “Neither is Sen. McConnell. The Senate is not a party to this. It is all happening over in the House.”
But on Tuesday morning, McConnell said on the Senate floor that he hopes “the Senate will take the next steps soon” on the WRDA bill. And a spokeswoman for Inhofe told Morning Consult on Tuesday that he has no opinion on the drought measure itself, and that he is “confident that the bill will advance despite the drought language.”
Other Republicans were also quietly determined to pass the bill regardless of the drought measure.
“I support it and I’m optimistic. We’ll have to see,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who is in line to succeed Inhofe as chairman of Environment and Public Works, told reporters on Tuesday.