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Kevin McCarthy AWOL on Central Valley Water Crisis, CNN Report Says

Constituents in the new House Speaker's drought-stricken district say he fails to respond to their water shortage.

PUBLISHED JAN 23, 2023 1:58 P.M.
Kevin McCarthy (CA-20) is the new House Speaker, but his constituents remain badly short of water.

Kevin McCarthy (CA-20) is the new House Speaker, but his constituents remain badly short of water.   Speaker of the United States House of Representatives   Public Domain

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican congressional representative from California’s 20th district, was the center of national news coverage earlier in January when he needed 15 rounds of voting by members of his own party to be elected Speaker of the United States House. Back in McCarthy’s district, his constituents are growing increasingly disillusioned with what they say is his lack of attention to their most desperate problem—they don’t have enough water. 

A new report by CNN.com (linked below) details the water shortage in Tulare and Kern Counties, which form the heart of Bakersfield-native McCarthy’s district, quoting local leaders who say that from his powerful perch in Washington D.C., McCarthy has done little to address the crisis on his own home turf.

“In my experience, he has never engaged with us on any of these kinds of emergencies,” Jessi Snyder, director of community development at local nonprofit Self-Help Enterprises, told CNN.com. Snyder’s group organizes deliveries of bottled water to Central Valley communities that have literally run dry. 

California’s drought has hit no part of the state harder than the Central Valley, where McCarthy’s district lies. Since at least 2013, Tulare County was under drought conditions almost continuously and 2021 was the county’s sixth-driest on record. As reported by CNN.com, Tulare, Kern and Fresno Counties, have been placed in the  U.S. Drought Monitor’s “exceptional drought” category for more than 200 weeks in the past 10 years.

McCarthy has not been completely inactive in Congress when it comes to water issues. In September of 2022, McCarthy introduced an amendment to a wide-ranging Water and Wildfire bill in the House that would have allowed the Tulare County town of Tooleville to hook into the water supplies of nearby, larger communities in order to replenish dry wells. Toolevile’s population of 271 is served by two wells, both of which dried up as groundwater levels in the valley plunged due to the ongoing drought.

Though the House adopted his amendment by a voice vote, McCarthy then voted against the bill anyway—as did every other House Republican except Pennsylvania’s Brian Fitzpatrick (Oregon’s Kurt Schrader was the only Democrat to oppose the bill, which passed 218-199.) 

In September of 2022, McCarthy joined as a sponsor of the “WATER for California Act,” a bill introduced by Republican David Valadao, another Central Valley congressional rep. The bill focused largely on water storage projects, such as building new dams and reservoirs. The legislation failed to advance in the last congressional session and has not been reintroduced.

As CNN.com reports, McCarthy has consistently voted against legislation designed to address climate change as a factor in the drought and his office would not comment to the site as to whether McCarthy believes that climate factors play any role in his district’s water shortages. Instead, as in the “WATER for California Act,” and in an earlier, 2017 version of Valadao’s bill, McCarthy has generally blamed the water crisis in his district on state mismanagement, and the lack of new dams and reservoirs.

Snyder and other local water activists quoted in the CNN.com report credited Valadao for his attentiveness and quick responses to the water crisis in Central Valley communities. They also noted that Fresno Democrat Jim Costa and Republican Connie Conway (who left office after declining to seek reelection in 2022), both Central Valley Congressional reps, had been “accessible and engaged” on their constituents’ water issues.

“Kevin McCarthy, no,” Snyder told CNN.com

Read the full CNN.com report at this link.

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