BOXER: I want to thank Senator Cochran for his courtesy in getting the time for me. You know, some people may wonder why it is on a Friday we're still here and we're still arguing and we're still debating.
There are several issues that are troubling to many people in the Senate and in the country, and a couple of them have a focus on them today. How this all ends remains to be seen, but I just feel it's important for the American people to understand there are some people here that are willing to take the time to explain why we can't just go home right now, and we're no different than any other American. We don't want to have to work on the weekend. We don't want to have to be here when we don't have to be, giving speeches that we don't have to give.
I also want to give a shout out to my friends who are calling attention to the plight of widows of miners, miners who went into the coal mines and knowing full well they risked their lives every day, they knew that if something happened to them, their widows would be taken care of. If we can't take care of widows and children, if we can't take care of widows and children who are left behind because a coal miner risked his life or her life, who are we fighting for and what are we doing here?
Now, Senator Manchin, Senator Heitkamp, Senator Casey, Senator Schumer, several of my colleagues have been very clear. Senator Warner. They have been taking to this floor warning the majority, Republicans, that we want to take care of these widows. The money is there. It's there for them. But instead my Republican friends want to take it away. And you know what? That's not happening without a fight. That's not happening without a fight. If we can't defend widows and orphans, I got news for you. We don't deserve to be here.
Now, two days ago I gave what was to be my final major speech on the floor of the Senate. Believe me, I don't want to be here. I don't want to be talking. I wanted to go out with a great big smile on my face after working in politics for 40 years. But I am here, and I am here to explain an issue that is very troubling. If you ask the average person what troubles them about Congress, they hate Congress. I mean, we get like a 17% positive rating. Maybe 18%, maybe 12%. It's bad. It's hurtful.
One of the things they will say on their list is they hate when a special interest rider is dropped on a bill, it has had no look, it is no hearing, it has nothing to do with the bill. And el nino are force -- and then people are forced into a situation where either they swallow that garbage or they can't vote for the underlying bill which may be very important to their state, to their constituents or to the country. That's what's happening on the continuing resolution to keep the government open. There's a paltry four-month extension for the widows of coal miners of their health care. What good does that do? They're going to be frightened to death. Maybe they go to the doctor in that first month and the doctor says I'm watching a lump. It may be cancerous, come back in three months. They don't know if they're going to have health care. It's a disgrace, but the widows are not protected in the continuing resolution.
So what are you facing? Either you shut down the government or you fight for the widows. This is what people hate about Congress. And we don't have to do it. Not at all. If you believe you've got great legislation, go through the channels, introduce the bill, let it have a hearing. If you think the miners' widows only deserve four months, let's have a discussion about it.
Well, we've got another situation on another bill. The bill is called WRDA. You may have heard about it. What does it stand for? Water Resources Development Act. This WRDA bill is a beautiful bill. It was worked on for well more than a year with my committee. I'm proud to be the ranking member on it. I was the Chairman. When Republicans took back the Senate, Senator Inhofe became the Chairman. We worked hand in glove. We set aside our differences. We set aside poison pills, and we said we're going to put together a great bill, and we did. It's a great bill.
It deals with flood control. It deals with making sure there's environmental restoration. It deals with making sure our ports are dredged and can in fact support the type of commerce we need in the greatest country in the world. We have funding in there, authorization in there for desalination because we know we have droughts in the western states and we need to work on that. We have authorization in there for ways to use technology to ensure we can increase our water supply, so we have authorization in there for water recharging and water recycling. It is quite a bill. It has authorization in there to move forward with all the Army Corps projects that have been looked at up and down and inside out.
For my state, it's incredible what we have in there. I don't think I've ever had a bill that did more for my state. We have projects in Sacramento. We have projects in Los Angeles. We have projects in the San Francisco area. We have projects from north to south, east and west. We have levee fixes. We have Lake Tahoe restoration that Senator Feinstein and I worked on. We have very important ecosystem restoration. We have projects in Orange County, all over.
Why do I say this? I say this to make the point. Why, if Senator Boxer has all those great things for her state in this WRDA bill, why is she standing here saying vote "no"? It isn't easy. It breaks my heart, but I'll tell you why. In the middle of the night, coming from the ceiling airdropped into this bill is a dangerous 98-page rider which will become law with the WRDA bill, and what does it do? It attacks head on the Endangered Species Act. It gives operational instructions on how to move water in my state away from the salmon fisheries and to big agribusiness, regardless of what the science says. And if somebody says oh my God, this is terrible, we're going to lose the salmon fishery, it will take a very long time to have that study and will be too late to save the fishery.
This isn't just about the salmon it is about the people who fish. They are distressed about this. They represent tens of thousands of families who rely on having enough water for the fishery. I ask unanimous consent to place in the record the letter signed by this vast array of fishermen. I ask unanimous consent to place in the record the names and the letters from all of those who rely on the salmon fishery.
PRESIDING OFFIER: Without objection.
BOXER: thank you. I know it's a holiday. God knows I know that. This year Hanukkah and Christmas come at the same time. So in my family, my grandkids celebrate both. I want to go home, but the people who depend on the water to support the salmon fishing industry, they may not be able to celebrate this year because someone over there named Kevin McCarthy dropped in the dead of night a rider on a beautiful bill called WRDA and wrecked it. And never once thought about the people who rely on fishing. It is a disgrace. Who's signing the letter saying don't do this, don't do this, don't do this? The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association, the Golden Gate Salmon Association, the Southern California trawler's association of Santa Barbara, commercial fishermen of saudi -- fishermen of Santa Barbara. The common at -- the Monterey Fishermen's Association, the Half-moon Bay Seafood Marketing Association, the Half-moon -- the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association, the Small-boat Commercial Salmon Fishermen Association, the Bedega Bay Fisherman Marketing Association, the Salmon Trawlers Marketing Association, the Humbolt Fishermen's Association, the Coastal Trawler Fishermen's Association. Putting those in the record.
In all my lifetime serving, I have never seen such an outcry from one industry. There is no disagreement. The water will be taken away for agribusiness regardless of what the scientists think. Now you may say, well, Senator what was controlling this before this power grab? It's a law. It's a law called the Endangered Species Act. And you may then ask, well, what liberal politician president signed that? And let me give you the answer. A Republican named Richard Nixon. What breaks my heart more than anything else -- and I've said it before -- is how the environment has become such a hot-button issue. And I want to talk to you about the Endangered Species Act.
You know, we have landmark laws in our nation. It makes our nation great. The Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Control Substances Act, the Brownfields Law. These are landmark laws beloved by the people. If you went out on the street or I asked up in the gallery how many people think we should protect our endangered species? I would be surprised if more than a few disagreed with that. And let me show you why. What has been saved by the Endangered Species Act? How about nothing less than the American bald eagle. This species was on its way to extinction, but because of the Endangered Species Act, we learned that there were only enough left for a few years. And so the Endangered Species Law said no, no, no, no. We have to change what we do and protect this species.
The American eagle was protected because Richard Nixon and Democrats and Republicans agreed we need an endangered species act. That was in the 1960's. Now we have a front assault on the endangered species act. And let me show you what other species we've saved under the Endangered Species Act. This is the California condor, this magnificent creature. God's creation. We talk a lot about our faith here, and I never ever, ever doubt anybody's faith. But I am saying if you truly are a believer, then you'd work to protect god's creation. It's part of our responsibility. Here it is.
What would have happened if this type of law was changed, this Endangered Species Act had been changed to say don't worry about the science. Do whatever you want. Or you know what? If it's bothering the hunters or the fishermen, just throw it out the window. We wouldn't have saved these creatures. I'll show you some others. This is the paragon falcon. This magnificent thing. It makes you smile to just look at it. Again, endangered. If there had been legislation like this midnight drop from Kevin McCarthy on the Endangered Species Act, we might have lost this magnificent creature.
So to say that we should just go home to our families and our children and our grandchildren without calling attention to what is on the WRDA bill that I love -- let me be clear. Personally, I win either way. One way I win if we stop this bill and we take off this horrible rider and pass it clean. That would be the most amazing thing. And if we don't, I bring home 26 incredible projects to my people. It's not about me. It's not about me. We have one more to show you.
This is the great sea turtle. This beautiful creature saved by the Endangered Species Act. If we had similar legislation about this magnificent creature and it said, you know, if seven out of ten people believe it's harming their business, let's just forget about it, we don't really need it, we wouldn't have saved this. So when you -- when you drop this -- I call it midnight rider on a beautiful bill and say we're going to violate the Endangered Species Act, unless somebody can prove that it's really bad, you're destroying the endangered species act, and what right does anybody have to do that in the middle of the night in the darkness before Christmas days before government funding runs out? I say nobody should have the right to do it, and since they did it, I'm going to make noise about it. Believe me. I am on my way out the door. Did I want to do this? No. I did my speech. I was so thrilled to do it. My family was up there, and I'm in the middle of a battle now. Well, I guess that's how it is. You come in fighting, you go out fighting. That's just the way it goes.
A lot of people said oh, Barbara, why do you want to do this? You know, you had such a beautiful speech, it was a high note. I can't. I'm alive. I know what's going on. I'm going to tell the truth. And the truth is Kevin McCarthy has been trying to get more water for big agribusiness in his -- water in my state is very contentious, and my view about water is everybody comes to the table, we work it out together. I don't like the water wars. He has launched another water wars battle. For big agribusiness against the salmon fishery. It's ugly, and it's wrong, and it's going to wind up at the courthouse door anyway. Why are we doing this? It's not right. You don't need to fight about water. Just all the stakeholders have to sit down and work together.
I love the fact that my state produces more fruits and vegetables and nuts. It's the breadbasket of the world. But under most measurements, farmers use 80% of the water, Mr. President. 80% of the water. And in a drought situation, why would you then hurt the other stakeholders because an almond grower wants to do more almond growing and it takes a gallon to produce one almond. I love almonds. Believe me, they are fabulous food. And there is a recent study, they are really healthy for you and I want everyone to eat almonds, but they export a ton of them.
We have got to preserve the environment in our state and not run these fishermen out. What's really been interesting is the editorials that have come about as a result of this midnight rider. I ask unanimous consent to place in the record an editorial by "The Sacramento Bee." thank you, Mr. President. This is it. This is what I'm reading from. "The federal legislation surely will result in increased water exports. It's basic point and contains unfortunate language that would allow federal authorities to override scientists and order water exports that could further damage the delta and the fisheries."
What is the delta? The delta is the series of islands through which the natural rain water runs. And the water gets purified, and it runs into our rivers and streams. And it supports the salmon fishing and it supports clean drinking water. But if you rip away that water, you're going to have more salt in the water that remains, it's going to be more expensive for the people to get it to drinking quality.
I say, Senator Hatch, I'm going to have the floor for quite a while. Sorry. I'm going to have the floor for quite a while.
And so what you have here is a circumstance where you're not only running the salmon fishery out but you are also destroying the water quality, the drinking water quality for many users in the area who rely on the delta water and making it far more expensive to clean up the water because it has so much salt in it. So here is "The Sacramento Bee" saying the unfortunate language would allow federal authorities to override scientists and order water exports that could further damage the delta and the fisheries. I think I've explained to you what that means. So it destroys and harms not only the salmon fishery but it also destroys and harms drinking water.
Now, the bill, it says -- this is the rider that's on my beautiful WRDA bill that I love so much that I wrote with Jim Inhofe. The bill authorizes additional pumping unless fisheries scientists can prove there will be damage to fish, an impossible standard. So when those who support this say oh, don't worry, Barbara, they will pump at the maximum ability, constantly, but there has to be a report. Well, by the time they finish the report, there will be a lot of dead fish or no fish. And it goes on to say no one should kid themselves. This bill will result in damage to the environment and will not end the California water wars. Let me say that again. This is the "Sacramento Bee." this is not known for any kind of liberal editorializing. "No one should kid themselves. This bill will result in damage to the environment, and it will not end California's water wars."
So we put that in the record along with all the different fishing groups that strongly oppose this. So we are here, we are here and everyone's calling me, oh, let's go home, let's go home. I want to go home. I really want to go home because this is the end of my last term. But I can't. Let the clock go. It will run out. But the fact remains we have to take a stand against these midnight riders that drop from the ceiling that attack Richard Nixon's Endangered Species Act that we all supported forever until now.
I guess it's easy to say I support the Endangered Species Act until someone says oh, there's an endangered species, and then you say oh, never mind. No, no, no. No, no, no. You support it because you want to protect God's creatures, and then you keep supporting it, and you don't attack it on a rider that was dropped at midnight, never had a hearing on a bill that had nothing to do with the subject matter. What they did belongs in the energy bill, but they didn't want to put it in there. They wanted to put it in WRDA because WRDA is so popular. WRDA is a beautiful bill, a beautiful bill that I worked on that's going to be my legacy bill. So here I am standing up, making a big fuss on my own bill and saying vote "no" on it. That is really hard. I hope no one in this body ever has to do this. It is a very difficult thing.
Now, you may say who really cares? About the salmon fishery? Who really cares about the endangered species act? Well, how about every environmental organization that I know of in the country. And, Mr. President, I would ask unanimous consent to place in the record letters from these organizations.
PRESIDING OFFICER: Without objection.
BOXER: Thank you so much. So who are they? They're the Natural Resources Defense Council who have clearly stated that this is a violation of the Endangered Species Act. The league of conservation voters, an organization that follows this. They are scoring this vote. They are scoring this vote. Defenders of Wildlife who are committed to protecting God's creatures. Earth justice. The Sierra Club. National Autobahn Society. Greenpeace. Trout Unlimited that had a huge participation of fishermen, recreational fishermen. Environmental entrepreneurs.
These are actually business leaders in this country who care about what we do, and they say -- and I'll read a little bit of the Trout Unlimited letter. "Trout Unlimited is opposed to the drought provision that has been added to the WRDA bill being considered by the house as it undermines an otherwise salutary water resources development act bill, developed in a bipartisan manner by the House and Senate." What a beautiful opening sentence. They get it.
Trout Unlimited, they're not liberals or conservatives. They just like to go and have a good time with recreational fishing. There won't be a fishery left because of a bill that was dropped from the ceiling in midnight because somebody wanted to take water away from the salmon fishery and give it to agribusiness. Disgraceful.
Why don't we work together on getting more water? This is not a drought bill. It's called the California Drought Bill. It's ridiculous. It has nothing to do with increasing the water. All it does is move water from one place to another, and the additional authorizations on it on the rider are already in the underlying WRDA bill. We don't need this. It calls for desal. It calls for water recharging. So -- it calls for recycling. So this is a phony name of the bill. California Drought Bill. It does zero, zero, zero, zero to help with the drought. All it does is attacks the fishing industry. That's it. And thousands of jobs because one Congressman over there represents a little district, and he's delivering to agribusiness. It's shameful.
We stand here and we decry the fact that the widows of the miners are getting the shaft, and they are, and I stand with them. I ask my colleagues to vote "no" on a bill that contains language that will undo the salmon fishery on the entire West Coast, and in this, I speak for Maria Cantrell, who will also be down here to speak. I speak for Ron Wyden. I speak for Jeff Merkley. I speak for Patty Murray. We are apoplectic about this. Do you want to do in the salmon fishery? Have the guts to have a hearing on it. Have the guts to look in the faces of these salmon fishery people. Have the guts to tell it to their face. Don't drop this thing at the last minute. Christmas time and we're all going to be good little girls and boys and say oh, we're going to go home. No, we're not. We're not. It's not right.
You know, I grew up, there was right and there was wrong. You can't turn away from wrong, even if it's inconvenient. It is inconvenient. You know, I have stood alone on this floor. I'm not standing alone on this, but I would if I had to. So let's see what some of these environmentalists have said.
How about E-2, the environmental business leaders, what do they say? "As business leaders focused on policies that promote a growing economy and healthy environment, we ask that you vote "on' the cloture on water resources development act if it contains the added language regarding California water." They say they're a nonpartisan group of business leaders, and they have funded venture capital and companies, and they said that WRDA is critical and that this language will not solve any drought issues. Its shortsighted provisions could damage the salmon industry that is fed from the central valley and hurt thousands of recreational jobs up and down the West Coast.
I mean, what I'm telling you is the truth. There is a bill that's called the California Drought Bill and does nothing, nothing at all to bring water in, because all of the language that will deal with desal and high technologies are there are in the WRDA bill. That's just a phony deal. And there's no mandatory funding in it for those purposes. But what is mandatory is that regardless of the situation, water will be pumped away from the salmon fishery and toward big agribusiness.
And you know, there's another -- why don't we do this? It will be worse next year. Really? They've already said the people behind this, the agribusiness people, oh, this is just the start. This is just the start. So if we allow this to go without people paying attention, we're opening up the door to more and more attacks. There's a story -- and I ask unanimous consent to place in the record the story from the "San Jose Mercury News."
PRESIDING OFFICER: Without objection.
BOXER: Thank you. This editorial's very strong. In favor of the salmon fishery. And they say that this rider sells out to central valley water interests. It guts environmental protections and will have devastating long-term effects on the Sacramento, San Joaquin Delta's ecosystem. And they talk about my stand on this, and they note that I won't be here and that I'm taking a stand on this. They call this rider, the one that takes the water away from the salmon fishery and gives it to agribusiness, they call it an 80-page document negotiated behind closed doors which allows maximum pumping of water from the delta to the central valley and eliminates -- I'll talk about this -- important congressional oversight over building dams. I'm going to take a minute on this. I forgot to mention this.
This is -- this bill, this rider that was added to WRDA is called a California Drought Bill. It's way more than that. It's how to kill the salmon fishery in the West Coast Bill. Because it doesn't only kill it in California, it kills it in Oregon. It kills it in Washington. And thousands and thousands of jobs. And that's why we put in the record all the people in that salmon industry who oppose this rider. But it also says -- and this is amazing -- that in the 11 western states over the next five years the administration coming in will be able to single handedly authorize the building of dams which, as you know, wreak havoc with the natural environment and our rivers and are very expensive. Congress has always been involved in the authorization of dams because we hold hearings.
Why should we do it? Why shouldn't we do it? We bring in all the parties and we make a decision. This takes away the authority from Congress to authorize dams in the 11 western states. So I say rhetorically to Mr. McCarthy, do you really distrust your colleagues that much? Do you really, that you no longer trust them to have anything to say about whether a dam should be built or not? Do you really want to take away the authority from your colleagues to call experts together to say why is this dam needed? What would the pluses be if it's built? What would the minuses be? What would happen to wildlife? What would happen to the environment? Is it being built on an earthquake fault? You may laugh at that, but trust me, there were proposals in California to build these enormous dams on earthquake faults. And the only reason they were stopped is Congressional hearings.
Well, now President-Elect Trump, when he's President, will be able to determine in the 11 western states that have BLM. Land, whether there ought to be dams built. And Congress will have no say. And then the answer back is oh, but they still have to fund it. Yeah, I've been down that dance before and I know how that works. You just get a few dollars in it, it's on the books.
This bill is awful. It's awful. And I am so grateful to these newspapers in California who have called, called them out on it. Mr. President, I've got a Republican Senator complaining that I'm talking too long. What is the situation on the floor? Can Senators speak as long as they wish?
PRESIDING OFFICER: No limitation.
BOXER: thank you. So I will continue to speak. And when I'm done, I'll be done. It may be soon. I'm getting a little tired, but I'm going to keep talking for a while. And i say to everybody I'm sorry, but don't drop a midnight rider on a beautiful bill that I worked on for two years with my colleague, Senator Inhofe, and then say I'm really annoyed she's talking too much. I'm sorry. I apologize. But I'm going to talk until I'm done. And the senator from Washington, she's going to talk until she's done. Don't drop a midnight rider and destroy the fishing industry and say that Congress will no longer have the ability to build -- authorize the building of dams.
PRESIDING OFFICER: The Senator from Washington.
SENATOR CANTWELL: Mr. President, will the Senator from California yield for a question?
BOXER: Of course I will.
CANTWELL: I thank her for being out here today on this very important public policy issue because it is December, and most people know that high jinx happens in December around here, that people want to go home, that people are doing last-minute deals. I don't know if the senator from California knows, but the whole deregulation of ENRON and the energy markets and the whole that was a December midnight rider kind of activity. All of these things, you know, they know the members want to go home. They think it's the last deal, they can throw something in and everybody will just go along with it and blame it on I didn't read the fine print. So there's a couple of things in here that I just wanted to ask the senator from California about. I'm going to talk later but I wanted to get over here because she's such a knowledgeable person on this and I wanted to ask her a couple of questions. First, this rider that was placed in the house WRDA bill, is that the jurisdiction of your committee?
BOXER: Absolutely not, my friend. As you know, it is the jurisdiction of your committee. It has absolutely nothing to do with mine. And I would say there are two pieces added that we have a little jurisdiction on, just funding for desal, but that's already in the base WRDA bill. So I can honestly say to my friend, this a horrible rider in and of itself and one of the other problems with it is it's gone to the wrong committee. She's right, it belongs to your jurisdiction, yours and Senator Murkowski.
CANTWELL: I would like to enter into the record if I can the "San Francisco Chronicle" that says "stop the Feinstein water rider" because I think it's a great article that outlines how this isn't the jurisdiction of this committee and how it is a rider. I think that's one of the most objectionable parts for our colleagues is that regular order wasn't followed and it sets up a very bad precedent. So if I could, Mr. President, enter that into the record.
PRESIDING OFFICER: Without objection.
CANTWELL: I'd also like, Mr. President, to ask the Senator from California if she's aware that in this legislation there is also language which I'm not sure is in your jurisdiction either, the ability for dams to be built in 17 states without additional review by the United States Congress, without any other discussions. Are you going to take 17 western states and just give them blanket authority now to build dams without the consultation or input from cities, counties, constituents, interest groups, river constituents, fishermen, all these people are going to be -- and I can tell you because we have several projects we've been discussing in the pacific northwest that I've had to visit personally and talk to people. People are going very methodically through these issues and discussing them in a collaborative way because there's trade-offs here. And every community has a different opinion. So the notion that you would be foregoing your own state's ability to raise questions here in the United States Senate about somebody building a dam in your state, why would any member want to forego their ability as a member of the United States Senate or House of Representatives to forego their input on a dam being built on a river in their state? Are you aware of that provision?
BOXER: Senator, I just was talking about it briefly before you came to the floor, and I actually misstated it, so I'm really glad you corrected me. In rider dropped at midnight going on a bill that's a beautiful bill that I worked on for so long that you were a part of and you have a lot of wonderful things in there, as I do. This rider went to the wrong committee, and the issue you talk about, the ability of the president of the United States to by himself authorize dams in the western states for the next five years anywhere in those states is unheard of. And it is in your jurisdiction. It is in the jurisdiction of the energy committee. I hope Senator Murkowski's outraged about this as much as you are. And the fact is you're absolutely right. Here you have senator, a senator and a congressman getting together and saying that the congress should be bypassed and have no say in where dams should be put, whether dams should be built at all, and it is in the jurisdiction of the energy committee. It's not in the jurisdiction of environment and public works.
CANTWELL: Well, Mr. President, I thank the senator from California for that explanation. And I also want to enter into the record another San Francisco story from just yesterday where an attorney, Doug Obelgee who basically says that the densely technical text, he points to my colleague's point about the midnight darkness of these things. Densely technical text -- quote -- "explicitly authorizes the trump administration to violate the biological opinion under the endangered species act." end quote. So in the dark of night, it then says it is wholly inconsistent with state law. So I think that's the part where states are going to be told, look, you're just going to have to build a dam like that's it. We decided. Everybody calls us up and says wait a minute, I didn't want to dam that river or I want that stream to produce fish. Or I want that flow to be for downstream people further downstream. Not right here. All of that is basically now been given over to someone else and is inconsistent with our state law. So you're really overriding state law as well. I'd like to enter into the record, Mr. President, if I could enter that story into the record.
PRESIDING OFFICER: Without objection.
CANTWELL: Mr. President, I'd also like to ask the Senator from California if she's aware of a provision of the bill as people are referring to it that jilts the taxpayers. Jilts the taxpayers. Now I know there's a bunch of groups -- Taxpayers for Common Sense and even the Heritage Foundation, all of these people who are basically calling out the ridiculous spending aspects of this California provision. But I wonder if the Senator from California is aware that this basically l authorizes the prepayment on construction obligations that basically is going to take millions of dollars out of the U.S. Treasury just by passing this legislation, we would be taking money out of the treasury, resulting in basically $1.2 billion in receipts that we would have. And giving -- us a loss of $807 million. So this is a provision in the bill that I think has had little discussion, and this sweetheart deal for people is going to rip off the taxpayers in addition to all of this authorization that's in the legislation. Is my colleague from California aware of this provision?
BOXER: I want to say to my friend, I was aware of a provision, but I did not know the details of what you just said. So are you saying to me -- and my staff confirms that you're absolutely right. So you're saying to me that water contractors will be relieved of certain payments and the federal government will be on the hook, federal taxpayers. Is that what you're saying?
CANTWELL: What is happening here is that as people who are under current contracts on water repayments, they would be given a sweetheart deal in deduction of their interest which would allow them to shortchange our treasury on revenues that we are expecting. Now, if that's a big discussion and everybody here wants to take that kind of money out of the treasury and basically give a sweetheart deal to people, then we should have that discussion. We should have that discussion and understand that that's what we're doing and bless that and hear from our appropriators that that is a worthy thing to do for some reason. I can't imagine what that reason would be given that we are such shortchanged here and every day we are talking about how to make ends meet with so little revenues. So I don't know why we would give a bunch of contractors this ability to cost the treasury so much money by giving them a sweetheart deal.
So I will enter something into the record about this. It would really, as someone said, cause very substantial headaches for treasury and OMB and various agencies. So again, I think in the advent of somebody thinking its December and people want to go home for the Christmas holidays that people aren't going to read the details of this legislation. So I hope that our colleagues will read this detail because I don't think we can afford to cost the treasury this much money.
And I would also ask, Mr. President, my colleague from California, I'm going to assume that you have had a lot of discussion with our House colleagues about their earmark rules, and I think one of the reasons why the WRDA bill is something that people support because it's a list of projects that have been approved by various agencies and organizations, so has this project been approved by any of those agencies or organizations?
BOXER: Well, not only has this whole notion of moving water from one interest -- I would call the salmon fishery a critical interest not only in my state. That's why I hate that it's called the California Drought. It impacts not only California's fishing industry, but it impacts Washington's, Oregon's. That's why our -- save one, all of our senators on the west coast are strongly opposed to this. Don't call it California water.
But the fact of the matter is this has not been looked at in any way. And whether it's the money, whether it's what it does to the fishery, no one has really looked -- there hasn't even been a hearing about this specific bill. I know your committee has looked at a lot of ways to help with the drought, and I want to compliment my friend from Washington, Senator Cantwell and Senator Murkowski. You have come up with real ways to work with every stakeholder and not continue these absurd water wars where we take money away from a fishing industry that is a noble, historic fishing industry. Tens of thousands of fishermen who support their families and giving it over to big agribusiness. That is not the way you want to approach the drought, Senator. It's not the way I want to approach the drought. And I would never be party to picking a winner and a loser. This is not our job. Our job is to, a, make sure there are ways through technology to get more water to the state, and work, all of us together, to preserve that salmon fishery.
Everybody knows it isn't -- the salmon doesn't know when it's in California, when it's in Washington, when it's in Oregon. Let's be clear. We need to protect it. And so I am just so grateful to you for -- for being on this floor today because your reasons for being here first and foremost are you're protecting jobs in your state. Secondly, you're protecting the environment of your state. Third, you're protecting the rights of the states and the tribes and the municipalities to have something to say over this. You're protecting the Endangered Species Act, which as I pointed out before you came, was signed by President Richard Nixon, for god's sake. This is not a partisan thing. These are god's creatures. And I showed -- and I'll just quickly show you this and then take another question. I showed the bald eagle and several other species that if there had been shenanigans like this, Senator Cantwell, you know, oh, well, we're going to not listen to this science, we're just going to do what we want to do, we wouldn't have the bald eagle. We wouldn't have these creatures that I showed. The fact is, Senator, what you're fighting for is not only for your state, not only for jobs, but you're fighting for the larger point that in the dead of night you don't do a sneak attack on one of the landmark laws that you and I so strongly support.
CANTWELL: Well, if I could, Mr. President, ask the senator from California, because there is another element that she is alluding to, which is how to resolve water issues, and while my understanding is your committee is very involved in basically the federal government programs that help communities around our country deal with water infrastructure and clean water, the larger issues of how a community settles these disputes about water on federal land has really been the jurisdiction of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
But this bill, my understanding also, is trying to weigh in inside disputes as it relates to the larger Colorado basin. I know my colleague from Arizona is very concerned because his views weren't heard. I know there's a big fight as a result of the language that is in here on the southern part of our country where there is also a water dispute and various states are debating this. I can remember when our former colleague Tom Daschle was here and there was a whole big fight on a river issue that the upper Midwest was concerned about. And basically, if my understanding is correct, that what people are trying to do in this legislation is instead of having the collaborative discussion of these various states work together to resolve it, they're basically saying no, no, we can just put an earmark rider in and instead make all the decisions for everybody and choose winners and losers.
So not just here in the Pacific Northwest issue of San Francisco and Oregon and Washington but also as it relates to challenges we have on the Colorado River, challenges in the Southeast part of our country, and basically it sets up a discussion in the future of why would you ever regionally get together to discuss anything if you can just jam it through on legislation by basically as our colleague Elizabeth Warren said putting a little cherry on top and getting people to say oh, this must be really good. Then the consequence is the thorny, thorny issues of water discussion aren't going to be about the current rules of the road or collaboration. It's going to be about earmarks and riders that Taxpayers for Common Sense, Heritage Foundation, all of these people object to as the worst of the worst of Congress.
BOXER: Well, right. And I would say to you this. I did hear my colleague, along with you, I heard Elizabeth Warren describe it. She described it a little bit like this. You take a beautiful bill like WRDA, which for the most part -- I mean, it's not perfect but it's a pretty darn good bill. Then you put a pile of dirt on top of it, a pile of dirt which I call the McCarthy rider, and then you stick a little maraschino cherry on top, which is flint and a couple of other good things, and you say okay, eat the dirt.
That's another way of -- of explaining it. And my friend is right. What is the message if we don't fight this darn thing and perhaps defeat it and get it stripped out -- which we have an amendment to strip it out if we can get to it. What we are essentially saying to the -- all the people, the stakeholders in the water wars is, you know, what's important is your clout. Give enough money to this person, agribusiness, and maybe you can control him. Or give enough money to this person, maybe you can control her. The bottom line is we need to be working to bring everybody to the table, because my friend and I understand a couple of things. The water wars are not going to be solved unless everyone buys in, and there are ways we can do this. We have done this work before. We can reach agreement, because if we don't, what happens? Lawsuits. And let me just be clear. There are going to be lawsuits on lawsuits on lawsuits on lawsuits, because this is a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act, and some colleagues say oh, no, it isn't. It says in there it's not. Well, very good. You know, let's say we loaded a weapon and we dropped it on another country, and they said this is war. You just dropped a bomb on us, and we said no, it isn't. We said we weren't declaring war on you. It's the action that counts, not what you say. "A rose is a rose", as William Shakespeare once said. "Call it any other name."
This is an earmark, this is wrong, this is painful, this violates the Endangered Species Act, this is going to lead to the courthouse door, and that's why my friend and I are not very popular right now around this joint, because we're standing here and people want to go home. They're annoying. Why is she still talking? Well, I'm still talking. I don't want to. I wish I -- I mean, I say to my colleague, I'll ask her a question on my time, which is this -- does she think it's really painful for me to have to filibuster my own bill?
CANTWELL: I am sure -- I want to thank you for your steadfast leadership in the United States Senate and the fact that you're retiring, you're certainly going to be missed, and I'm sure you would like to have legislation on water resources passed, and I think you brought up a very important point. Strip out this language that there is bipartisan support for asking it to be stripped out, and there is bipartisan support asking it to be stripped out because people with true water interests have not been allowed to have their say. We could get this done today and be done with this and be on our way, so I think that our colleagues who want us to be done, there's an easy path forward, very easy path. Just strip out the language on California and send it back.
BOXER: Mr. President, I want to ask, since we're kind of reversing things, I would ask that my friend control the time right now.
PRESIDING OFFICER: Is there objection? Objection is heard.
BOXER: okay. Then I will just hold the floor forever. That's fine. Let me say to my friend you have been through these kind of wars before when you were standing alone trying to stop drilling in the Arctic, and I remember all of our colleagues saying oh, my god, this is terrible. You know, this drilling in the arctic is on the Military Bill. Imagine, drilling in the arctic, they put it on the National Defense Bill, and my friend was approached and she was told "Senator, you're going to bring down the entire defense of this country if you don't back off." And my friend said "I don't think so. All you have to do is strip this arctic rider and we're done." Am I right in my recollection of that?
CANTWELL: The Senator is correct. It was December, the same kind of scenario, basically jamming something onto a must-pass bill was a way that somebody thought this body would just roll over, and in the end we didn't and sent it back to the house and the Defense Bill was passed in a very short order. In fact, in an exact same scenario. The House had already gone home, and they basically opened up for business again and passed it with two people in the chamber. It can be done. It has been done. If people want to resolve this issue and go home, strip out this earmark rider language and we can be done with it and we can have the WRDA bill and we can be done.
So I think that what my colleague is suggesting, because it isn't really even the authority of the WRDA committee, this language that she probably would be glad to get language that's not her jurisdiction off of this bill and communicate to our house colleagues that this is the approach that we should be taking. So I'd like to ask through the President if in fact the Senator from California understands that that kind of approach on earmarks is something that you've heard a lot about from our house colleagues about how opposed they are.
BOXER: I have. I want to say since our friend is here -- I'm not doing any sneak attack on anything and I never would. It's not my way. I am going to ask unanimous consent right now, Senator Cantwell, without losing my right to the floor and making sure I get the floor back -- is that correct? After I make a unanimous consent request, I assume I will still have the floor, under the rules?
PRESIDING OFFICER: Depends on what the unanimous consent request is
BOXER: The request would be to strip the rider out. You look perplexed. We've been talking about a 98-page rider that was added to the WRDA bill. We have filed an amendment to do that.
PRESIDING OFFICER: This is not in order.
BOXER: Excuse me?
PRESIDING OFFICER: This request is not in order
BOXER: A unanimous consent is not--
PRESIDING OFFICER: It's not in order to strip our language by consent.
BOXER: If I were to ask through the chair what would the appropriate language be to get unanimous consent, is it to allow an amendment to do that? Would that be the right way to go?
PRESIDING OFFICER: Motion to concur with an amendment
BOXER: Okay. So we could ask that by unanimous consent to have such an amendment. And I want to make sure that after I make that I would not lose the right to the floor?
THE PRESIDING OFFICER: That is correct.
BOXER: Thank you. On behalf of my friend from Washington and myself, I would ask unanimous consent that we be allowed to offer an amendment to strip a rider that was placed on by Kevin McCarthy over in the house and is 98 pages and is in the House Bill. It's called the California Drought Provision. I would ask unanimous consent that we be allowed to have an amendment to strip out that language.
PRESIDING OFFICER: Is there objection?
A SENATOR: Mr. President, I object.
BOXER: Well, Mr. President that was a good test. You can see where this is coming from, I say to my friend from Washington. All we're asking for is go back to a bill that we worked on for almost two years and that we are now looking at a situation where we will be harmed in many ways by this rider. When I say we, our states.
We have thousands of salmon fishery jobs that will be lost. We have a front attack on the Endangered Species Act which has been called out by every major environmental group in the country. We have letters from every salmon fishery organization saying that this is dangerous. But yet, all we're asking for is a simple amendment to strip out a midnight rider and the Republicans object. The Republicans object.
And in that rider, it takes away the right of Congress to approve dams. So whether it's in Colorado or it's in Wyoming or it's in California or if it's in Washington or if it's Oregon or if it's Montana -- and there's many other western states -- the President-Elect will have the right to determine where to put a dam. He will have the ability for the first time in history to authorize the building of dams. And the answer comes back from those who support the rider, oh, but Congress has to appropriate. Well, we know where that goes. I've been here a long time. All you need is a little appropriation every year, and the deal continues. So we've got a circumstance on our hands, and I know people in the Senate are really mad at me right now. Well, what a perfect way for me to go out. Oh, I was a pain in the neck when I came. I'm a pain in the neck when I go.
CANTWELL: Mr. President, I have a question for the Senator from California.
BOXER: Thank goodness.
CANTWELL: The irony of this situation -- first of all, I appreciate the Senator from California because she's such a stalwart in so many different ways on so many different issues. But people may not know about the colleague we love dearly, is that she is greatly theatrical. She's got a beautiful voice. She writes music. I think somebody obviously lives in L.A. Probably, you know, hobnobs with all sorts of people who are in the entertainment industry. But you sang beautifully the other night at our goodbye dinner to the retiring members. But this reminds me of that movie "China Town." there was a famous movie that Jack Nicholson was in that was all about the corruption behind water deals.
BOXER: And Faye Dunaway.
CANTWELL: Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway did a movie a long time ago about the waterways in California, the fight on who gets water and what people found out was there was so much corruption behind the deal that basically people were trying to do a fast one. And so the subject, if I'm correct, that's what the subject of the movie is about, this is not a new subject. It's a very old subject. The question is, are people trying to supersede a due process here that consumers and -- in fact, I would ask that I hope that the ratepayers and constituents of the utilities in Los Angeles would be asking the utility, what are they doing lobbying against the Endangered Species Act? My guess is there's a lot of people in Southern California that have no idea that a utility would lobby, spend their public dollars lobbying against a federal bill statute by undermining it with a rider in the dark of night. But I wanted to ask my colleague this issue is an historic issue in California, correct? And when it's done in the dark of night, as that movie depicts, what happens is that the issues of public interest are ignored and consequently people are shortchanged. Is that your understanding?
BOXER: Yes. I want to yield my time to my friend, but here's what I'm going to say right now. What I'm going to say is you're absolutely right that this issue has been around California for a very, very long time. So I'm going to yield my time to her, and she will have it at this time. I would yield for a question. I can't yield you my floor time. I can yield for a question. The answer to the other question is of course my friend is right. She talks about the movie "China Town." Do you know what year it played? Was it in the 1980's? It's a long time ago. And I remember it well. It was about the water wars, and it resulted in people dying. I mean it was corruption. It was who could get the water rights. Because here's the deal. Here we have our beautiful state. And as my friend knows, because of the miracle of nature, Northern California gets the water. Southern California has been called a desert. So we've always had a problem. And now when I came to the senate, we had 18 million people. Now we have 40 million people. So we have urban users, suburban users, rural users, farmers, fishermen. And we have to learn to work together. How do you do that? Not the way Kevin McCarthy did it, which is a grab for big agriculture, which destroys the salmon fishery and is going to bring pain on the people who drink the water from the delta because it's going to be having a huge salt content. It's going to have to -- has to be taken out before they can drink it. This is the opposite of what ought to happen. So I would certainly yield back to my friend for another question.
CANTWELL: On that point, Mr. President, then the process for discussing these water agreements really don't belong -- you're saying they don't belong in your committee, and they have been controversial over a long period of time. The best way for us to deal with it is not through an earmark, which this is, which is the notion that the -- the notion that the House of Representatives is jamming the united states senate on a $500 million earmark is just amazing to me because of the water agreements that people have negotiated and who have passed through these committees and have been agreed to, they're not letting those go. But they're letting these go. This particular earmark, and sending us over. But the normal process would be for these federal agencies and communities to work together on a resolution. And then if resources were asked for, they would come through, I believe, the energy and Natural Resources Committee for that authorization because we're the ones who deal with the bureau of reclamation and the public land issues. Is that your understanding as well?
BOXER: absolutely that's my understanding. What is such a joke is my Republican friends who were just objecting to us having an amendment to take this earmark off, you know, always give big speeches about, Congress is putting all these earmarks in. Well, this is a clear earmark because it's directing a project to run in a certain way and diverting water to a special interest and taking it away from the fishery. Taking it away. And, therefore, by its very nature giving a gift -- a gift of water to big agribusiness and letting the salmon fishery just go under. And I'd say to my friend, the reason she's down here, this is not just about California. The provision is called California Drought. It's not about the drought. It doesn't secure the drought. It doesn't cure the drought. And yes my friend is right, every provision, including the one about giving President Trump the right to decide where a dam will be built, taking it away from congress, that all belongs in your committee's jurisdiction. I'm surprised Senator Murkowski isn't here because this is a direct run at her as well as you.
CANTWELL: Mr. President, I would ask the Senator from California then the question is on this process of deciding the authorization -- I notice we had a few colleagues out here that were -- I don't know if they were coming to speak. But in your region there is a lot of discussion between the western states on how to balance issues on water. Is that correct? There's a lot of meetings and discussion?
BOXER: There's no choice because, as you know, my state gets all of the water out of the Colorado River. It's under a lot of stress. We've got a lot of problems. We've got all of a lot of problems. My heart goes out to every single stake holder in my state. And that's why I'm so chagrined at this because we all have to work together, I say to my friend in our state. We're all suffering because we don't have the water we need. But the way to deal with it is not to, you know, slam one complete industry called the salmon fishery, which not only impacts my state but your state and Oregon as well.
CANTWELL: Mr. President, I have a question for the Senator from California because of some of our colleagues that were out here. My understanding as -- is if you can get water from Northern California by agreeing to kill fish and not meeting those obligations, then Southern California can take some of that water as well, and then the consequence is these western states who might be supporting this bill have less obligation to make more conservation efforts. So in reality, if you're talking about Colorado River and all the various resources that have to be negotiated, if somebody can be lets off the hook because you're justify going to -- just going to kill fish instead, you have more water. If you want to kill fish in streams and give all the money to farmers, of course you have more water. Then no one in the Colorado discussion has to keep talking about what are we going to do about drought. And I think you're going to tell me that drought is not going away. It's a growing issue of concern. And so we actually need more people to discuss this in a collaborative way than in an end runway. But am I correct about the partners and all that discussion?
BOXER: Well, my friend is very knowledgeable and very smart, because people tend to look at a provision, I say to my friend, in a very narrow way. They say what's the difference? It doesn't matter. But my friend is right, on the bigger picture, if the fishery dies and all the jobs with the fishery die and there's no demand for the water for the fish anymore, my friend is right. That relieves the discussion. So, yeah.
You know what it reminds me of, say to my friend -- I remember once when they said, let's raise the retirement age for Social Security because, you know, people are working longer and so-and-so and so, and it will help the Social Security trust fund. Well, if you take that, my friend, to the ultimate, why don't we say, people should work until they're 90 and then there won't be any Social Security problem because everyone will die before it kicks in?
It's the same analogy here. You kill off all the fish, and the entire salmon fishery, then all you have is agriculture demanding water and then they'll try to step upon the urban users and the suburban users and the rural users and they'll say, we're the only thing that matters, and they're already using, under most analyses, 80% of the water in my state. So you're right. I kill off the fishery, then that's one less stakeholder to care about. You tell people, don't retire until you are 90, the Social Security trust fund will be very vibrant.
CANTWELL: My understanding, as the Senator from California knows, but one of the states that's very concerned about this is Arizona because they've been left out of that discussion and it kind of also says to people, you don't have to have -- you don't have to have these discussions amongst everybody together. You can just write it into law. And my understanding is that our colleagues from Florida and Alabama also have a similar concern because there are -- people are trying to use the legislative process to unbalance the negotiations, so they can legislate instead of negotiate. And not only are they trying to just legislate instead of negotiate, they are trying to use earmarks to do it and to overrule existing law.
So am I correct, to the Senator from California I'd like to know, are we going to get anywhere in giving California more water if in fact this ends up in court and it's stayed and you won't really get any water in the next few years, because to me, one of the advantages -- and I would ask you if you agree -- is in a collaborative process, you -- should I make a footnote for my colleague from California. Thank you for your compliment.
I had to chair a three-hour hearing once on the San Juan keen river settlement. Because of that, I learned a lot about the fights of California and all of the problems that California had then. This was at the time my colleague, Tim Johnson, was the ranking member/chair of that subcommittee and had been stricken ill and they asked me if I could step in. I had no idea I was going to spend three hours hearing about 18 years of litigation. That's right. 18 years of litigation on the San Joaquin river and basically the people came to the hearing that day, which is now maybe probably 10 years ago to tell me that it was not worth the 18 years of litigation, that they had determined that while they could sue each other all they wanted, that getting to a resolution about how to move forward on water had to be a much more collaborative solution to the process.
And, secondly, I'd like to mention to my colleague from California and see if she knows about this, the same happened on the Klamath Basin, which is legislation we tried to pass here, because the Klamath Basin said, let's negotiate even though our -- the various people in that dispute had a dispute and actually went to court and the regional tribe won in the court and basically didn't have to do anything more on water issues but decided that in the good interest of trying have a resolution, it was a good idea to come to the table and try this collaborative approach.
So the point being is that if you don't -- if you set up a parameter -- I was mentioning my time chairing a three-hour hearing on the San Joaquin River Settlement that people had come to after 18 years of fighting each other in court. They came and they said, oh, we have a settlement, we have a settlement. And the point was that we tried to litigate and sue each other for 18 years and we didn't get anywhere and now we have a settlement and we'd like to move forward. And so my point is that that is the best way for us to move forward on water issues is to have everybody at the table and come to agreements, because there's a lot of things you can do in the near-term while you're working on water in a more aggressive fashion to get some of the thornier issues. But if you basically try to litigate -- thank you try to legislate instead of -- if you try to legislate instead of negotiate, you end up with what happened with san with a Koofnlt so you end up knoll not having a resolution and the whole point is to get people water. And so do you think that's where we're headed if we end up just trying to tell people you can just legislate -- well, it sound interesting, and if you can get somebody to write an earmark for you you're in good shape, I guess, if you can get that out of the House of Representatives. But in relate tier a not in good shape if you don't actually get water because you end up in a lawsuit for so many years, like San Joaquin. Is that where we're going to head on this?
BOXER: Again, I say to my friend, she's so smart on this. Of course that's where it's headed. And I encourage it. If this happens and you and I are not successful, Senator, and this winds up to be the law of the land, a provision added in the dead of night that forces water to be operated a certain way, that violates the biological opinions on fish, that violates the science, I hope they take this to court day one.
I don't care. You can say whatever you want. Oh, this isn't a violation of the Endangered Species Act. Really? Clearly it is. And you're absolutely right. 18 years in court over an agreement. And that's another reason I'm totally stunned at this. But I think it is about what my friend said. Who's got the most juice? Who's got the most power to sit down and get someone who is a senator or a member of the House to add language? It's a nightmare.
And the reason that we've been obstreperous and the reason that we're standing on our feet and didn't yield to other people is we're trying to make a simple point. You show it with your chart. For all the people who said we shouldn't do earmarks, this is such an incredible earmark, it actually tells the federal government how to operate a water project. It's extraordinary. And to -- and to walk away from a biological opinion from the science.
Of course it's going to wind up in court. And I hope it does. What I'd rather do is beat it. What I'd rather do is get it out, because it's only, as my friend said, going to encourage more similar types of legislating where people, you know, have the power and the money and the ear of a senator to call up and say, you know what? I'm having trouble in my agribusiness. I need more water. It's ridiculous. We're all suffering in this drought, I say to my friend. California is in a drought. There's a lot of rain coming down it in the north. Very little in the south. And I pray God it continues. I do. We're getting a lot of rain so far. But I don't trust it at all.
And the only way -- there's two ways to meet this challenge. One way is to figure out a way to get more water to everyone. That means take the salt out of water -- and we do it. I've toured the desal plants and it's very encouraging. One way is to take the salt out or put more water in the system. Another way is to recycle, another way is recharging. All of this was in your committee. Which was bypassed. The other way to do it is the wrong way to do it, which is take a side of one business group -- agribusiness -- versus a salmon fishery and destroy the salmon fishery, and then, as my friend points out, in years to come, well, isn't that a shame? There is a he no more salmon -- there's no more salmon fisheries. In the meantime, we're eating farmed salmon and all of these people are out of work after a way of life they've had for a vow long time. My friend is very prescient and she talks about the reality. We're here. We're not dreamers. We're realists. We know what happens in the water wars. So I would continue to yield to my friend.
CANTWELL: Mr. President, I would ask my colleague if -- again, I don't think this is the jurisdiction of your committee. That's why I'm asking, is that if we did want to pursue with the bureau of reclamation the notion that we should do more underground water storage -- again, that would be something we would authorize; that's what I want to ask you if that is in fact the case. And my understanding, because we have to deal with this so much in the Pacific Northwest. We're a hydro state that has really affordable electricity, but we get it out of the snowpack that comes in the wintertime. Now that the climate is changing and it's getting warmer, we don't have the long snowpack. So one of the things to store that snowpack would be to have underground aquifer storage. And I think that that is an idea that Stanford University has signed off on. They basically signed off on it because they said it was the most cost-effective thing for the taxpayer and most immediate impact, because what you were just saying about rain, if you get a lot of rain right now -- because it's not snowpack. If it's rain, store it, just like we were storing the snowpack. But now store it in aquifers underground and that would give us the ability to have more water. Stanford is like, yes, yes, yes, this is the best thing to do. This is what I think your state is trying to pursue. So in that regard, I don't even think that is the authorization of your committee, if I'm correct. But -- is that an idea that you and California would pursue to immediately in the next few years start a process for getting water to the central valley and to various parts of California?
BOXER: Without a doubt, my friend is right. It's not like we're -- it's not like we're dealing with a subject matter that has no solutions. And the science has shown us the various ways to do t certainly underground storage is fantastic. Recharging, all of these things that we know -- recycling, conservation, and desal. These are just some thoughts. And my friend is right the jurisdiction -- and my friend is right. The jurisdiction is mostly in her committee. We may have a few things to do, wonderful. To me, the important point is, here we have -- and I'm going to sum it and you then -- and then yield the floor. I need to go do 17 things and then be back.
Here's the situation: we have a water resources development act bill. It passed here with 95 votes. Nothing passes here with 95 votes, even saying "Happy Mother's Day" we have more "no" votes. And it is a beautiful bill, my friend. Is it perfect? No. But it was very good. For my state, for your state, very good. Now, it's moving through the House and in the middle of the night, without anyone even seeing it, this -- this horrible, horrible poison pill amendment is added, which essentially is a frontal attack on the salmon fishery and all the people who work in it, not only in my state, in your state and Oregon. So all of the senators, save one, we are a parliamentary in particular about what it means to jobs and what it means to tradition and what it means to history. And what it means to have wild salmon. Very important.
And so it's a frontal assault on the industry. It's a frontal assault on the ESA. It's a front assault on the notion that flor more earmarks -- that there are no more earmarks, and then it has another provision cutting the congress out of authorizing new dams in all of the western states for the next five years. This is dropped from the ceiling into the WRDA bill. And now I stand, as one of the two people who did the most work on that bill, saying "vote no." Very difficult for me, but I think it is absolutely a horrible process, a horrible rider, it's going to result in pain and suffering among our fishing families. So with that, I thank my friend. I yield the floor.
CANTWELL: Mr. President, I want to thank the Senator from California for her steadfast support of doing the right things on clean water and clean air and for focusing on this issue for her state because, ultimately, she wants water for her state, she knows that litigation is not the route to get it, she knows that there are things that we can be doing here but that we have to get people to support that. So I would thank her for her obligations to make sure her constituents get real results.
This rider is a giveaway to people who are basically described as "deadbeat dams," projects in California that are opposed by tribes and fishermen and sportsmen and environmental communities. And basically it writes a blank check to them, allowing millions of taxpayer dollars to be used to construct dams throughout the West without any further Congressional approval. That in and of itself should cause our colleagues pause. You're going to go home to have to tell your constituents all of a sudden that someone is building a dam on a beautiful river in your state and you can't do anything about it.
So I would hope that our colleagues in those 17 western states who would be impacted by this would do something to help tell our colleagues to strip out this controversial provision and send it back to the House in a clean bill.
In addition, as I mentioned, section 4007 authorizes the Secretary to pay up to a quarter of costs of state water storage in any of these 17 reclamation states. And the Secretary would have to notify Congress after 30 days in deciding to participate. So these issues here on our process are going to make it much harder for us in the future to not have the taxpayers paying for projects that are nothing but further litigation in the process.
Now why is collaboration so important? Collaboration is important because these thorny issues. There are lots of different national interests at stake and a lot of local interests and a lot of jobs. My colleague from California probably not in the last hour that we've been discussing this, but probably earlier in the afternoon mentioned the huge amount of Pacific West Coast fisheries that are also opposed to this bill. And Trout Unlimited, who is opposed to this legislation, and various fishing groups and organizations, because fishermen want to have rivers that are functioning with clean water and enough stream flow for fish to migrate. So the fishing economy in the Northwest I can easily say is worth billions.
Anybody who knows anything about the Pacific Northwest, whether you are in Oregon or in Washington, maybe even Alaska, that the pride of our region is the pacific coast salmon. And the pacific coast salmon is about having the ability to have good, healthy rivers and stream flow. So for us in the Northwest, this is an issue that I can easily say we have at least 100 Ph.D.'s on. That is to say the subject is so knowledgeable, so formulated, so battled over, so balanced that it would be like having 100 Ph.D.'s in the subject.
That's because we have a huge Columbia River basin and because the Columbia River basin has many tributaries and because the salmon is such an icon and it needs that basin. And we also have a hydro system and we also have an incredible, incredible, incredible agriculture business in our state. I think we're up to something like varieties of agriculture products, something like 7 different agriculture products. We too have to balance fish and farming, fishermen and tribes, the whole issues of our environment and recreation and the need for hydro and balance that all out. We have to do that practically every single day. And so it has been these kinds of decisions that has taught us as a region and a state that by collaboration we can get results and move forward.
Now my predecessor, or one of my colleagues in the House who was the former leader on the natural resources committee, Dock Hastings and I, I think probably more than ten-plus years ago had regional discussions within Secretary of Interior Salazar who came to the northwest, and we sat down and we said what do we do about the Yakama Basin. It was Sunday morning and you would think that everybody getting together on Sunday morning, is that important? Well, it was. There were probably 50 or 60 different interests meeting with us. The Secretary of Interior, Congressman Hastings, myself and many, many other interests. And we talked about what do we want to do with the Yakima Basin?
And there has been great pride that I've had to offer legislation along with my colleague, Senator Murray, on how to move the Yakima Basin project forward here in the united states senate. And I say with pride because it was a collaborative effort. These are people who do not agree with each other, who have fought each other, who basically probably disagree on the most essential elements of their viewpoint, and yet, and yet reached consensus, delighted in their resolve and came forward with legislation to say this is how you should deal with our water problems in a drought when your state has both farming and fishing needs.
Our governor got behind it, Governor Ensly. Other people got behind it. I have been at several forums. National organizations, California institutions are holding up the Yakima deal as the example of how water management should be done in the future. Why? Because it was holistic. That means it included everything on the table. It was a regional approach and everybody came to the table many and because it didn't try to solve every single problem up front but came to what we could agree to today and moved forward because it would claim some water that we need now.
So the fact that the Yakima project became such a milestone, our colleagues in the Klamath and in Oregon did the same things. They worked together in a collaborative fashion and tried to discuss these issues. And I would say for the most part all of these issues have been with these discussions in the past that our colleagues bring legislation here to the United States Senate. Very rarely has somebody brought language without everybody locally working together and agreeing. I don't know of times when my colleagues have brought legislation where they're basically just trying to stick it to one state or the other. Except for now this seems to be the norm. It seems to be what we're encouraging here today to do.
And so the California project is one in which we wish that they would seek the same kind of collaborative approach to dealing with both fishermen whose economy is immensely important in California and farmers who also are important but should not be the, or have the ability to supersede these laws that are already on the books. What they should do is learn from where the San Joaquin river proposal was that you can battle this for 18 years or you can resolve these differences and move forward. But when you can write an earmark and send it over here as a poison pill on a bill, you're hoping that you don't have to sit down at the table and work in a constructive fashion.
It's very disappointing to me that some of the partners in this deal, as we put ideas on the table to give 300-acre feet to the farmers in the west lands region over the next two years, give them 300-acre feet of water over the next two years while we are working with them on an aquifer recharge, their answer back to us in an e-mail was we want to play our hand here and see if we can jam this through first. So basically they don't want to work in a collaborative fashion. They don't want to work with the region to find solutions. They want to legislate something that will lead to litigation. And litigation is not going to lead to more water. It's going to lead to longer delays in getting water to everybody that needs it.
Now I wouldn't be out here spending this much time with our colleagues if it wasn't for the fact that this issue is just at its beginning. Drought has already cost our nation billions of dollars, and it is going to cost us more. That is that drought is causing great issue with water and fish and farming. It's also causing problems with fire. It's making our forests more vulnerable to the type of explosive fires that we've seen in the Pacific Northwest that wiped across 100,000 acres of forest land in just four hours. That is the kind of things that hot and dry weather can do. So our colleagues need to come together on what would be the process for us dealing with drought.
The fact that California has been the tip of the spear is just that. It's just the tip of the spear. Everybody else is going to be dealing with this in western states. My colleagues who already represent hot and dry states already know they have had to deal with this from a collaborative process. So I would hope that our colleagues who care greatly about the fact that drought is going to be a persistent problem for the future would come together with us and say we can get out of town tonight, we can get out of town in the next few hours.
All you have to do is accept our offer to strip this poison pill earmark that is costing taxpayers $500 million off of the WRDA bill because it's not even part of the WRDA jurisdiction, and send it back on a clean WRDA bill to the House of Representatives. That's what my colleagues on the other side of the aisle want, and that's what we want. So the only people that are holding this place up are the people who want to jam somebody in December at the end of a session because it's the way to get poison pill ideas done.
So I hope our colleagues, you know, people are taking note. I know the "San Francisco Chronicle" had a story that the House ok's a bill to increase pumping from our rivers and putting fish at risk and the quote in there about undermining the Endangered Species Act. There was an editorial as well, I believe, from the same newspaper. I don't know that we have a quote from the editorial here, but I think I submitted that earlier for the record. It basically said stop the Feinstein Water Bill rider. And basically said that we have to work to share water among people and farmers and the environment, not try to benefit one interest over the other with a midnight rider.
So the press is watching. I think there was a story today in the "San Jose" newspaper as well. I don't know if I have that with me. But we will enter that, Mr. President, later into the record. But having other newspapers in California write editorials on this is most helpful because it is bringing to light the kinds of things that are happening here in the United States Senate that people all throughout the west need to pay attention to.
We wish that drought could be solved so easily by just giving one interest more resource over the other, but that's not the way we're going to deal with this. And if we have colleagues in the house who would rather steal water from fish than fund aquifer recharge, then we should have that debate in the United States Senate in the committee of jurisdiction or even here on the floor as it relates to whose jurisdiction and funding it really is. But to stick the taxpayer with a bill of paying for dams in 17 states without any further discussion by our colleagues is certainly putting the taxpayers at risk, and that is why taxpayer organizations have opposed this legislation.
So if we want to get done, if we want to get out of here, let's strip this language off and let's be done with it and send to our colleagues a clean WRDA bill and be able to say to people we did something for water this year but we didn't kill fish in the process of doing it.
I thank the President, and I yield the floor.