Sinema’s support for the tax and climate bill could depend on drought funding for the South West
As Democrats scramble to clinch a deal on their tax and climate package, a last-minute demand comes from Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona’s key vote: $5 billion to help the Southwest deal with its multi-year drought.
Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, confirmed to CNN that Sinema is seeking $5 billion in funding for drought resilience. Sen. Alex Padilla, a California Democrat, said he was “aware of the request.”
“I look forward to the details, I look forward to additional resources for drought resilience,” Padilla told CNN.
Sinema is not the only lawmaker asking leaders to add drought funding, a source familiar with the negotiations told CNN. A coalition of several Western lawmakers who represent Colorado River Basin states are in talks with Democratic leaders, and staff-level conversations are centered on seeking funding for programs that would be run by the US Bureau of Reclamation – the federal agency that oversees the Colorado River.
The aim, according to the source, would be to lessen the impact of the drought on farmers and towns in the West.
A senior Democratic source told CNN they believe Democratic leaders will respond to Sinema’s concerns, as well as his request to remove a $14 billion deferred interest tax provision from the bill.
Sinema’s office did not respond to questions from CNN regarding the drought claim.
Padilla and other Western state senators told CNN the years-long drought is a major concern.
About 90% of Arizona was in some level of drought this week, according to the US Drought Monitor. And exceptional drought, the monitor’s most severe category, has also spread through parts of California, Nevada and Utah.
The senators’ drought request also comes as the US Bureau of Reclamation prepares its August report on the future of Lake Mead – which has continued its precipitous decline this year – and the Colorado River. CNN reported that more water cuts are likely for the Southwest, given recent projections.
The drought, which scientists said in February is the region’s worst in 12 centuries, has had widespread consequences beyond water shortages, including extraordinarily dry vegetation, which has fueled intense wildfires and quick.
“Things are terrible with the drought in Colorado and the Colorado River Basin,” Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado told CNN. “Half the water we need is in the Colorado River. This is a deeply difficult time for the people I represent.
Bennet said he “cannot vote for a bill unless it improves the condition of the Colorado River in Colorado and the upper basin,” and called on lawmakers to focus on long-term and lasting solutions, although he did not say exactly what was needed.
“I hope we can find a solution, but it will have to be a real solution – not these temporary short-term solutions that have spent a lot of money but have seen no results from a river basin perspective. “, says Benet.
Padilla, who represents California, said the drought conditions there were “very bad”.
“There is a prolonged drought, it is very worrying both from a water supply point of view and of course forest fires,” Padilla said. “Drought, extreme heat and windy conditions; it is a dangerous recipe.
Funding for drought resilience was also enshrined in the bipartisan infrastructure law, which Biden signed in November and Sinema played a key role in crafting. The bipartisan bill included $8.3 billion for water infrastructure programs and $1.4 billion for ecosystem restoration and resilience.