The issue of the Cemex mine looming over Soledad Canyon residents is something that frustrates Senator Barbara Boxer – and what’s one of the most irritating elements of the issue is the lack of support she’s received from local Congressman Buck McKeon.
“Let me be blunt,” she said. “I was stunned when he decided not to – he called it an earmark, but the fact is something bad is going to happen to a community, we have to stop it. I stand very firm for a change of heart here by the Congressman. He was very strong before and he ought to be strong again.”
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McKeon authored legislation to stop the Cemex mine in six earlier sessions of Congress, most of the time without additional sponsors. It’s an issue Santa Clarita Valley residents have been fighting for more than 10 years, spending more than $10 million in lobbying fees and at one point, the City of Santa Clarita posted “Thank You Buck” banners across bridges throughout the city.
A complicated arrangement, involving a land swap with the City of Victorville, permits being cancelled by the Bureau of Land Management and money from Cemex going toward redevelopment projects in Victorville, was announced a few years ago by McKeon’s office, but that plan languished, along with the legislation.
But this time, despite a May 31 deadline, when Cemex has indicated it will begin work on the proposed mega-mine, McKeon has chosen not to introduce legislation to partner with Boxer’s, citing a Republican Party promise to avoid any “earmark” projects that serve a limited area.
“By the way, I’ll never give up on this,” Boxer continued. “If we have a change, we’re going to somehow figure this out, but deadlines are looming.
“There’s only one way to get it done, and that’s for the Congressperson who represents the area to stand up and fight for this,” she said. “Because if you read any rudimentary book on how a bill becomes a law, you need both sides to work together.”
Boxer made her remarks during a conference call to California media to talk about four bills she’d like to see passed before the end of this Congressional session.
“The purpose of this call is to lay out what I think this Congress can do between now and election day to turn around the huge criticism that is being waged at us,” she said, citing a recent Gallup poll that gave the legislative group a dismal 17 percent approval rating.
“Things are really dismal, but we have a window of time between now and the election, and we can’t wait, we have to set aside all of our partisanship and get things done.”
The four bills Boxer focused on included reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, preventing the doubling of interest rates on student loans and enacting a bipartisan transportation bill that will save or create 2.9 million jobs. She also talked about the importance of getting the Paycheck Fairness Act passed, especially since the voters have already indicated their strong support.
Alternative legislation from the House seemed to be the critical roadblock to reaffirming the Violence Against Women Act, which is strongly supported by law enforcement across the nation.
“We know three women a day are being killed, we know this violence can be prevented,” she said. “Since we passed this, we’ve seen domestic violence drop by 53 percent, so it’s working, but for some reason, the bill passed with 31 Republicans dissenting.”
Boxer said that the legislation being proposed in the House “left some people out.”
The Paycheck Fairness Act passed the House in 2009, but was filibustered by the Senate. That bill protects employees who share salary information against retaliation from their employer and Boxer said, elevates gender-based discrimination, because of the wage disparities that still exist.
”It’s time to get things done, there’s not a minute to wait,” she said.
She said that election year politics are also getting in the way of Congress getting anything done, citing Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s remarks on the Senate floor that their sole purpose was to make sure President Obama was a one-term president.
“There’s room for politics,” Boxer said. “We’re all going to get out there and fight for our candidates, the House, the Senate and the Presidency, but not on the Senate floor. We need to come together and pass these important bills.”