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California drought crisis morphs into political football

Water wars: California drought spawns political fight 02:05

Los Angeles expected rain Thursday, but it won't be enough to help a severe drought with 75 percent of the state in an extreme or exceptional drought.

The House passed a bill Wednesday to address the water shortage, but as Bill Whitaker reported on "CBS This Morning" the crisis is turning into a political football.

With California in the throes of the worst drought in modern history, Gov. Jerry Brown is calling on residents to do their part, telling people to not flush their toilets more than they have to and not to shower longer than they need.


 But in Washington, D.C., the intensifying heat of this midterm election year highlights that working together is not in Democrats' or Republicans' campaign playbooks.

On Wednesday, House Republicans passed a bill to divert water to California's parched Central Valley farms, water that now flows to preserve rivers and endangered fish.

On a recent visit to California, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the drought's devastation a man-made disaster, saying, "How you can favor fish over people is something that people in my part of the world would never understand."

In a letter, Brown called the Republicans' actions an unwelcome and divisive intrusion into California's efforts to manage this severe crisis.

California Rep. Mike Thompson was one of 189 Democrats to vote against the bill. Thompson said on the House floor, "Even if we pumped as much water as possible, Central Valley farmers still wouldn't have enough."

But in a state where Republican elected officials are increasingly an endangered species, GOP candidates are running on water.

Political scientist John Pitney said, "This is a partisan water war. The Republicans are siding with farmers. The governor is siding with environmental interests."

There's no chance the House bill will pass the Democratically controlled Senate. And there's no doubt the bitter drought will remain a bitter campaign issue.

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