WASHINGTON -- Freshman Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, today gets to achieve that seemingly most elusive of congressional acts: passing a meaningful bill without acrimony or gridlock.
After what's slated to be brief debate, the House is set to routinely approve Denham's $2.2 billion bill reauthorizing dam safety and Federal Emergency Management Agency programs. Neither controversy nor opposition has arisen.
"It shows that there are issues on which we can come to an agreement," Denham said Monday.
For communities hit by disasters, the bill endeavors to streamline oft-criticized federal emergency assistance. It helps update an alert system, eases debris removal and funds urban search-and-rescue task forces, including the eight in California. The bill addresses some of FEMA's embarrassments; for instance, by making it easier for the agency to get rid of surplus trailers made infamous in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
For Denham, the expected House approval provides an election-year success story that can be trumpeted in his campaign against Democratic challenger Jose Hernandez. Bipartisanship has currency in a district where voters straddle parties: While Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama won the newly redrawn 10th Congressional District in 2008, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman won it in 2010.
"I think voters want to see that Congress is not as dysfunctional as it seems," Denham said.
Not that either candidate is forgoing the sharp partisan edge. Monday, the conservative American Action Network unleashed a mocking ad attacking Hernandez; Denham, in turn, has been targeted by aggressive Democratic ads.
The task of writing and passing the FEMA reauthorization bill fell to Denham because he is chairman of the House economic development, public buildings and emergency management subcommittee.