McCarthy brings capitol update to IWV

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

McCarthy brings capitol update to IWV“First of all, thank you so very much for coming out today. Everything is fine in Washington.”

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s greeting to a packed house Tuesday at SpringHill Suites was met with hearty laughter from the crowd. But he went on to give 150-plus attendees at a lunch co-hosted by the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce and Ridgecrest Exchange Club an update from Capitol Hill before answering more locally focused questions from his audience.

“It’s not as bad as you see on television, but it is frustrating right now,” continued McCarthy.

On the bright side, Congress has renewed its investment in defense after the deep cuts inflicted several years ago when sequestration kicked in. Leaders of both parties in both houses are meeting to come to a new agreement that will prevent another draconian trigger, he said.

“No one wants to see sequester come back,” he said. “I think we will get to an agreement.”

He said that the nation is also in a strong position economically.

“As a nation, we often point out where things are wrong, and we blame one side or the other. From a jobs perspective, it’s better than it’s almost ever been.”

Wages are going up, but inflation is holding steady, he said.

However, the nation needs to resolve its dysfunction in the immigration system. He said that an estimated 1 million individuals will claim asylum this year. While he said the courts typically determine that about 80 percent of those claims are invalid, the process is slow and the system is overtaxed.

“This is the area where we have to change the loophole, because there is an incentive to come here and not tell the truth.”

McCarthy’s overview also touched on foreign relations, veterans issues, health care, the Republican party’s losses in the House in 2018, the costs of higher education, the Mueller Report and the divisiveness McCarthy believes has resulted in the liberal opposition to the election of Trump.

“The biggest issue I see dividing people is that … some people have not gotten over the last election. I’m not picking sides, I’m just telling you what I see,” said McCarthy.

“I meet with people on all sides of the aisle. There are some people who are just so angry they can’t focus on other issues. And there are some people who came to office just to impeach the president — that’s what they ran on, that’s all they want to focus on, that’s all they want to do.”

He said that others want to work across the aisle, but their base does not want them to.

Closer to home, he addressed concerns about water and affordable housing.

Judie Decker, a private well owner in Ridgecrest, asked about a comment McCarthy made about his commitment to investing in infrastructure.

“The entire Southwestern United States does not have enough water.” She asked if he, or any other member of Congress, had ideas about a pipeline that would move water from the wet parts of the country to the dry parts.

“The first part of your question I might debate,” he responded. “California has enough water. The question is what do they do with it.”

He said this year’s snowpack measures above 140 percent of average. The problem, he said, that the water supply is mostly in the north. The farms are in the Central Valley. And a major population center is in the southern part of the state — where it is the most dry.

However, California pumps about 75 percent of its fresh water supply out into the Pacific Ocean. He said the state desperately needs to invest in additional capture and storage facilities for water in areas of abundant rain, as well as the infrastructure to transport water where it is needed.

In a previous News Review report, McCarthy said that he would like to see federal funds that had originally been allocated for the beleaguered High Speed Rail project redirected to water solutions.

Norman Alexander, president of the Ridgecrest Area Association of Realtors, asked about McCarthy’s work with California Gov. Gavin Newsom to address affordable housing in the state. Alexander also brought up the specific need in Ridgecrest for additional housing — given the reported growth in the F-35 program at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake.

NAWCWD Commander Rear Adm. Scott Dillon, who attended McCarthy’s talk, said that the program currently employs about 80 individuals.

“NAWCWD expects DOD-wide F-35 software sustainment work to increase over the next six years,” Dillon said in response to a question from the News Review about anticipated growth.

“It is likely that a portion of this increase will be assigned to NAWCWD, and that NAWCWD’s F-35 software team will grow larger as a result,” he acknowledged.

However, the scope of that growth has not yet been finalized.

McCarthy said he feels very positive about the growth on the base. On the military side of defense, China Lake needs additional infrastructure — including a proposed runway and hangar space.

But both base and community officials have identified a need for housing that appeals — both in price point and modern amenities — to the potentially hundreds of young professionals who would arrive over the next few years.

“The Indian Wells Valley communities have always been supportive of our military and civilian team, but adequate housing continues to be a recruitment and retention issue,” said Dillon.

“You don’t have much building going on here, and you need to,” said McCarthy.

“You’ve got to worry about the infrastructure, especially if we want to maintain the growth on the base.”

He said one of his concerns is the state initiatives that may not necessarily fit the needs of a small, remote community.

“We need flexibility,” he said. “I would rather see more local control. That is more reflective of our ability to know our needs.”

McCarthy also stressed the importance of having a robust community that can support the mission of China Lake.

“We cannot do what we do here anywhere else.”

Pictured: Rear Adm. Scott Dillon and Rep. Kevin McCarthy during the congressman’s visit to Ridgecrest — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-05-31