Sen. Barbara Boxer said Tuesday that the week-long federal government shutdown has delayed a vote in the House of Representatives on legislation that would help finish improvements to Sacramento's levee system.
The completion of the Natomas levee improvement project is one of the California Democrat's top priorities, but she said the legislation that authorizes it, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, has become "another casualty" of the shutdown.
"It was supposed to be on the floor this week," Boxer said. "Now, it's stalled."
Rep. Doris Matsui, a Sacramento Democrat who's long pushed for the Natomas project in Congress, expressed frustration at the delay.
"Yet another repercussion of this government shutdown is that critical legislative business has been postponed," she said in a statement.
"I am confident that when the political brinksmanship ends, we will have a vote in the House" on the bill, Matsui added.
Boxer and two of her Democratic colleagues, Sens. Ben Cardin of Maryland and Bill Nelson of Florida, spoke to reporters Tuesday in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing room about other negative impacts of the shutdown on the environment, health and safety, and infrastructure projects.
As she did last week, Boxer, who leads the committee, blamed Republicans for the impasse and criticized their attempts to fund government operations in a piecemeal fashion. She again challenged the House to pass a "clean" bill to fund the entire government through the end of the year, without conditions.
She said that 93 percent of Environmental Protection Agency employees have been furloughed, including EPA inspectors.
"There is not one single EPA inspector on the ground" in California, Boxer said.
The agency performs environmental assessments for transportation projects across the country, and those are on hold.
Boxer said that the shutdown could compromise other health and safety programs, from food inspection to toxic waste cleanup.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had to bring foodborne illness monitors back on the job after an 18-state salmonella outbreak was traced to chicken processed in California.
The Chemical Safety Board, which investigates accidents such as the deadly explosion of a fertilizer facility in West, Texas, earlier this year, has furloughed 37 of its 40 employees.
"We need cops on the beat," Boxer said.
PHOTO: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., addresses reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 14, 2012. Associated Press/Manuel Balce Ceneta.