California Battles Trump as Gov. Brown Seeks Federal Help for Bullet Train
While the California attorney general pleads for more state funding to battle the Trump administration in court and the legislature extends a $25,000 monthly contract to bring the top legal minds of Eric Holder’s law firm to bear against the White House; Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is asking President Trump for help with California’s high-speed train project.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) told a Senate Budget Subcommittee on May 4 his office needs more money to continue fighting Trump’s executive orders.
Becerra, who took office in January, has already filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over an Interior Department order to restart coal leasing on federal land.
He also filed an amicus brief in a case that resulted in a preliminary nationwide injunction against the Trump administration order to withhold federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities and states that refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Becerra told the Senate Budget Subcommittee his work had just begun. The next fight could be, he said, to prevent the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.
“As California’s attorney general, I will use every legal tool at my disposal to safeguard the healthcare the people of our state depend on,” Becerra said.
And those legal instruments don’t grow on trees.
“I am not going to sugarcoat this. I am operating with a budget that was assembled without addressing the needs of current mandates and before our new reality of dealing with federal executive orders,” Becerra said. “To put it simply, we can’t execute if we don’t have the resources to do it.”
While lawmakers in Sacramento mull that request, the legislature extended by one month a $25,000-a-month contract with the former U.S. attorney general’s law firm. That will pay for a maximum of 40 hours of Holder’s legal expertise on behalf of the state of California in anticipated legal battles with the White House.
The Los Angeles Times reported Holder and the Covington & Burling law firm have been working out of the public eye to counsel California lawmakers on the proposal to make California a sanctuary state and the idea of carving Obama administration environmental standards into the stone of California law.
Senate leader Kevin de León told the Times the need to gird California’s loins for battle against Trump was “dire.”
“We’ve never had a president who has churned out so many executive orders with a very clear intent to undermine the state of California,” de Leon said.
If Trump could take a break from chiseling away at what de Leon and his fellow Democrats see as the foundation of California, Gov. Brown would like some help with the $64 billion California bullet train project.
The Los Angeles Times reported that a week after Becerra told senators he’d need more money to fight Trump and de Leon said California was in dire circumstances thanks to the White House, Brown wrote a letter to the Oval Office asking for assistance with one of his pet projects.
Even though it would be one of the fastest trains in the world, the bullet train has not been able to blast through the red tape of federal environmental reviews.
The brass tacks of Brown’s proposal involve moving the federal bureaucracy out of the train’s way. He wants Trump to move Washington’s oversight of the environmental reviews for the project over to his California bureaucrats.
Brown thinks his people, broken up into teams, could do the work of protecting California’s environment better and faster than the Environmental Protection Agency. Brown pointed out in the letter that waivers from federal oversight had already been used to “cut the regulatory burden on thousands of road projects.”
The Times also reported Brown had already presented his plan to speed up the bullet train project to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Press secretary Evan Westrup told the Times Brown’s request to remove the yoke of federal oversight on the bullet train should not be mixed in with potential court battles over sanctuary cities and states, coal mining, or Obamacare.
Westrup said Brown laid out the path for cooperation with the White House on the train project during his state of the State address in January.
“Gov. Brown specifically noted infrastructure, including construction of the High Speed Rail, as an area ‘where we can all work together,’” Westrup said. “(The letter) lays out how we can do that.”