WASHINGTON — Sen. Harry Reid this week linked the California wildfires to global warming and in the process lit a small political fire himself.
Several conservative bloggers and the leader of the Nevada Republican party seized on remarks the Senate majority leader made Tuesday while talking about energy and funding for suppression of fires.
“As you know, one reason that we have the fires burning in Southern California is global warming,” Reid told reporters. “One reason the Colorado Basin is going dry is because of global warming.”
Asked a few minutes later what he meant, Reid said that when it came to the fires, global warming “is part of it, and everybody — I think most everyone recognizes that.”
“There are a lot of issues that are — we’ve had droughts in places we’ve never had droughts before,” Reid said, according to a transcript.
Critics charged Reid was politicizing the fires to score points on global warming, an issue that still has pockets of debate on its severity and impact.
“Rather than debating global warming in the middle of a national disaster, Senator Reid should use his position to help provide relief to the communities in Southern California,” said Sue Lowden, Nevada Republican Party chairwoman.
Reid spokesman Jon Summers said that critics were closing their eyes to the issue and that their criticism was “boilerplate.”
“The effects of global warming have certainly contributed to the severity of the fires we have seen across the West, whether at Tahoe or the ones burning across California,” Summers said. “That was his point, and that is what most people don’t dispute, except the Nevada Republican Party.”
At an event Wednesday, Reid said his point was that the Bush administration has underfunded fire suppression despite clear needs.
“We shouldn’t have to fight with the president every time,” Reid said. “We’ve had these wildfires in the West now for a number of years, and we need more money.”
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau chief Steve Tetreault at STetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.