Federal leaders speak out

The two federal leaders who call the Coachella Valley home spoke out today on issues of national interest.

Rep. Raul Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat, commended the Department of Veterans Affairs for a new plan to deal with the backlog of benefit claims.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms, and it is unacceptable that so many of these brave men and women must wait years to access the benefits they have earned in service to our nation,” Ruiz said in a statement.

“While the VA’s new initiative is a step in the right direction toward reducing the backlog, it is not a permanent fix. I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues, the VA, and veterans’ organizations to find long-term solutions that will improve and streamline the benefit delivery system for our nation’s veterans and eliminate the backlog once and for all.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer took a moment to recognize Earth Day.

The Rancho Mirage Democrat noted that the holiday contributed to the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as legislation to improve air and water.

“Over the past four decades, we have made a tremendous difference in protecting the environment and the health of our children and families,” Boxer, the chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.

“However, the growing threat of climate change puts our environment and public health at risk, and scientists tell us that the impacts of climate change continue to worsen.  …  We must do more, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to address climate change and its dangerous impacts.”

Barbara Boxer and Raul Ruiz meet with Army Corps over Salton Sea

Salton SeaSen. Barbara Boxer and the Coachella Valley’s incoming congressman, Raul Ruiz, met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday to discuss the Salton Sea.

The Democrats met with Ms. Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), to discuss what should be done now and in the future to restore and preserve the inland sea, according to a release from Boxer’s office.

They also “explained the need to prevent the sea from turning into a public health emergency that would have ramifications for the Imperial and Coachella Valleys,” according to the release.

Boxer is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Ruiz is in Washington for a second week of orientation for newly elected members of Congress.

Boxer is mentoring Ruiz, an emergency room physician who has never held elective office. He upset longtime Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack earlier this month.

-Raju Chebium, Gannett Washington Bureau