California House members lobby Boeing for 777X plant

California House members lobby Boeing for 777X plant
Machinists union member Kevin Flynn protests Boeing's last contract offer in Everett, Wash. Members will vote Jan. 3 on the proposal. It includes the jobs that would come with the company’s new 777X airliner plant, but local union leaders are unhappy with other terms. California and other states are also vying for the plant. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — California's congressional delegation has entered the fierce jockeying among states to land a Boeing Co. manufacturing plant. But even with the promise of jobs, it can be tough to unify the fractured group of lawmakers.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) gathered the signatures of most but not all of the state's 53 House members for a letter urging the Chicago-based aerospace company to choose Long Beach for production of its next-generation 777X airliner.


The California lawmakers cited, among other things, the state's "rich history" of aerospace manufacturing and the existing assembly plant and workforce in Long Beach.

Lowenthal went door to door to congressional offices and buttonholed colleagues on the House floor to gather the signatures of a diverse, bipartisan group ranging from liberal Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a conservative Republican from Costa Mesa.

But while the entire, albeit smaller, Alabama and Washington state delegations signed letters to Boeing pitching their states, six California lawmakers — including some of the state's most influential members of Congress — did not.

"California is going to have to substantially reduce its tax and regulatory burdens before a letter like that is going to have any credibility," said Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove), one of those who did not sign the state's letter.

A spokesman for Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine), who also did not sign, said the congressman believes it is "not the business of Congress to tell a private company where they can best operate at the lowest cost."

The effort showed how tough it can be to bring together the delegation — even for a meeting.

The state's Democrats and Republicans last held a formal gathering about 10 months ago, although Lowenthal and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) last month drew about 15 to 20 members of the delegation to a Capitol Hill restaurant in an effort to promote bipartisan cooperation to advance California interests.

Lowenthal said that 47 signatures is a "good number," given the size and diversity of the delegation.

"I really believe it's good to have our delegation speaking out because I think we have a shot," he said in an interview.

Lowenthal said he did not ask House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to sign the letter, saying it could put the leaders in a tough position with lawmakers from other states competing for the production facility.

Spokesmen for Pelosi and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) said their bosses generally did not sign such letters.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Vista), who also did not sign the letter, supports the effort to bring production to California, as does McKeon, their spokesmen said.

Efforts to locate the plant in Long Beach come after Boeing's announcement that it would be closing its C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet plant there in 2015.

The new Boeing work could last through the 2020s, creating thousands of manufacturing, support and supplier jobs, according to Lowenthal.


California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats, sent a letter to James McNerney, Boeing's chairman and chief executive, urging him to pick Long Beach.

"One needs to look no further than the success of the C-17 manufacturing program, which Long Beach and the broader Southern California community have proudly supported for more than two decades," they wrote.