A bill to improve wildlife habitat and expand access to federal lands for hunting and fishing for sportsmen was killed in the Senate on Monday night — supposedly the victim of an obscure budget dispute over how to count a proposed $10 increase in the price of duck stamps to pay for wetlands conservation.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) let the roll call run for more than an hour according to the POLITICO story but still ended up with just 50 votes — 10 short of the required 60 to waive the budget point of order to allow the bill to come up for an actual vote. With 50 votes and Vice-President Biden breaking the tie, the bill would have become law in a real democracy.
Only one Republican—Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voted to allow the bill to be voted on. Even the Republicans who signed on to the bill as co-sponsors voted to kill their own bill. That is normal operating procedure by Republicans in Congress and has been since Barack Obama was first elected president. They will kill their own bills rather than allow a Democrat or the president to get a win. They call that governing.
Republicans killing bills by not allowing them to be voted on is not new, and certainly not news. What makes this news is that the NRA supported the bill, and Republicans killed it anyway. Speculation is the bill’s demise had more to do with the sponsor than duck stamps. The bills sponsor was Senator John Tester (D-MT) who just won re-election in a race Republicans thought they had in the bag. That is a crime worth punishing.
Partisanship is alive and well in the Senate despite all the post-election nice-talk covered by the Beltway Media
“This is not even taxpayer spending,” protested Gary Taylor, legislative director for Ducks Unlimited. “This is waterfowl conservationists and hunters reaching into their pockets to pay for stamps and wetlands.”
The National Rifle Association has been a prime mover behind the bill, and through most of Monday, proponents were already thinking ahead to the next step in the House — not on getting out of the Senate POLITICO reported. Even they did not see this coming.
“We’re looking for quick action,” James Baker, the NRA’s legislative director, told POLITICO earlier in the day. Indeed, the NRA’s strong ties to the Republican leadership complement the likes of The Wilderness Society and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which enjoy ties with liberal Democrats.
“It’s time we did something in a bipartisan fashion,” said Sen. Jon Tester, the lead sponsor on the Senate floor. “It’s a bill about habitat, it’s a bill about access; it’s a bill about opportunity for people who enjoy our outdoors in this country.”
What this bill does is assess an additional $10 fee on duck hunters to raise about $132-$140 million over ten years to allow the Interior Department to improve wetlands and water foul and fish habitat.
Republicans always have a cover story for their obstruction. The cover story for this vote is that it violates the Budget Control Act passed by Congress last year. That would be fine, but this is a fee paid by hunters for a specific purpose and is not part of the federal budget.
The NRA and others hope the bill can be revived now that sore losers made their point. If anyone thinks there will be any difference in Washington, think again.
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