House restores Endangered Species Act listings; GOP splits in vote

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The Republican split was evident during Tuesday night's debate. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) was one Republican who said funding the ESA would only lead to lawsuits draining that budget and urged a "no" vote on the Dicks language.

"This amendment proposes to do away with funding caps altogether and gives the green light to those who have made a living suing the Fish and Wildlife Service," Simpson said. "As a result, the litigants will act, the courts will all act, and the Fish and Wildlife Service's entire operating budget will be at risk of being raided in order to fund court-ordered mandates to list species and designate critical habitat."

Rep. Steven Pearce (R-NM) agreed and noted that one group last year filed 1,000 petitions to list a new species. "They know that their lawyers get reimbursed from the federal government every time they bring suit, and so they're happy to bring these actions, which are destroying jobs in the West," Pearce said.

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), who chairs the Natural Resources Committee, also urged a "no" vote and pledged to work in his committee to update the ESA so it can work more effectively to protect species, and be less hindered by lawsuits.

"The current law is failing to truly recover species while it frequently hamstrings jobs and economic prosperity," Hastings said.

But Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) rose to support the amendment. "Preventing listing is not the answer," he said of the bill. "We must allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do their job and protect species while making improvements to increase the efficiency of this crucial program."