House advances bill boosting strategic mineral production

The legislation would give federal agencies just 30 months to make decisions on whether to permit exploration and mining efforts, instead of the several years it can now take under current law. Republicans say it can now take up to 15 years to get these permits, which is forcing the U.S. to import more and more strategic minerals instead of sourcing them domestically.

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Aside from helping to boost U.S. job creation, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) argued that speeding up the process for approving mining operations would help bolster U.S. defense. He said these minerals are used in missile guidance systems and other key defense components.

"The Constitution tells us that our first responsibility is to provide for a common defense," Bishop said. "This bill steps us into the right direction so it actually can provide for a common defense and do it intelligently and avoid unnecessary and frivolous delays."

The legislation also limits the ability of groups to file lawsuits to stop exploration and mining for strategic minerals.

The rule allows for consideration of five amendments, two of which deal with the Democratic complaint that the bill includes too broad a list of minerals that would be considered "strategic."

Democrats are also likely to argue that the bill would erode current environmental protections. One amendment from Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) would require each mining project to be subjected to an environmental impact statement.

Immediately after the vote, members approved H.R. 301, a bill creating a special envoy to Asia to promote religious freedom. The House passed this bill 402-22.