Senate rejects gun amendment to water infrastructure bill

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Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) voted against Coburn's amendment, while Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Jon Tester (Mont.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine) voted for the measure.

Coburn said the Corp of Engineers projects are the most visited of federal agencies’ sites. He said his amendment would simply make the Corp recognize states’ conceal and carry gun laws, which is the case in national parks and forests.

“Why should we not have the same policy everywhere,” Coburn said. “Why would we do something different for the Corps’ land? … It’s common sense to have a consistent law on all federal lands.”

Coburn said the number of rapes and other crimes in national parks were reduced once guns were allowed.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said she didn’t understand why Republicans would want to take more votes on the controversial issue of guns, adding that she hoped all other amendments to her bill, S. 601, would be germane.

“I just want to lay it out here for the American people; this is a public works bill dealing with water infrastructure. … It is not a bill about guns,” Boxer said ahead of the amendment votes. “I hope we can avert and avoid so much controversy with this bill.”

Boxer also argued that guns are already allowed on Army Corp property as long as they are for hunting and target shooting. She said she didn’t support Coburn’s amendment because “it’s a public safety issue” for the Corp because it “has no employees that perform law enforcement duties” or carry weapons.

She and ranking member David Vitter (R-La.) introduced the water bill, which passed unanimously out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in March.

“I too am very supportive of this bill, which I do think is a bipartisan reform-oriented effort,” Vitter said. “It is an important jobs, water way infrastructure bill.”

Boxer said the bill would support more than 500,000 U.S. jobs.

The Senate also voted 68-31 for an amendment from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). His amendment would create a national endowment for the oceans to promote the protection and conservation of U.S. ocean; coastal; and Great Lakes ecosystems, although funding the trust would be decided later so that the amendment wouldn't add funding to the underlying bill.

The Senate is expected to continue work on the bipartisan water bill through the week.

This article was updated at 2:45 p.m. to include the vote on Whitehouse's amendment.