McConnell gives two vulnerable senators a boost with vote on outdoor recreation bill

McConnell gives two vulnerable senators a boost with vote on outdoor recreation bill
© Greg Nash

Two vulnerable GOP senators got a boost to their reelection bids Thursday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFor city parks: Pass the Great American Outdoors Act now US ill-prepared for coronavirus-fueled mental health crisis Schumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe MORE (R-Ky.) promised to bring a major outdoor recreation bill to the floor next month.

McConnell handed a win to Republican Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Minneapolis protests rock the nation McConnell: Next coronavirus bill will be final COVID-19 package Democrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA MORE (Colo.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesHouse punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA Pelosi pulls vote on FISA bill after Trump veto threat MORE (Mont.) when he said the chamber would take up their Great American Outdoors Act next month.

The legislation would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides money to protect and conserve habitats of endangered species, develop parks and outdoor recreation sites and protect sensitive forests. It’s a boon to hunters and fishers as it protects certain areas from development.

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McConnell made the announcement after working out a deal with Gardner on Thursday afternoon to allow the Senate to recess for the week of Memorial Day — something Gardner threatened to object to because the Senate has failed to draft a new round of coronavirus relief legislation after reconvening in Washington on May 4.

The recreation bill is also a win for Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSoured on Fox, Trump may be seeking new propaganda outlet On The Money: McConnell: Talking about fifth coronavirus bill 'in next month or so' | Boosted unemployment benefits on the chopping block | Women suffering steeper job losses from COVID-19 Kudlow: 0-per-week boost to unemployment benefits won't 'survive the next round of talks' MORE (R-Ohio), whose legislation to address the nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at the National Park Service will be included in the Great American Outdoors Act, according to a Senate aide.

Portman has praised the bill as “landmark legislation that carries on Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy of protecting our public lands for future generations."

Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Trump signs order targeting social media firms' legal protections MORE (D-Va.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenate GOP chairman criticizes Trump withdrawal from WHO Trump: US 'terminating' relationship with WHO Soured on Fox, Trump may be seeking new propaganda outlet MORE (R-Tenn.) and Angus KingAngus KingMemorial Day weekend deals latest economic blow to travel industry Bipartisan senators introduce bill to make changes to the Paycheck Protection Program Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day MORE (I-Maine) are co-sponsors of the bill to address the parks maintenance backlog.

Gardner on Thursday also pointed to progress on legislation to extend the lending window of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a core component of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that passed in late March.

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“We’re very close to a number of things that are needed,” he said when asked about his decision not to stand in the way of the Senate going on a weeklong recess despite little progress toward new coronavirus legislation.

“So we’re close. PPP and some other things that will help Colorado. We’ve always got more work to do. I feel good about what we can hopefully accomplish here,” he added.

Gardner’s Democratic opponent, former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Coal company sues EPA over power plant pollution regulation | Automakers fight effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards | EPA watchdog may probe agency's response to California water issues McConnell gives two vulnerable senators a boost with vote on outdoor recreation bill MORE, however, hit him for not getting more from the GOP leader.

“Cory Gardner made a big stink about keeping the Senate in Washington, but less than a day later, he’s given up and seems happy to do whatever Mitch McConnell says,” Hickenlooper said. “Coloradans need help now."