Senate headed for late night vote amid standoff over lands bill

Senate headed for late night vote amid standoff over lands bill
© Greg Nash

Senators are barreling toward a late-night vote amid a standoff over whether to allow amendments to a lands bill.

Republicans, leaving a closed-door caucus lunch, said that they expect they will need to return to the Capitol at 1 a.m. Friday for a procedural vote on the bill.

"I'm told it's 1 a.m," said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill Senate Democrats urge Pompeo to ensure Americans living overseas can vote in November Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide MORE (R-Mo.). "We would have to have consent, and we don't have that. I think that's primarily over the amendment process."  

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Sen. John CornynJohn CornynChamber of Commerce endorses Cornyn for reelection George Floyd and the upcoming Texas Democratic Senate runoff Senators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents MORE (R-Texas) said he expected a vote to be held at 1 a.m., absent a last-minute deal. 

"I think that's what people should plan on," Cornyn said. 

Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Republican rift opens up over qualified immunity for police GOP divided in fight over renaming bases MORE (R-S.D.) said that the next vote on the lands bill is "going to be one o'clock from the way it sounds." 

Rounds added that some senators want votes on amendments to the bill and "this is their way of sending a message." He added that it didn't sound like there would be a deal to avert the middle-of-the-night vote. 

The bill, known as the Great American Outdoors Act, would give $900 million annually to fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses oil and gas revenue to fund conservation programs like securing land for national parks. The legislation would separately address a maintenance backlog at national parks.

The Senate voted 79-18 to proceed to the bill, signaling that it likely has the support needed to pass the Senate. 

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"I know Senator Lee's got some concerns that he's been pretty explicit about it, but all it takes is one," Cornyn said, caveating that he doesn't know who, specifically, was preventing the vote from being moved up. The Senate generally leaves for the week by Thursday afternoon. 

But senators have raised concerns over the bill. Lee, speaking from the Senate floor on Thursday afternoon, said the bill represented a "Capitol Hill autonomous zone." 

"It's telling that the bill we're considering this week called the Great American Outdoors Act was written behind closed doors and is now being ... sealed, walled off from amendments," Lee said. 

Lee added that the bill is "perpetuating and worsening our already highly problematic federal public lands policy."   

Asked if he was, or would, object to moving up the votes on the bill, Conn Carroll, a spokesman for Lee, said the GOP senator "would love to be voting on amendments right now, and then proceeding to votes on the bill itself, but other senators are preventing that from happening." 

"We could have the final vote at any time tomorrow, or even Monday, but for whatever reason, leadership has chosen 1 a.m. tonight. We did not choose that vote time," he added.