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Senate advances conservation fund bill, House introduces companion

Senate advances conservation fund bill, House introduces companion
© Greg Nash

The Senate on Thursday moved to advance a bill that would permanently fund the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) while the House introduced a companion bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote Democrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg MORE (R-Ky.) filed cloture on the Great American Outdoors Act, teeing up debate and moving it closer to a formal vote.

The bill would give $900 million annually to fund the LWCF, 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. 

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In the House, a bipartisan group of 12 lawmakers introduced companion legislation. The bill has broad support in the Senate, with 58 co-sponsors in addition to its original sponsor. 

Those 59 senators, however, could be one vote short of the number needed to avoid a filibuster or demands for amendments. 

The bill is also backed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE, who had previously proposed cutting the LWCF by about 97 percent, but later reversed that position. When he announced his reversal in March, Trump credited Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDemocrats brace for nail-biting finish to Senate battle Trump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in MORE (R-Colo.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesDemocrat trails by 3 points in Montana Senate race: poll Poll shows statistical tie in Montana Senate race Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (R-Mont.), both of whom are up for reelection and who face tough opposition. 

Conservationists were pleased by the cloture announcement. 

“Permanent and full funding for LWCF is the necessary next step to fulfill this program’s promise to the American people; to preserve nationally significant public lands and provide recreational opportunities in communities across the country,” said a statement from Phil Francis, the chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks.

“Addressing the crippling $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at our national parks is critical to the continued protection and preservation of our treasured natural and cultural resources,” Francis added.