Senate advances public lands bill in late-night vote

The Senate voted 65-19 early Friday morning to advance a bipartisan conservation bill after lawmakers couldn’t reach a deal to skip the procedural vote. 

The vote, conducted after 1:00 a.m., was required to advance the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $900 million annually in oil and gas revenues for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The LWCF funds conservation projects like acquiring land for national parks, and the legislation would separately put $6.5 billion towards addressing a maintenance backlog in the National Park system. 


The Senate will take three additional votes on Monday on the bill. Absent an 11th-hour snag, it is expected to pass early next week. 

Sleepy-eyed senators returned to the Capitol in the middle of the night after some members refused to give unanimous approval to move up the vote. 

A private stalemate over the bill spilled into public view on Thursday afternoon when GOP senators warned that they expected to have to return to the Capitol for the rare 1 a.m. vote Friday. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellManchin, Biden huddle amid talk of breaking up T package Romney: Removing Cheney from House leadership will cost GOP election votes The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden reverses Trump limits on transgender protections MORE (R-Ky.) moved to end debate on the lands bill Wednesday, meaning under Senate rules the earliest he could have the first vote was as soon as 1 a.m. on Friday absent an agreement. 

Senators routinely agree to move up votes, or delay it until Monday, so that they can leave Washington mid-Thursday. But GOP senators said there was no sign that a deal would be worked out amid a stalemate over allowing amendment votes, none of which are expected to be held. 


"We would have to have consent, and we don't have that," Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntTop female GOP senator compares Cheney ousting to 'cancel culture' House conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill Biden to meet with GOP senators amid infrastructure push MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, said about trying to get an earlier vote. "I think that's primarily over the amendment process."  

Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsSenate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers MORE (R-S.D.) added that some senators want votes on amendments to the bill and "this is their way of sending a message." 

Any sign that the stalemate might thaw out and let the Senate avoid a middle-of-the-night session appeared unlikely earlier Thursday evening, when Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE (R-Colo.) warned that they were "tracking" for a 1 a.m. vote. 

The Senate bill is currently on track to be wrapped up without any amendment votes, something that has frustrated senators who want changes to the bill. 

"This legislation was written as if on stone tablets, there is no more to be written, this book is sealed, you can't have anymore to say ... That's how one would treat a subordinate. And I think it's insulting not to me but to those I represent,” Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP governor says Republican Party has to allow for differences Republicans urge probe into Amazon government cloud-computing bid: report Allowing a racist slur against Tim Scott to trend confirms social media's activist bias MORE (R-Utah) said. 


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

Lee on Thursday tried to get votes on five amendments — two from himself, one from Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunDemocrats accuse GOP of new lows in culture wars Trade representative says policy must protect key industries Schumer waiting for recommendation on Supreme Court expansion MORE (R-Ind.), one from Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFormer CEO Glenn Youngkin wins Virginia GOP gubernatorial convention The Memo: Outrage rises among liberals over Israel Cheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts MORE (R-Texas) and one from Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) — but Gardner objected.

Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidyUtah county GOP censures Romney over Trump impeachment vote Amazon blocks 10B listings in crackdown on counterfeits Cassidy on pipeline cyberattack: Congress must equip businesses with defenses against incursions MORE (R-La.) also made a pitch to get an amendment on offshore revenue sharing, which has not gotten a a vote, included in the bill, saying that it would pass. 
"It deserves a vote, it would pass. It protects so many lives," Cassidy said.  

Although some Republicans have expressed opposition to the legislation, it is also supported by members of both parties. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpCaitlyn Jenner says election was not 'stolen,' calls Biden 'our president' Overnight Health Care: FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for adolescents | Biden administration reverses limits on LGBTQ health protections Overnight Defense: US fires 30 warning shots at Iranian boats | Kabul attack heightens fears of Afghan women's fates | Democratic Party leaders push Biden on rejoining Iran deal MORE also announced support for funding the LWCF this year, though this was a turnaround from a previous proposal to slash the fund by about 97 percent. 

When he proclaimed his support, the president particularly named Gardner and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesOvernight Energy: 5 takeaways from the Colonial Pipeline attack | Colonial aims to 'substantially' restore pipeline operations by end of week | Three questions about Biden's conservation goals House conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill Three questions about Biden's conservation goals MORE (R-Mont.), major backers of the bill, both of whom are up for reelection.

Some view the legislation as an attempt to boost the vulnerable incumbents, but McConnell pushed back on that idea this week, saying “It’s in proximity to the election but nobody said you ought to quit doing things just because there’s an election.”

--Updated at 10:15 a.m.