Democrats set July vote for major conservation bill, blaming Republicans for delay
House Democratic leadership announced they will take up a landmark Senate-passed conservation bill by the end of July.
The legislation would dedicate $900 million a year in revenue garnered from oil and gas activity on federal lands to conservation efforts like preserving land for trails and parks. It also sets aside $6.5 billion to address a maintenance backlog at national parks.
The Great American Outdoors Act passed the Senate in a 73-25 vote, but it’s facing a more complicated track in the House due to opposition from some Republicans.
A late Monday note from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said they were unable to expedite the bill, blaming Republican resistance.
“While I am disappointed that Republicans have indicated they would oppose this bill under suspension, which is why I will bring it to the floor under a rule later in July, I look forward to seeing it pass the House with strong bipartisan support and being sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law,” Hoyer said Monday night in an email.
The House version of the bill is backed by an equal slate of Republican and Democratic co-sponsors, but opposition from some Western GOP lawmakers is holding up the bill.
The select Republicans have expressed concern over the $900 million price tag for permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and pushed for an amendments process.
“This bill sets that authorization funding on autopilot for generations to come. Such a decision to make permanent this massive federal land buying program should be considered under an open process,” GOP lawmakers wrote in a letter last week spearheaded by Reps. Paul Gosar (Ariz.) and House Natural Resources ranking member Rob Bishop (R-Utah).
Bishop previously urged senators to vote against the bill.
“At a time when America is putting a record amount of debt on the backs of future generations to cope with COVID-19, now is not the time for reckless spending or new mandatory programs that have nothing to do with the pandemic or stimulating growth,” he wrote.
The House Natural Resources Committee has already marked up two prior bills that the new legislation is based on.
President Trump has said he would sign the legislation — an election year reversal after years of budget proposals that almost slashed funding for the LWCF entirely. His tweet supporting the legislation called out two vulnerable Republican senators.
“I am calling on Congress to send me a Bill that fully and permanently funds the LWCF and restores our National Parks,” Trump tweeted in March. “When I sign it into law, it will be HISTORIC for our beautiful public lands. ALL thanks to @SenCoryGardner and @SteveDaines, two GREAT Conservative Leaders!”