December 04, 2012
Will The Senate Let The Sportsmen's Act Die?
By Bob Marshall
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership today sent out a bulletin titled “Time Is Running Out for the Sportsmen’s Act.”
Here's another bulletin I'd suggest for sportsmen and others who care about fish and wildlife habitat: “Time Should Be Running Out For Senators Who Put Political Revenge Over Sportsman's Interests.”
There's no other way to report this. Last week the most important fish and wildlife conservation measure of the year - and many previous years - was torpedoed by GOP Senators who previously had supported The Sportsman's Act because of a heated debate with Democrats on an unrelated issue – proposed changes in the Senate filibuster rules.
Since then, sportsmen's groups have been working overtime--with both parties--trying to pull the bill through a minefield of parliamentary rules, competing demands, and a deadline barreling forward.
As of late Tuesday, the outlook was still grim. Here's how things stood, according to sources working on the issues and who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations:
- Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who fired the torpedoes that started this crisis, was satisfied with changes that would solve his professed concern about the increased cost of the duck stamp. Unfortunately, that fix would seriously weaken a change in the Sod Saver provision of the Farm Bill.
- Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) still objects to features of the bill which reaffirms authority given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decades ago in the Pittman-Robertson Act to determine the impact of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on the health of fish and wildlife. Boxer and others think this is a change, moving that critical public safety charge over a very toxic substance from the Environmental Protection Agency. She has been unmoved by arguments from the bill's supporters.
- Senate President Harry Reid (D-Nev.), a supporter of the bill, is being asked by the bill's proponents to untie the parliamentary knot by using his authority to waive the rules and bring the bill to the floor for a vote—in which it would easily pass--or move the bill by attaching it to another piece of legislation.
Sportsmen's groups continue to believe pressure from rank-and-file hunters and anglers is the key to saving the day. That's because every hour that passes without a solution lengthens the already long odds that the bill can be moved to--and through--the House in time before the sessions ends.
"I can tell you a lot of the senators who voted for Sessions’ objections are regretting it now," said one veteran lobbyist. "We need sportsmen to keep that pressure on, because we're just about out of time."
Hunters and anglers can find out who their senators are and how to contact them at www.contactingthecongress.org.