It’s unlikely that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a staunch conservative, takes direction from The New York Times editorial page. So sportsmen can’t use that newspaper’s error-laden editorial last week opposing The Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 as the reason the Alabama lawmaker stunned sportsmen’s groups Monday by using a procedural vote to deliver what is a likely a knock-out blow to a bill that had been coveted by the nation’s hunters, anglers and sport shooters.
The bill’s key features include reauthorizing the North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA); using 1.5 percent of Land and Water Conservation Fund appropriations for purchasing access to public lands from willing private sellers, helping give sportsmen access to additional 35 million acres of public property; allowing more funding from the Pittman-Robertson Act for development and operation of public shooting ranges; allowing the sale of federal duck stamps electronically; raising the price of duck stamps from $15 to $25 – and giving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in conjunction with an independent panel, the ability to make future increases.
Groups such as Ducks Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the National Rifle Association, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation watched in stunned disbelief as Sessions threw cold water on a “yes” vote celebration they were planning. After all, the Sportsman’s Act – carefully guided through the Senate by Jon Tester (D-MT) – had won two previous procedural votes over the last month with more than 80 votes – a stunning display of bi-partisanship from one of the most divided senates ever.
Even when Sessions talked about his major objections (he wanted $14 million trimmed from the cost to fit within the Budget Control Act; he didn’t like diluting Congress’ sole authority to “raise taxes” by the giving the USFWS oversight over duck stamp costs) supporters felt the vote would still be in their favor.
Wrong. They needed 60 votes to waive Sessions points of order, but fell six votes short on a mostly-party-line vote, with fellow Republicans joining Sessions.
“Although Senator Sessions and the (Dem) leader Harry Reid (D-NV) indicated they would try to make changes and move this back for another vote, even if that’s done it puts this bill in an incredibly difficult time squeeze,” said Vaughn Collins, director of government affairs for the TRCP.
That’s because the bill would not go to the House for action until next month, where it would have to fight for time during the coming political and legislative storm over the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations.
If approved by the House, it would probably then have to fight for a space in what promises to be the tightest budget bill in years.
That doesn’t mean there’s no chance it will pass – but it does mean that chance is down to slim and none.