Senate blocks sportsmen bill due to millions in new spending

Senate Republicans killed an omnibus bill Monday night that was intended to allow sportsmen greater access to federal property for hunting and fishing, but was loaded up with $14 million in new spending by Democrats in violation of the Budget Control Act.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, sponsored the procedural vote that doomed the bill on a 50-34 vote — 60 votes were needed to keep the measure as written alive.

“This is a time in which our country has faced a systematic budget crisis,” Sessions said. “We are on an unsustainable course and we know that.”

Sessions said he supports the bill’s underlying language, apart from the additional spending, and that the language can easily be rewritten to exclude the additional outlays.

Similar legislation passed the House earlier this year on a 276-146 vote, but did not include the additional spending. The Senate version was rushed to the floor just weeks before the November election, in the hopes it would help the reelection efforts of its sponsor Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

Provisions with wide support by House and Senate Republicans included language blocking the EPA from regulating lead content in ammunition and fishing gear under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and an exemption allowing the importation of polar bear trophies killed outside of the U.S. before 2008.

One of the contentious measures would have used 1.5 percent of funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to purchase 35 million acres of private property to be added to the federal inventory.

“This is a bill about access, a bill about habitat ??? we are losing habitat every day,” Tester said. “This is about growing our economy.”

Added Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.): This bill does not add one cent to the deficit.”

But Sessions argued that Democrats, and President Barack Obama who supported the new spending, should abide by the Budget Act they passed and the president signed last year.

“I believe fundamentally this is a good series of policy initiatives to help sportsmen, in the long run however ??? this bill violates the Budget Act,” Sessions said. “I am taken aback my (Democratic) colleagues who seem oblivious to this fact.”