WASHINGTON — Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle killed the Sportsmen’s Act Thursday in a protest vote aimed at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who refused to allow amendments to the measure aimed at reelecting vulnerable Democrats.
The vote to break the filibuster required 60 supporters, but fell well short of its goal with 41 yes votes to 56 opposed. All 45 Republicans voted against the bill along with 11 Democrats.
Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, a bill co-sponsor, voted yes as did Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.
The measure was also sponsored by Democrats facing tough reelection fights in North Carolina, Louisiana, and Alaska, prompting its nickname by Republicans as the “Red State Democrat Reelection Act.”
Republicans supported the overall bill giving hunters and anglers greater access to public lands, but also opposed language authorizing $10 million in new private land purchases to add to the national inventory of federal property.
Both parties rebelled at what some describe as Reid’s dictatorial rule of the upper chamber and his refusal to allow Democrats or Republicans to consider 80 amendments proposed for this legislation, and a virtual blackout he has imposed on other bills.
Republican Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming said the only amendments senators are allowed to consider any more are the ones proposed by Reid.
“I’m sad to say no one should be surprised by this, because it’s become par for the course,” Enzi said during a floor speech just prior to the vote.
One-third of all amendments voted on this year were proposed by Reid, while Republicans have been allowed less than a dozen amendments in the last year. During his reign as majority leader over the past eight years, Reid has used the amendment-blocking tactic on nearly 100 bills. By comparison, Democrats in the House where Republicans hold the majority have been allowed nearly 200 amendments in the last year, Enzi said.
“When all the decisions are made by the Senate majority leader, the vast majority of Americans get short-changed,” Enzi said.
“It’s time for the 99 senators who are being denied the opportunity to represent their constituents to stand-up to the leader and insist on amendments. We should all demand that we be allowed to do our jobs,” Enzi said.
The Sportsmen’s Act already passed by the House would have allowed the creation of target ranges on public lands and blocked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from banning lead in ammunition and tackle.
Democrats wanted to vote on amendments adding gun control language to the bill, while Republicans wanted amendments to suspend listing the sage grouse as an endangered species and block the EPA from regulating all bodies of water including dried-up and seasonal ponds on private property.
After employing the procedure once again to block amendments, Reid blamed the bill’s failure on what has become the leader’s favorite whipping post, the tea party.
“They’re so tangled up with the tea party here, so what do they do? They block everything,” Reid said.
Udall also blamed the bill’s failure on partisan politics, even though Reid has refused to allow a vote on any amendment proposed by the Colorado Democrat throughout this congressional session.
“Today’s filibuster of the bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act marks the second time in as many years that partisan politics have gotten in the way of a common-sense bill to boost Colorado’s sportsmen and outdoor recreation economy. This vote is a setback, but I am not giving up on my bipartisan and deficit-neutral proposal to expand Coloradans’ access to public shooting ranges,” Udall said in a statement.
The Sportsmen’s Act failed in 2012 by a closer margin of 50-34 when it was rushed to the floor just weeks before the November election to aid in Montana Democrat Jon Tester’s successful Senate election.
The bill passed the House earlier that year 276 to 146, but did not include the $10 million for additional property purchases through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a provision supported by Udall.