The sportsmen’s bill was bipartisan? Just a fish tale.


McClatchy Washington Bureau

After a formerly popular sportsmen’s bill suddenly died in the Senate today, Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid blamed Republicans for what he called a nearly unprecedented filibuster of their own bill.

The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act failed to receive the necessary 60 votes on cloture to move toward a full floor debate today, effectively killing the bill, which days earlier had had broad bipartisan support. The final vote was 41 in favor of moving forward on the bill, with 56 voting against.

The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act – which sought to increase public access to federal lands for hunters and fishermen and block increased regulation on their equipment – was sponsored by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and 25 Republicans and 18 Democrats.

“They are bringing to this body a new definition of what it means to sponsor legislation,” Reid said of the GOP. “Who of the people that has gone before us in this body would ever vote to filibuster their own bill?”

A procedural motion to move ahead with the bill was approved by a wide 82-12 majority on Monday, but controversy arose after senators on both sides of the aisle sought to add controversial amendments prior to final passage.

Reid blocked amendments to the bill Wednesday, but said he would be open to negotiating a set list of amendments from both sides.

Liberal democrats, led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both of Connecticut, moved to add an amendment that would have restricted gun ownership on people with temporary or permanent restraining orders against them.

Another amendment sponsored by nine Democrats would have struck down a key provision of the bill blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating ammunition and fishing gear that may contain lead.

Republicans were prepared to offer counter-amendments that would have allowed guns on land controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers.

But Reid said Republicans were unable to come up with a list of amendments to submit for debate along with Democratic amendments.

All amendments were supposed to be filed by 1 p.m. Thursday, but a vote on cloture was called early, and without the amendments to debate, the bill was killed.

Among the original sponsors to the bill, including Hagan, were several other Democrats facing tough reelection in red states, including Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

“We should be allowing amendments on anything related to the bill _ in this case sport hunting and fishing,” Begich said in a statement. “But once again some senators appear more interested in scoring political points than passing important policy.”

Murkowski, who co-authored the bill, was one of those who voted against it today.

Hagan said in a statement after the vote that she had worked with Murkowski to gather bipartisan support.

“I am disappointed that politics prevented us from reaching an agreement this week,” she said. “However, I will continue working with Senator Murkowski and my colleagues to find a path forward so that this bill that benefits hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts in North Carolina and across the nation doesn’t fall victim to political posturing.”


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