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Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado. Image: Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Although President Trump has repeatedly called for cutting its funding by as much as 97%, earlier this year he called on Congress to pass a law to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Yesterday, the bill to permanently fund the LWCF came one step closer to becoming law.
The cloture vote on the bill introduced by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) passed the Senate ,80-17, and a final vote expected on the Senate floor later this week. The Great American Outdoors Act would grant $900 million in annual funding to the LWCF, which uses oil and gas revenue to fund conservation programs like securing land for national parks. It would also address the separate issue of park maintenance backlogs.
Why This Matters: Permanently funding the LWCF has been a goal for conservationists for years. However, with the passage of this bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to hold onto the Republican majority in the Senate by helping GOP senators in tough races this fall score points with voters back home on the basis of conservation. Those senators are Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana. It should be noted that Gardner and Daines have an 11% and 6% lifetime score with the League of Conservation Voters–so it’s unclear how this push to build green street cred will play with their voters since they’ve never really had much.
Political Optics: As the New York Times explained, pushing the Great American Outdoors Act has required an about-face by the president and the grudging cooperation of some Republicans who have long opposed the measure on principle, believing it adds too much to the soaring deficit. But because Sen. Daines is facing a popular Democratic governor in his election this fall, Steve Bullock, and Sen. Gardner is likely to face John Hickenlooper, a well-liked former governor, Majority Leader McConnell has been quick to praise the Western Senators’ endorsement of the bill.
Additionally, with their majority in peril and the nation in crisis, Republicans are emphasizing their clout whenever they can.
They regularly report back to constituents about what they are delivering in terms of state aid in response to the pandemic.
And Mr. Trump has been quick to play up their work.
In the House: As the Hill reported, in the lower chamber, a bipartisan group of 12 lawmakers introduced companion legislation. The bill has broad support in the Senate, with 58 co-sponsors in addition to its original sponsor.
Those 59 senators, however, could be one vote short of the number needed to avoid a filibuster or demands for amendments.
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