In a surprise upset, the U.S. Senate failed to advance the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 (S. 3525). After months of discussion with Senate members by a diverse coalition of angling, hunting and conservation organizations to create a historic bill containing 17 key provisions for anglers, hunters and fish and wildlife conservation, the bill failed to pass over a party line vote on a procedural motion.
“The shocking aspect of this bill’s defeat – one that would have such a positive impact on anglers, hunters and fish and wildlife conservation – is that it occurred over a budget argument giving the Secretary of the Interior the ability to increase the duck stamp price $10, thus pumping more dollars into wetland conservation for both fisheries and wildlife benefits” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).
“Adding salt to the wound is that the increase is strongly supported by waterfowl hunters who champion the user pay-user benefit concept for fish and wildlife conservation along with all sportsmen and women as well as the fishing and hunting industries,” said Robertson. “The Congressional Budget Office has stated that overall, S. 3525 would reduce the nation’s deficit by $5 million.”
“It’s a cruel twist that the Senate failed to move S. 3525 over a budget procedural question when in the end the bill adds to conservation and would most certainly have a positive impact on the nation’s economy,” said Robertson. “It would truly be a tragedy if this historic piece of legislation went down in flames due to partisanship and simmering disputes over Senate rules and procedures that have nothing to do with the merits of the bill.”
Robertson further noted, “Previous procedural votes advancing this legislation on the Senate floor have won more than 80 votes. ASA is urging Senate leaders to bring the focus back to fish and wildlife conservation and the needs of the nation’s 60 million sportsmen and women that are addressed in this historic legislative package. We’ve come this far because we’ve kept partisan politics away from this bill. We need to get back on that course.”
With just a few legislative days remaining in the lame duck Congress, it will be a challenge to resurrect S. 3525. The bill ran into trouble when a point of order was raised about whether the bill violated a 2011 budget agreement and a motion to waive the point of order failed by 10 votes. Budget related disputes are not uncommon when large pieces of legislation come to the Senate floor. It is however very uncommon for a budget point of order challenging a provision that would modestly increase revenues to sink a bill. Six senators were not present and the vote on the procedural motion to waive the point of order fell along party lines with the exception of two senators. To see how your Senator(s) voted, please visit the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 page on KeepAmericaFishing.
“The American Sportfishing Association and the members of the coalition stand ready to work with Senate and House members to find a solution that enables passage of the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 before Congress adjourns,” Robertson concluded. “It will take a lot of effort, but we remain hopeful. This historic package of bipartisan bills was crafted and advanced through Congress thanks to bipartisanship. It is not too late for our Senators to put aside the partisanship that caused the bill to fail and pull this bill from the flames, but they must act quickly.”
Image courtesy American Sportfishing Association