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Great American Outdoors Act Heads to Final Senate Vote
After a series of procedural votes, the U.S. Senate is expected to hold a vote on final passage of the Great American Outdoors Act later this week. The legislation, which was introduced in early March, would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million per year and would provide $9.5 billion over the next five years for deferred maintenance on federal public lands. The bill seemed fast tracked at introduction after President Trump announced that he would support the package, however less than a week later most activity in the country came to a halt with the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. Advocates have continued to promote the bill as an important economic stimulus due to the increased participation in outdoor activities during the shutdown as well as the jobs potential in rural areas from the influx of maintenance funding.
Significant support for the bill has come from the conservation, outdoor, and public lands community. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and National Wildlife Federation joined together to urge Senators to be in Washington, DC to vote on the bill, sharing an infographic on the bill’s potential impacts on access, stewardship, and jobs.
“The Great American Outdoors Act is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “This legislation not only takes historic steps forward to promote conservation and increase access for America’s sportsmen and women, but will also serve as a multiplier by creating near-term job creation at a much needed time, and it is critically important that our leaders show their commitment to the nation by being present when the bill is considered in the Senate. The time is now to pass the bill on the Senate floor.”
At the same time, there has been opposition from individual senators who are opposed to federal land acquisition or are concerned about the impacts the bill might have on the federal deficit. Efforts to add amendments to the legislation have been stifled by Senate leadership in an effort to maintain the Great American Outdoors Act’s bipartisan support, a motion to proceed to debate on the bill passed 79-18 on June 10. Then, bill opponent Senator Mike Lee forced another procedural roll call vote at 1 a.m. ET on Friday June 12 in an attempt to reduce the number of senators in attendance to vote. However, the 65-19 vote exceeded the 60-vote requirement to invoke cloture and move forward.
A bipartisan companion bill was introduced in the House on June 4. If the Senate succeeds in passing their bill this month, a vote in the House could occur by the end of the month.