Principles Be Damned When It Is Something We Want

People say that they want politicians with principles: men and women who will stand by their word and who will honor prior agreements even if it isn’t the most popular or expedient thing to do. People say that until such time as principle and honoring prior agreements get in the way of some goody that they want. Then it is those obstructionist politicians are impeding progress or whatever.

A case in point was the procedural vote on S. 3525, the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012, that took place on Tuesday morning. The roll call vote on S. 3525 was 50 yea, 44 nay, and 6 not voting. It was a vote to “waive all applicable budgetary discipline” and accept Majority Leader Harry Reid’s substitute amendment (S. Admt No. 2875). With the exceptions of Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), it was a straight party line vote for or against this procedural measure. Republicans were against it and Democrats for it. Because the amendment did not get a 3/5 majority, it failed. With its failure, time now becomes an issue.

Leading the fight against this motion was Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) – the Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee. Sen. Sessions said the Sportman’s Act is legislation is something he strongly supports. However, he went on to say, that the bill violates the Budget Control Act of 2011. From the Congressional Record:

The question is, if we lay out a plan
to address our fiscal issues, will we adhere
to it? Will we follow it? So I am a
little bit taken aback that my colleagues
seem oblivious to the idea and
the concern that, plainly, the Sportsmen’s
Act legislation violates the
Budget Act. The staff of Senator KENT
CONRAD—our Democratic chairman of
the Budget Committee, who is retiring—
has concluded and certified that it
violates the budget because it spends
more money than we agreed to spend
on this item 15 months ago when the
Budget Control Act was passed in order
to raise the debt ceiling in America.

Sessions acknowledges that the amount of money in question is miniscule when compared to other budget items.

So at a time of unprecedented spending,
unsustainable debt, and low public
confidence in Congress, should we not
adhere to even the smallest spending
limits that have been enacted? Should
we again violate the Budget Control
Act for a mere $14 million a year—a
mere $14 million a year—when this
could easily be fixed? I say ‘‘a mere $14
million’’ because we deal with billions
of dollars on a routine basis around

He notes that the Congress spends over $900 million on wetlands conservation programs. Yet no one has examined these projects to see if enough efficiencies could be found to fund the $14 million expenditure in question. We are only talking about finding a mere 1.55% of waste and overages in other projects that could be re-budgeted to provide the $14 million in question.

Ben Lamb writes the Open Country blog for Outdoor Life magazine and is quite put out that the GOP finally stood up for principle.

Ten bucks. That’s what killed the progressive, popular, good-government Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 yesterday.

Ten bucks, or the increase of the cost of a federal duck stamp from $15 to $25.

But that $10 created a partisan divide large enough to kill something that hunters and anglers have been asking for: congressional help to provide public access to public land, end the nonsense of lead-ammo restrictions, and allow a few polar bears to be liberated from their importation purgatory.

Here’s the fact: On Monday, November 26th, the United States Senate beat a well-worn path of partisanship and pettifoggery (look it up!) by voting down the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012. They did it in such a manner that they avoided being labeled anti-sportsman by the NRA, while ultimately catering to the whims of fringe environmental groups like the Center for Biological Diversity, and anti-hunting groups like the Humane Society of The United States.

On a procedural motion to waive the budget rules and allow for an increase in the cost of the federal duck stamp from $15 to $25, the United Sates Senate proved once again that no good deed goes unpunished.

He goes on to say that the Republicans are really doing this out of spite over Sen. Jon Tester getting reelected.

Mary Clare Jalonick of the AP gets into the act as well with her story on the vote. She entitled it “GOP blocks bill to give hunters more land access”. While her article wasn’t as inflammatory as Ben Lamb’s Outdoor Life blog, the headline still puts the onus on the Republicans.

I want more public ranges funded by money I spend in excise taxes for ammo, I want Congress to remove lead ammo and lead fishing tackle from the purview of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. I want to see the leaders of the Center for Biological Diversity with frowns on their faces as if they had just sucked a lemon. I, too, want to see the Sportsmen’s Act of 2011 passed.

I am glad Sen. Jeff Sessions and virtually all the Republicans finally drew a line in the sand over spending and violating the Budget Control Act. By ignoring the little things for so long, both Democrats and Republicans have put this country into the fiscal mess in which it resides today. If they can’t stand up and do the right thing on a mere $14 million, then there is no hope that they’ll do the right thing on bigger and more important issues.For once somebody stood for principle and honored their prior commitments and we should be glad that they did.

We all know that government agencies pad their budgets and that the $14 million in funding can easily be found. If the Ben Lambs of the world want to find a villain they need to look no further than Majority Leader Harry Reid. He could have easily brought a bill to the floor of the Senate that met the requirements of the Budget Control Act but decided he didn’t want to be bothered.

Now the question is will Reid do the right thing, get the bill fixed, and schedule it for a vote with enough time so that the House of Representatives can vote on it. In an interview with Cam Edwards last night, the NSSF’s General Counsel, Larry Keane, was hopeful that it can be worked out. He also noted that the budget issue would have been a sticking point for some in the House as well.

Final Vote On Sportsmen’s Act Of 2012 Expected Today (Updated)

The Senate Calendar for today lists S.3525 as the first act of legislative business for today.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has released another alert that the bill is coming to a vote and urging support for it.

What makes this alert a little different is that they acknowledge indirectly GOA’s opposition to the bill. I know this will put me on the other side of the fence from some of my readers but I think NSSF has it right on this. I have heard criticism of NSSF’s support for S.3525 as “consider the source”. This assumes that NSSF only cares about lead ammo and shooting ranges and not Federal confiscation of land. Frankly, I think this improperly denigrates both NSSF and the gun manufacturing community as “unAmerican” and only looking out for themselves.

UPDATE: The Senate voted 50 yea, 44 nay, and 6 not voting on a substitute amendment by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). The amendment is described as “Motion to Waive all Applicable Budgetary Discipline Re: Amdt. No. 2875; In the nature of a substitute.” The amendment failed as it required a 3/5 majority. Every Republican except the lame duck Sen. Olympia Snowe (RINO-ME) voted nay on the amendment.

 According to today’s Senate calendar, S. 3525, is being placed on the Unanimous Consent calendar to:

1.—Ordered, That S. 3525, a bill to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting, and for other purposes, be returned to the Calendar status quo; provided, that at a time to be determined by the Majority Leader after consultation with the Republican Leader, it be in order for the Majority Leader to resume consideration of S. 3525. (Nov. 26, 2012.)

Where this leaves the bill in terms of scheduling, I’m not sure.

UPDATE II: The NSSF released this statement regarding S. 3525 yesterday. They still hope it will be brought to a vote in this lame-duck session.

NSSF today expressed disappointment with the results of last evening’s procedural vote in the U.S. Senate that has delayed action on the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 (S.3525), but pledged to continue working in a bipartisan fashion, along with a coalition of more than 45 other leading sportsmen’s and conservation groups, to advance the historic package of bills before the adjournment of the 112th Congress.

“It is clear there is broad bipartisan support for the policies contained in the Sportsmen’s Act, which contains our industry’s top legislative priorities” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel. “While we are disappointed by Monday’s procedural vote, we will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to address budgetary concerns raised by senators in time to ensure a vote on the Sportsmen’s Act before the end of the lame-duck session.”

Update On S.3525 – Sportsmen’s Act of 2012

The Senate will vote on S. 3525 – Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 – on Monday, November 19th. Today’s Senate calendar listed the motion to bring the vote as having unanimous consent.

S. 3525 (ORDER NO. 504) 1.—Ordered, That at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, November 26, 2012, all post-cloture time on S. 3525, a bill to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and shooting, and for other purposes, be deemed expired, and the Senate vote on the motion to waive the Budget Act point of order, if raised; provided, that if the motion to waive is successful, Amdt. Nos. 2876, 2877, 2878, and 2879 be withdrawn, en bloc, and substitute Amdt. No. 2875, offered by the Senator from Nevada (Mr. Reid), be agreed to; provided further, that no further amendments or motions be in order prior to a vote on passage of the bill, and the Senate vote on passage of S. 3525, as amended, with no intervening action or debate; further, that if the motion to waive is not successful, the Majority Leader be recognized.

Ordered further, That on Monday, November 26, it be in order for the Senator from Alabama (Mr. Sessions), or his designee, to be recognized to raise a Budget Act point of order against substitute Amdt. No. 2875; provided, that it be in order the Senator from Nevada (Mr. Reid), or his designee, to make a motion to wave the point of order. (Nov. 15, 2012.)

The text of S.Amdt.2875 can be found here. It is just too long to try and publish in the blog. Scroll down to No. 2875 and go from there.

As Sebastian pointed out yesterday, while this bill supported by both the NRA and the NSSF, the Gun Owners of America (GOA) has come out in opposition to the bill due to concerns about private land being taken by the Federal government using non-Federal funds. Read his post and the comments.

For an opposing view, I suggest reading this guest analysis that David Codrea posted on his WarOnGuns blog today. It seems the concern is over the National Fish Habitat Board and the impact it could have on wetlands and their use.

I would be the first to agree that the definition of wetlands leaves much to be desired and that some bureaucrats have defined mud puddles (for lack of a better word) as a wetland. That said, I think any move to undercut the EPA’s coziness with the radical environmentalists at the Center for Biological Diversity is good. Until they were called out on it, the EPA through its General Counsel was actively giving advice to CBD on how to bring a petition to ban lead ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. This bill if passed would remove lead ammunition and lead fishing tackle from the EPA’s purview.

NSSF Alert – Sportsmen’s Act Of 2012

I checked the Senate Calendar for today and this is the first item on the agenda. So if you are going to call, do it now!

This act will not only remove lead shot, ammo, and fishing tackle from the purview of the EPA and the Toxic Substances Control Act but it will allow more shooting ranges to be built using the money we pay in excise taxes on ammunition. Both of these are a win for the entire shooting community whether they hunt or not.

We have some great news! By an overwhelming 92-5 vote, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed an important procedural motion that will allow senators to vote on the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 (S.3525) currently scheduled for this Thursday, but that could slip to Friday.

NSSF thanks everyone who called and emailed your senators to help make this upcoming vote possible. Now we need all hunters, target shooters and firearms owners to keep the pressure on. Call your senators again and urge them to vote YES on the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 (S.3525), the most important package of measures for the benefit of sportsmen in a generation.

While we believe phone calls are most effective at this late stage in the process, you may also send a quick e-mail using the link provided on this page. In either case, your involvement will take only minutes. If this is your first opportunity to weigh in, the timing could not be better. Act today.

This historic legislation includes the firearms industry’s top legislative priority, the Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act (S.838) that would clarify that ammunition is excluded from regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Anti-hunting groups led by the Center for Biological Diversity are suing the EPA to force a ban on traditional ammunition made with lead components that would devastate hunting and shooting sports participation, drive up ammunition prices by almost 200 percent on average and dry up conservation funding.

No less than 46 of the nation’s leading sportsmen and conservation groups including NRA, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, American Sportfishing Association, International Game Fish Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, and Boone and Crockett Club are championing S.3525. This bipartisan legislation is strongly supported by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

The Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 is a package of 19 separate bills — the majority of sportsmen’s legislative priorities on Capitol Hill. (See below for an overview of the components of the bill.) A similar package of bills–the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 (H.R.4089)–was passed by the House in the spring by a bipartisan vote of 276 to 146. Passage of this pro-sportsmen’s legislation will promote, protect and preserve our nation’s hunting, shooting and conservation heritage for generations to come.

Your voice must be heard! As you read this, anti-hunting forces are working to defeat S.3525. So act now, call your U.S. senators at 202-224-3121 and urge them to vote YES for the bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2012.

Sportsmen’s Priorities in the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012

The Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act: Specifically excludes ammunition and fishing tackle from the Toxic Substances Control Act, preventing unnecessary regulations that could devastate hunting, shooting, conservation funding and the firearm and ammunition industries.

Making Public Lands Public: Requires that the 1.5 percent of annual Land and Water Conservation Fund funding is made available to secure public access to federal public land for hunting, fishing, and other recreational purposes.

Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act: Makes Pittman-Robertson funds available to states for a longer period of time for the creation and maintenance of shooting ranges. The bill encourages federal land agencies to cooperate with state and local authorities to maintain shooting ranges and limits liability for these agencies.

Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to urge your senators to SUPPORT the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012.</blockquote>

UPDATE: The Senate voted on cloture for this bill today. There were 84 yeas, 12 nays, and 4 not voting. The nays were a weird combination of anti-gun Democrats and conservative Republicans. I’m guessing the Republicans didn’t like the part about Federal land purchases. Invoking cloture means that debate is brought to an end and the bill is now ready for passage. Given the numbers who voted for cloture, I’d say passage should be a formality.