Just days after the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to proceed to debate on the bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 (S. 2363), the measure hit a roadblock over amendments to the bill.
The bill, sponsored by Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), counts nearly half the Senate as co-sponsors and contains the top priority issues for the sportsmen’s community, including the USSA supported “Open Until Closed” language. This vital language spells out that hunting, fishing and recreational shooting are legitimate and important activities on the more than 700 million acres of federal land managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The language will help stop frivolous lawsuits brought by anti-hunting organizations when federal agencies move to open land to sportsmen.
On Thursday, July 10, the U.S. Senate failed to invoke cloture—a move requiring 60 votes to end debate on a bill—because of a growing rift between Republicans and Democrats over the amendment process. The spat over amendments was brought to the forefront when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used Senate rules to block any amendments to the bill.
“Sportsmen should be disappointed today that this critically important package of bills was the victim of a long-running fracture over amendments between senators,” said Evan Heusinkveld, USSA vice president of government affairs. “Hunting, fishing and the future of wildlife conservation in this country is not a political issue and we hope that the leadership of the Senate will allow this bill to be brought up with a clean and fair amendment process.”
In addition, it appears that many senators see the widely supported Sportsmen’s Act as an opportunity to advance politically charged amendments that may force vulnerable opponents into tough votes just months before a big election.
“The House of Representatives has twice passed these important measures, most recently in H.R. 3590 sponsored by Bob Latta (R-OH),” added Heusinkveld. “The provisions of this bill are simply too important to be bogged down in election year politics.”
Beyond the “Open Until Closed” language, the Sportsmen’s Act included many top priority issues for sportsmen and women including provisions to:
- Prohibit the U.S. EPA from regulating lead ammunition and fishing tackle.
- Promote the construction and development of shooting ranges on public lands.
- Allow for the importation of 41 legally harvested trophies taken before Polar Bears were listed as an endangered species in 2008.