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E&E News: Last-minute water, lands, wildlife bill a Frankenstein omnibus - Hastings
December 3, 2010

Posted by Matt Dempsey

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E&E News 

Last-minute water, lands, wildlife bill a "Frankenstein omnibus"- Hastings


Paul Quinlan, E&E reporter

Link to Article

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) struck a gothic tone in sounding off against Senate Democrats' eleventh-hour effort to pass a bundle of stalled waterways, public lands and wildlife bills before this Congress ends.

Citing staff research and "reliable private accounts," Hastings said the "monstrous" measure could include as many as 126 individual bills, total 1,400 pages and authorize $10 billion in additional spending.

"Somewhere in the Senate, Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer are secretly constructing a Frankenstein omnibus of bills from three separate committees," said Hastings, who is expected to head the House Natural Resources Committee next year. "Democratic leaders are ignoring the overwhelming message sent by voters in November that they wanted an end to the backroom deals that produce giant bills loaded with new spending and job-killing policies."

Senate Democrats say many of the bills up for consideration -- which taken together would protect more than 2 million acres of public lands and provide needed environmental restoration along a series of major U.S. waterways -- received bipartisan support in committee and do not spend any money, since they seek only to authorize funds that appropriators would later have to agree to spend

"Despite the bipartisan support in committee, all have been blocked by a handful of senators who have prevented their consideration as stand-alone bills," said a spokesperson for Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which passed the waterways bills. "They represent the work of committees and senators over the course of this Congress and, for many, over the course of a career, and they deserve a vote."

Waterways covered in the legislation would include the Chesapeake Bay, Lake Tahoe, the San Francisco Bay, the Columbia River, Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and Long Island Sound.

Hastings was the second GOP leader in as many days to publicly condemn the proposed package, the contents of which remain under negotiation, according to Senate leaders. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement yesterday that he stood in "firm opposition" to the package and vowed to place a "hold" on it "to ensure the American people have more time to understand the policy, regulatory and fiscal impacts of these bills" (E&ENews PM, Dec. 1).

Inhofe's vow was in keeping with Senate Republicans' broader pledge to block all Democrat-backed legislation until the chamber passes measures to extend tax cuts and fund the government.

Hastings' statement today accompanied a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) that compared the proposed bill to the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which he said was "cobbled together behind closed doors without any regard for transparency" and brought to the floor under rules that allowed limited debate and no amendments.

"This is not the way the American people expect Congress to legislate and is precisely the type of heavy handed tactics that helped fuel the public's desire for change in the recent elections," Hastings wrote in the letter.

Click here to read the letter.


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