WASHINGTON — Legislation that would expand hunting and fishing access on federal land failed to advance in the Senate last week over a political battle on gun rights.
Action came to a halt after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to allow debate on several Republican amendments to ease restrictions on gun owners.
Reid accused Republicans of wanting to offer controversial amendments that would kill the bill, while GOP senators said they wanted an “open and fair” amendment process. Reid also blocked gun control amendments that some Democrats hoped to offer.
Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., the lead sponsor of the bill, said the Senate should have considered sportsmen-related amendments including those dealing with gun issues.
“I am disappointed that politics prevented us from reaching an agreement,” she said.
The underlying bill otherwise enjoyed wide bipartisan support with 46 co-sponsors stretching from Alaska to Florida. But it was tabled after a procedural vote fell 41-56, 19 votes short of the 60 needed to move forward.
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., voted to proceed with the bill. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., voted to block it.
OMB and HUD nominees confirmed
The Senate last week confirmed Shaun Donovan as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Donovan was secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He replaces Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who is now secretary of Health and Human Resources.
The Senate voted 72-22 to confirm Donovan. Pryor voted for confirmation. Boozman voted against it.
The Senate also confirmed San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as the new HUD secretary. The 39-year-old Texan was approved 71-26.
Pryor voted for Castro. Boozman opposed him.
House funds energy and environmental programs
A $34 billion bill to fund the Energy Department, the U.S, Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency for the next fiscal year was approved in the House, where much of the week was spent debating dozens of amendments.
The annual appropriations bill — the sixth that the House has now approved so far out of a dozen that cover the entire government — faces an uncertain future. The Senate has yet to act on its version.
President Obama has also threatened a veto of the House bill over provisions to limit environmental regulations as well as spending on a shuttered Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository program in Nevada.
The bill was approved 253-170.
Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and Steve Womack, R-Rogers voted for the bill.
The Nevada delegation attempted to strip $150 million in nuclear waste funding targeted for the Yucca Mountain program from the bill but an amendment offered by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., was rejected, 75-344.
Crawford, Cotton, Griffin and Womack opposed the amendment.
Titus said more than $15 billion has been “squandered on this boondoggle” and Congress should pursue new strategy instead.
But Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., argued the repository plan remains “the law of the land,” and that President Barack Obama moved to halt it without approval from Congress.
The House did approve an amendment to add $57 million to the Army Corps of Engineers budget for additional dredging at ports and harbors.
Proponents argued the $57 million was collected from ports for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and should not have been diverted to other energy programs in the first place. A water bill recently signed into law requires 67 percent of the trust fund to be spent on harbor and port-related activities.
“That is money that our ports have paid for and they need,” said Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif. She said she understood the Appropriations Committee that wrote the spending bill was challenged to balancing various programs, “but for our ports to remain competitive, they need this funding.”
Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said the bill includes more than $1.1 billion for harbor maintenance, which represents a 20 percent increase over the Obama administration’s request for 2015.
“While I understand that there is almost always more work that can be done, we must balance several competing activities within the Energy and Water bill,” he said.
Hahn’s amendment was approved 281-137. Crawford and Griffin supported it. Cotton and Womack voted against it.