Parks, LWCF package on the move

PUBLIC LANDS PACKAGE ON THE MOVE: The Senate can formally begin debate over a massive public lands package, H.R. 1957 (116), after the measure cleared a key procedural hurdle Monday evening, 80-17. The bill, championed by Sens. Cory GardnerSteve Daines and Joe Manchin, would permanently provide hundreds of millions of dollars annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and billions for the nation to repair its crumbling public lands.

Amendment suspense: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t revealed whether the chamber will consider amendments to the package, even as backers ask for a clean up-or-down vote. But he praised the bill in floor remarks Monday. “This bill has unusually broad, bipartisan, and vocal support — because the issues at hand affect so many different communities so concretely,” McConnell said.

What’s next? Gardner said in floor remarks the debate would run “into next week,” and lawmakers are pushing to attach some amendments. Sen. Mike Enzi is seeking a measure that would boost visa fees on foreign visitors to pay for parks maintenance. Sen. Bill Cassidy wants to increase the amount of offshore oil and gas drilling revenue that could be used to address coastal restoration. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, one of the few Democrats not to sponsor the bill, tweeted: “Ironic that this week we vote to make permanent LWCF bias against oceans and coasts” given Monday was World Oceans Day.

Conservatives cross: A group of prominent conservatives voiced opposition to the measure even as they also noted it “enjoys overwhelming support from Democrats in the House and Senate, significant support from Republicans, and has been endorsed by President Trump, and therefore enactment may be inevitable.”