Monday, November 17, 2008

Threat of filibuster endangers lands bill A massive lands bill that would have created two new wilderness areas in southwest Oregon appears to be dead for the year, a victim of a filibuster threat and the need to focus on the nation's growing economic woes. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Nevada Democrat strongly supports the lands package, but his first priorities in a lame-duck session next week are a planned rescue for the auto industry and extension of unemployment insurance benefits. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has threatened to filibuster the lands bill over what he calls its excessive spending — nearly $4 billion over five years — and the removal of millions of acres of federal property from oil and gas development. "The outlook for this legislation does not look real good," said Bill Wicker, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "The two big problems right now are the clock and the economy." Coburn's threat meant the Senate could have spent up to three days debating the lands package — time that Reid and other Senate leaders say should be devoted to the auto bailout and other legislation responding to the country's economic crisis....Chuck Cushman with the ALRA sent out an email Sunday saying, "You may hear that the Omnibus Federal Lands Bill has as died. Don’t believe it. Until Congress goes home from the Lame Duck Session, you are not safe. You must act, call, fax, and e-mail both your Senators and your Congressman until Congress leaves town." You can read two recent press releases from Senator Coburn here and here and an analysis of the bill by the Congressional Research Service here.

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