Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has abandoned plans to bring to the floor an omnibus bill designed to protect wilderness areas and restore waterways across the U.S., including legislation to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
Despite intensive, up-to-the-last-minute advocacy by Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and many others, the America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010, which included the Chesapeake Clean Water Act, fell a few votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a threat of filibuster from the minority.
“Unfortunately, certain senators have made it clear that they prefer delay over bipartisan action,” Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle said this morning.
Senator Cardin deserves a huge thanks for fighting hard for the Chesapeake Clean Water Act, the most important environmental legislation in a generation. The act would have held Bay area state governments accountable for their plans to reduce pollution into the nation’s largest estuary, increased federal funding available for Bay cleanup, banned phosphorus in detergents, and reduced stormwater runoff pollution.
Cardin has pledged to keep working diligently on legislation to clean up the Chesapeake, and the alliances built to advance the bill this year will likely help in future efforts. Supporters of the Chesapeake Clean Water Act wrote roughly 15,000 letters and emails to lawmakers urging them to pass the legislation.
The Chesapeake Clean Water Act won unanimous approval from a Senate committee this year. But the way the Senate operates these days, unfortunately, almost any bill needs 60 votes to avoid threat of filibuster – and that proved a hurdle too high. Leading the charge against approval of the bill were Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma and lobbyists for the Farm Bureau.
It is unclear what will happen in the next session. But if the bill is re-introduced, CBF will be out in front, fighting for it again. Major legislation like this often takes several years to win approval.
The lack of passage this year was frustrating –- in part because the Constitution’s framers intended a majority of the Senate to be required for a bill’s passage, not 60 votes.
However, the great teamwork and public support shown on behalf of the Chesapeake Clean Water Act this year portends well for future battles on Capitol Hill.