Congressional Quarterly - 1/27/01
CONSERVATION BILL'S BACKERS COURT BUSH
Supporters of the Conservation an Reinvestment Act (CARA), one of the most popular measures offered in the 106th Congress that did not become law, are eager to try again.
This time they hope to enlist President Bush to help them win enactment, but last year's opponents say the are ready to block the $45 billion proposal again.
Reps. Don Young, R-Alaska, and John D. Dingell, D-Mich., say they will soon introduce a measure that will be nearly identical to last year's CARA bill, which would have given states some $3 billion annually for 15 years for recreation and conservation projects. The funds would come from offshore gas and oil royalties that currently flow into the general treasury. (Background, 2000 CQ Weekly, p. 1095)
Young and Dingell hope to convince Bush that the bill's passage would allow his administration to claim an early environmental victory in th 107th Congress.
"We firmly believe that your administration, the Congress and the American people would be well-served to have a common-sense environmental bill as a key component of your first agenda," they wrote Bush in a Jan. 2 letter.
The broad measure passed the house in May by a 3-1 margin, but it ran into trouble in the Senate even though Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., both supported it.
Advocates eventually accepted a provision in the fiscal 2001 Interior spending bill that created a six-year, $12 billion discretionary fund for public Iand programs. (2000 CQ Weekly, p. 2903)
Last year's promise of "one-year provisions [has] only heightened the overall desire to enact a comprehensive bill," wrote Dingell and Young, the former Resources Committee chairman who now controls the gavel of the Transportation Committee.
CARA supporters acknowledge they will be squaring off against a powerful alliance of diverse interests once again. A core group of conservative Western senators opposed the measure last year because they felt it would result in more government purchases of private land. One of the group's leaders, Slade Gorton, R-Wash. (1981-87, 1989-2001), was defeated in the 2000 elections, but Larry E. Craig, R-Idaho, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., and Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., are likely to lead a new anti-CARA campaign.
The Western group was joined by fiscal conservatives, who did not want to commit so much money so far into the future and labeled CARA as "green pork ." Perhaps last year's greatest opposition, however, came from appropriators, who feared their power to direct spending would be undercut by the bill's mandates. They are repeating that theme this year.
STEVENS WILL OPPOSE AGAIN
"I just don't see any reason to permanently set aside part of the cash flow when we know we've got a problem if this recession continues," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said Jan. 23. "1 just don't know how soon we could get to another CARA debate."
Senate Assistant Majority Leader Don Nickles, R-Okla., also an appropriator, agreed. "I hope we don't do it this year. I hope we go through the appropriations process," he said Jan. 23. "It shouldn't be done by fiat."
The Bush administration has not responded to the CARA advocates' letter. Bush supported CARA as governor - it would have given Texas $236 million annually - but his administration is also likely to be sympathetic to the private property and spending concerns opponents raised last year.
Environmental lobbying groups say they are ready for another fight. R. Max Peterson, executive vice president of The International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, is optimistic that enough influential lawmakers will sign on again to make CARA's passage likely. "It seems to me we have a good chance, especially if the concerns about the federal land acquisition are resolved," Peterson said Jan. 25.
Opponents are just as eager to do battle. "We're going to be in [supporters'] faces, every week, every day if necessary, for the next two years," Mike Hardiman, a lobbyist for the American Land Rights Association, said Jan. 25.
Be informed! Don't allow yourself to be snowed by CARA.
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